High Octane Corrective Exercise and Performance Enhancement | www.RobertsonTrainingSystems.com

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Erector Set

What is it that set Dorian Yates apart from his competition? And what is it that can often help a powerlifter or Olympic lifter put pounds on his total? Answer: A super-strong set of spinal erectors that resemble two big boa constrictors running down the back!

But what muscle groups are we really talking about here? What’s their function? And just how do you develop a strong, well-developed and healthy back? You're about to find out!

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Mike Robertson

The Ultimate Upper-Body Warm-up


Monday, December 24, 2007

28 Things I'm Learning

One thing I hate when writing articles and developing products is that by the time it reaches the end-user (you), I've typically already changed some of my thoughts on that topic. So, with this article you get a lot of my most up-to-date thoughts, and hopefully it'll spur some further thinking and development on your end.

I'm a dynamic individual. I'm always looking for better options, ways to improve my training and coaching, or simply things that make me more effective or a better overall human being. Here are 28 of those things. Take 'em for what they're worth!

3. Fix your damn posture! This is the simplest way to get rid of chronic injuries (and prevent acute ones), as well as increasing your strength exponentially. It's far more effective than any "tips and tricks" you're currently using to enhance strength, too.

16. Take the time to reflect daily, not only on where you're going, but where you've been and where you started from. Too often we get caught up in the future and don't take the time to think about how far we've come already. Chances are you'll start to enjoy the process and journey a whole lot mor

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Mike Robertson

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Glute-Ham Raise Progressions

Hello Mike!

I hope you do not mind me contacting you directly. I have read many of
your articles at T-Nation, and always enjoy your intelligent
well-thought out approach. I have an exercise phys background myself
and am a bit of a nerd/geek/etc when it comes to training and
performance. Not that I claim to be a rocket scientist or anything...but
I have enjoyed the process of learning how things fit together and how
imbalances, posture, etc,etc affect what we are trying to accomplish. I
am an assistant coach at the University of South Carolina where I work
with athletes on a regualr basis on the field and in the weight room.

My question: how do you progress people into glute-ham raises that
cannot do them at all or cramp up after a few reps? Often times, at the
start of the training year, the newbies experience cramping and then a
fear factor when it comes to doing the glute-ham raise. Is this a
strength issue? a flexibility issue? both? I have had sprinter athletes
who can put up a double bodyweight squat or more, look like an anatomy
map, and glute-hams destroy them. This is not true of everyone, but it
surprises me that explosive people with excellent strength to bodyweight
ratios have so much difficulty with this exercise.

If you need more information to answer, I will be happy to provide it.
Thanks for your time and I hope to hear from you,

Mike Sergent
Assistant Track & Field Coach
University of South Carolina


Michael -

Here's the general progression I use with clients/athletes:

- Negatives only - Get up to the top, lower under control, and then get back up to the top in whichever way is necessary

- Band assisted - Place a band across their chest and which attaches behind them. In this position, the assistance is greatest at the bottom (where they are weakest), and lowest at the top (where they need it the most).

From there, it's useful to start mixing in some un-assisted with assisted reps until they can get the prescribed numbers.

Good luck!

MR

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

FitCast Episode #77

I recently participated on the FitCast with Kevin Larrabee and Jimmy Smith; if you're interested in listening to the interview, check it out here:

The FitCast

Topics we covered include academic research, training the scap retractors/depressors, dieting during the menstural cycle, and a bunch of other random stuff.

Check it out today!

Stay strong
MR

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Hips and How they Can Affect Kyphosis

Many rehabilitation "experts" would have you believe that if you strengthen your scapular retractors/depressors and stretch a little, your kyphotic posture problems would vanish. This is far from the truth. Instead of focusing on the true culprit in many cases (e.g. an anterior pelvic tilt), they focus only on the problem, not the actual cause of the problem. This local approach may work in some instances, but by failing to address the true cause, the problem will usually reoccur once rehabilitative exercise has ceased.

Anterior pelvic tilt is quite often the culprit. When you have a severe anterior pelvic tilt, the upper body has a tendency to overcompensate. Think about your spine as an "S" that must be equal on both the top and bottom. If the bottom half of the S is small and thin, the upper part will be small and thin as well. This is how a normal spine should look. However, if the bottom part of the S is very wide, the top part of the S will have to be very wide as well to compensate and balance out the bottom. Therefore, you can do all the upper body exercises and stretches you want, but until you solve the problem at the hips your results will probably always be sub-par.

So what if your hips are the problem; what can you do about it? Usually people who have issues with their hips have signs of either pelvic crossed or layer syndrome. When someone exhibits an anterior pelvic tilt, the hip flexor muscles (psoas and iliacus) are usually very tight and overactive. The psoas is usually the culprit here. Since it originates from the lumbar spine, hypertonicity and tightness create an increase in anterior pelvic tilt, which then creates a disruption throughout the low body and trunk.

This overactivity causes an inhibition of the hip extensors, primarily the glutes. When the glutes are inhibited, you often see other extensor muscle groups such as the spinal erectors or hamstrings take on the added workload left over by the inhibited glutes. Think about it: how often do you hear about someone pulling their low back or hamstrings? It’s probably an everyday occurrence in some of the larger gyms. Now think about how often you hear of someone who pulled a glute… probably not often, if ever. Not only do the hamstrings and low back have to take over an increased workload, but they also tend to get tight in the process.

Last on the list, but certainly not least, is the abdominals. If their strength isn’t up to par and the low back is shortened and tight, you have an even greater increase in lordosis. So what’s the basic premise here? Stretch the hip flexors, hamstrings and low back, while working on increasing activation and strength in the abs and glutes. Decreasing your anterior pelvic tilt can go a long way in improving your upper body posture with no direct work for the upper body whatsoever.

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Mike Robertson

Friday, December 14, 2007

QA: Dynamic Movements for The Aesthetically Inclined

Q: I realize the importance of heavy lifting for everyone, but I'm curious as to how you utilize max and dynamic movements for your clients who are not competitive lifters or athletes, but rather people interested in lifting for primarily aesthetic purposes.

A: Everyone needs to get stronger and faster, not only athletes. However, I find no point in focusing solely on strength and speed at the expense of my clients' true goals.

So heavy fives, triples, and maybe even singles would be worked into their programs from time to time. Certain cycles may focus on speed work as well. Both the client and I recognize that these are a means to an end, to help them achieve their aesthetic-based physique goals.

However, I think that speed and strength are absolutely critical. The stronger and faster you get, the more space you have for growth. It's all just part of a balanced program.

Mike Robertson


Thursday, December 13, 2007

Always Finish With the Butt

Q: I've read your High Performance Core Training article, and I'm pretty sure that my lower back and core are my biggest weak spots. So now I'm wondering if I should avoid other hamstring related leg movements altogether when beginning this program?

Also, I'm thinking about doing higher rep pull-throughs and single leg dumbbell deadlifts, along with the other lifts you suggested, but how much time do you think I should take before getting back into heavy deadlifting?

A: This is tricky, because you want strong hamstrings, especially if you're in anterior tilt. The abs, glutes, and hamstrings work together to posteriorly tilt the pelvis. The problem arises when the hamstrings become your primary hip extensor, rather than your gluteus.

Here's how I determine how heavy to go on posterior chain movements: if I can finish the lift with my glutes (e.g. hip extension) rather than my back (lumbar hyperextension or just trunk extension), then it's a good weight. If I have to use my back rather than my ass to finish the movement, I've gone too heavy, and have shut my glutes down.

So to answer your second question, you don't have to take any time off at all: you can still pull, do good mornings, RDL's, and pull-throughs, as long as you're using your glutes to produce the movement.

Mike Robertson

Monday, December 10, 2007

Destroying the "Light Bulb" Effect

Unfortunately, I know that some of you reading this aren't currently doing any leg work in your program. There are tons of excuses out there, but none of them are making your chicken legs look any better or improving your performance.

Single-leg training is a great way to get acclimated to the rigors of heavy leg training? and who wants to show off a huge upper body paired with legs that resemble drumsticks? You don't really want to be referred to as "top heavy" the rest of your life, do you?

Read More...

Mike Robertson

Friday, December 7, 2007

Direct Ab Training – Fact or Fallacy?

The question comes up all the time: Do you need direct and/or isolated “core” training? Or do big bang exercises like squats, deadlifts, and overhead presses take care of this for you?

I hear this debated ALL the time – and for some reason, I think I have at least a relatively good answer as to how BOTH camps could be correct.

Let’s examine the first group, the ones who say you have to perform isolated and/or direct core training. Why would this be necessary?

You’ve heard me talk ad nauseam about core training and why it’s important; quite simply, we want to achieve and maintain optimal spinal/pelvic alignment both statically and dynamically. By doing this, we give our body the best chance to be efficient. With optimal pelvic/low back alignment, we can really turn on and utilize our glutes and hamstrings, the workhorses when it comes to big squats and deadlifts, fast sprints, and sky-high jumps.

So if you’re NOT in optimal low back/pelvic alignment, heavy squatting and deadlifting is only going to reinforce that flawed stability program. You’re going to be relying on your low back to do all the stabilizing, effectively reinforcing your already flawed spinal/pelvic alignment! This person is the ideal candidate for isolated and direct core training. They need to bring the rectus abdominus and external obliques up to appropriate levels of strength and stiffness, such that optimal pelvic alignment is achieved both statically and dynamically.

On the other hand, the “I don’t need isolated core training” group could be correct as well. How?

Quite often I hear this from lifters who have been taught to lift correctly!. They were taught to squat deep from the start. They started off training without belts for an extended period of time. One of the groups I hear this from the most is Olympic lifters. If you’ve ever worked with or watched high-level weightlifters, they generally have amazing posture: Great spinal/pelvic alignment, good thoracic mobility/extensibility, etc Basically, they are already in a near-optimal alignment, without necessarily training for it! So how could these people get away without direct core training?

They are already in optimal alignment (or close to it), and therefore their body is constantly reinforcing this optimal alignement via training. Let me expand a little further.

Let’s say our first example decides he doesn’t need isolated core training, so he takes his flawed stability patterns (e.g. all low back), and proceeds to squat and deadlift heavy. He’s already in a flawed posture, and the weight training is going to constantly reinforce and engrain that movement/posture. So while it may not catch up to him immediately, over time if he doesn’t change his ways he’s going to end up with any of an assortment of injuries.

Now let’s go back to our weightlifter. He’s already in an ideal alignment, so when he squats or deadlifts heavy, his body is going to be reinforcing that optimal alignment. Due to his core strength/stability already being on par with what his legs and hips can handle, he’s bringing up the entire body’s strength at the same time. Essentially, his entire core can stabilize whatever his legs are capable of moving. This is the perfect situation to be in.

As I’ve stated before, weight training always cements your posture. So if you’re doing it properly and through a full range of motion, it will improve your posture and your mobility! If you don’t do it correctly, or do it through an incomplete range of motion, this too will be reinforced.

To bring this to a close, just remember this – if you’re not in optimal spinal/pelvic alignment at rest, you’re not going to do it while producing movement. Period. You need to perform isolated and/or direct core strength/stability drills to achieve this first and foremost.

If you’re already in an optimal spinal/pelvic alignment, you may not need direct core work, but it probably won’t hurt.

Hopefully this sheds a little light on the topic. Best of luck with your training!

Stay strong
MR

Monday, December 3, 2007

An Interview with Robert Dos Remedios

All -

Here's the link to a recent interview I did with strength coach Robert Dos Remedios:

http://coachdos.activeboard.com/forum.spark?forumID=112122&p=3&topicID=14448968

You have to sign-up for the board, but I think the interview will be worth it.

Mike Robertson

The BIG Holiday Sale

You asked for it - so you got it!

You may remember our "12 Days of Christmas" sale last year was a huge success, so we've decided to run it again this year. We're offering 15% off ALL of our products.

Magnificent Mobility? Check.

Inside-Out? Yep.

Building the Efficient Athlete? For sure.

Bulletproof Knees? That too.

Any product, from now through the 12th of December, is 15% off. Purchase multiple products at the same time and save on shipping as well!

Here's all you have to do to get the discount:

1 - Go to one of the pages above, or just stop by our regular Products page

2 - Add the products you want to your cart

3 - On the right hand side of the screen, BEFORE YOU PURCHASE, enter the promotional code HOLIDAY2007

4 - Complete your order and enjoy your products!

That's it! But remember, this discount is only available through the 12th of December. Don't wait until the 13th, and then write me begging for the discount because it ain't happening!

As always, thanks for your support for Robertson Training Systems. Hopefully some of these products will be able to help you for many years to come!

Stay strong
MR

Friday, November 30, 2007

Get Your Glutes Firing

This is another area that not nearly enough of us are addressing, as most who have patello-femoral pain are only worried about isolating the vastus medialis obliquus (VMO).

In research by Ireland et al. (1), they found that athletes with patello-femoral pain had significantly decreased strength in both hip abduction and hip external rotation. How much is significant? These subjects were 26% weaker in hip abduction and 36% weaker in hip external rotation!

Now that we know what movements to train, what muscles are most affected? Specifically, we're talking about getting your gluteus maximus and posterior fibers of the gluteus medius firing. So before we do low-body work, we should be getting some activation work in to make sure those muscles are stimulated and ready to go. X-Band walks are perfect here.

You'll see in the video that the set-up is a little funky, so hopefully seeing it will make it easier than me trying to explain it! Big things to focus on here include turning the toes out slightly and bracing the core throughout. This will prevent you from using the "Weeble-Wooble" substitution pattern that typically occurs in hip abduction movements. Stay tight, tall, and use those glutes and you should be just fine.

In maintenance phases (where I'm focusing on max strength), I may only do one set before training. In phases where motor control and recruitment are the priority (for instance, in the early off-season or a transition phase), I may perform three or even four sets of these exercises before training.

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Mike Robertson

Thursday, November 29, 2007

10 Iron Game Lessons

Before I get into this article, let me just say that I’m really excited to write an article that’s not 100% training related. Sure, the whole point of this article is for me to discuss the top ten things I’ve learned about training, but I’m hoping to share some insight with all of you as to how and why these things shaped my training philosophy.

These first couple happened really close to one another, and it’s a time in my life I consider "The Awakening." Unfortunately, a lot of those around us really aren’t awake; they see things as they choose to see them and not how they really are. This was an amazing yet difficult time in my life because I had to change my views and perceptions of a lot of things, just one of which was how and why I trained.

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Mike Robertson

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Perfecting the Sumo Deadlift

In the perfect pulling position, your chest and head are up, back arched, arms straight down from your shoulders and locked, knees flared, and weight balanced over the middle of the foot or shifted slightly towards your heel. Now remember, the deadlift is a TOTAL BODY LIFT!!! I think of an explosion from the middle of my body…my feet are driving through the floor, my upper back is tight and pulling back, and I'm trying to force my chest and hips through to the top. Synchronicity is key here; since you don't have a stretch reflex like the squat, your have to have everything firing at once to move the heavy tonnage.

Some people state that you should only perform singles when doing deadlifts. I agree to an extent, but I think there are times when doing no-pause deadlift reps are good as well. Beginners, especially those just learning the powerlifts, can benefit from doing continuous reps without a pause for several reasons: 1) It teaches them the most efficient position to pull from, especially since you can't always get that feel on the first one, 2) It allows you to go slightly heavier than you normally would, and therefore overload the muscles necessary for deadlifting (assuming you can get the first one up!) However, for most advanced trainers who have no prominent muscle imbalances or technique issues, I would stick to sets with pauses in-between reps or singles to further increase performance.

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Mike Robertson

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Body Weight, Leverage, and Lifting for Strength

When we’re discussing leverage, the two main components that we’re looking at are the mass of the different parts of the body and their various lengths. Unless you’re still growing, you can’t really change the length of your levers too much! This is the reason for the focus on increasing girth.

There’s generally a natural increase in strength and performance as you get heavier. Your absolute strength goes up. However, for most of us, we hit a point where we start to lose increases in absolute strength at the expense of relative strength. So while your total squat may go up, your squat in relation to your body weight may actually go down.

In the individual lifts, the squat and bench press are affected the most by increases in body mass. Whether it’s a bigger belly to bounce off of or shortening your stroke in the bench, increases in body mass tend to improve your squat and bench press much more than your deadlift.

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Mike Robertson

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Why Choose Oats


by Dr. John Berardi

If you're looking to gain mass and have a good carbohydrate tolerance, place a bowl of fiber-rich, low-GI rolled oats along with ½ scoop of vanilla protein powder, frozen mixed berries, pineapple and a small quantity of mixed nuts right next to your omelet. This is a muscle building breakfast that’s hard to beat. I place this bowl right next to my omelet for a breakfast that's hard to beat.

If you like this tip and want to learn more about JB and his products, check out his Precision Nutrition website.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Exercise of the Week: Push-ups

video

They may not be the sexiest exercise on Earth, but push-ups (and the many variations) should be a staple in your resistance training program.

Some of the benefits of push-ups include:

- Activation and strengthening of the serratus anterior, pecs, anterior delts and triceps

- They are a closed-chain horizontal push, which increases rotator cuff recruitment and allows for movement of the scapulae (when compared to the bench press)

- Development of base levels of upper body strength, and allow for preparation for heavier pressing movements (resisted push-ups, bench presses, etc.)

For more information on the push-up, check out the following article:

Push-ups, Face Pulls and Shrugs

Stay strong

MR

Monday, November 12, 2007

10 Tips for Flawless Squattin'

Before you even approach the bar, you need to be visualizing what's about to happen. Go through some of the points given above and really focus on the ones that apply specifically to you. I know the two main points I need to focus on are keeping my chest up and forcing my knees out. Everyone is different, so focus on the ones that apply to you.

As you approach the bar, get the hands set exactly where you want them. As stated before, the closer you can comfortably get them to your shoulders, the better. Next, wiggle underneath the bar and pull your shoulder blades together and get tight. This is giving you that nice shelf the bar can rest on.

Move your back up and down on the bar until you find that place where the bar feels perfect. Once you hit the spot, make sure your chest is up and the bar is locked in where you want it. Take a big breath and press the feet through the floor to unrack the weight. Don’t set the racks up so low that you have to do a good morning! Before you walk out, let the plates settle for a second.

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Mike Robertson

Friday, November 9, 2007

Mike Robertson's Words of Wisdom

Packing our picks, shovels and tin pans, your dauntless editors went prospecting once again in the Authors' Locker Rooms for more golden nuggets of wisdom. It took some digging, but we hit pay dirt big time.

Mike "Ass Master" Robertson is always generous with his limited time and copious knowledge, and here he talks about (among other things) the benefits of pitching manure, what you can do with a tennis ball, and why you should always finish with the butt.

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Mike Robertson

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The Hardcore Lunge

The lunge is one of the best exercises you can do in the gym. Unfortunately, the performance of the "lunge" by your average gym-goer is about as baffling as nipples on men. Some things just don't add up.

Whether your goal is improved performance, wheels of steel, or a bigger total, lunges can help get you there. The lunge may not be as sexy as a big squat or deadlift, but once you've learned to lunge effectively it's one of the most potent exercises you can employ in your weight-training arsenal.

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Mike Robertson

Monday, November 5, 2007

Getting To Know The Squat

If you’re serious about your strength, physique or physical prowess in general, the squat is arguably the best lift you can learn to perform in the gym. Simply put, there are a plethora of reasons you should start squatting TODAY even if you’ve never tried them before. And if you’ve been doing them for years, hopefully you’ll learn something along the way that can help you take your squats (as well as your strength and physique) to a whole new level.

Before we get to the meat and potatoes, I’m sure a lot of you are thinking, “Why the hell is this guy writing an article on squatting?” I’m sure plenty of you reading this out-squat me, and I’m ok with that (for now!) But, for someone who has pretty poor levers and started off with one of the worst squats of all time, I’ve taken it from absolutely terrible (336 pounds at a bodyweight of 176) to something almost respectable (530 pounds at a bodyweight of 198 pounds). To do that, it’s taken a lot of hard work, dedication, and most of all learning about what perfect squat technique is and feels like.

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Mike Robertson

Friday, November 2, 2007

Free Stuff

I’m constantly amazed at how many people want “free stuff” on the ‘net nowadays.

Free stuff is great; I personally love free stuff. I guess for me, though, it comes down to value. If I’m willing to pay for something, I’m that much more willing to really utilize and apply it. It has a higher value to me than something that’s free. It’s not that free stuff can’t be quality, because it absolutely can. But most people don’t associate “free” with “value.” It’s just a fact of life.

Take for instance my Bulletproof Knees manual. If you dug around, listening to all my audio interviews, reading all my articles, and even attending a seminar I spoke at, you might get most of the key nuts and bolts to my program. The problem is, it’s impossible to have the same depth in any of those formats. It’s impossible to convey everything you know into a one-hour talk, let alone a 2-3000 word article – it’s just not possible. A good article or presentation gives you a few key points, but lacks the necessary depth.

It’s information outsourcing, in a sense – how much is your time worth? Do you want something “for free”, knowing that it’s going to take extensive time and effort on your part to do so? I’m not saying its right or wrong, just understand that nothing is “free.” If nothing else, it’s going to take time to assimilate and compile all the information that’s out there on a topic. Many would much rather purchase a manual or DVD that gives them the tools necessary than spend inordinate amounts of time doing the research themselves.

Still want free stuff? Sign up for my newsletter, keep reading my blog on a daily basis, and check out all the articles I have on my website. I love doing what I do, so I’m going to continue providing free stuff as long as I’m around.

Free stuff is great – just don’t expect to get everything an author can offer for free!

Mike Robertson, M.S., C.S.C.S., U.S.A.W.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Program Design and Technique

One concept I keep coming back to is this: What’s more important, good programming or good program design?

On one hand, a good program is critical. If you have excellent form on the wrong exercises, you’re going to be consistently spinning your wheels; you’ll either make no progress, or worse yet, get injured.

On the other hand, technique is every bit as important. You could have the most amazing program in the world, geared 100% towards your every ache, pain and inefficiency. But if you perform that routine with bad technique, you’re every bit as likely to get, or stay, injured.

Program design comes down to equal parts art and science. You have to know the science to be able to utilize the art.

Technique refinement is a dynamic process – no matter how long you’ve lifted, you’ll always be refining technique.

The sooner you respect and understand the importance of each, the faster you’ll reach your training related goals.

Mike Robertson

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Scapular Winging – Just Hide It?

I was following a recent forum discussion where a young trainee asked about his scapular winging.

In looking at his pictures it was quite apparent that he was winging badly. But what really shocked me were some of the comments.

Some of the “forumites” told him to quite worrying about it, and instead focus on building more upper back musculature so it wasn’t seen anymore! Huh? Are we still thinking like this?

Scapular winging isn’t like polio or the plague; it may not kill or cripple you, but it can wreak havoc on your shoulders. Scapular control is vitally important; if we can’t stabilize our scapulae at rest (e.g. we’re winging), what business do we have loading the shoulders with movements like overhead and bench presses?

Simple answer? No business whatsoever.

I preach efficiency for a reason. I’m not against the big exercises in any way, shape or form. What I am all about is minimizing risks and maximizing rewards.

Covering up scapular winging by “trying to put some meat on your back” is lousy advice at best. I’d imagine if this forum member followed that advice, he’d have major shoulder issues long before he ever developed his back to that degree.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Increasing Water Intake

By Dr. John Berardi

Sedentary individuals should drink at least 2L or about 8 cups of water per day, athletes should drink at least 3L or about 12 cups of water per day, and athletes in hot weather climates drink at least 4L or about 16 cups of water per day.

Since following these recommendations can prevent dehydration and can actually assist with fat loss, you’d have to be a desiccated fool to ignore them.

However, try as they might, some individuals find it difficult to ingest up to a gallon of water per day. So try out these three proven strategies for increasing water ingestion:

1- Drink cold water – cold water is more palatable, improving “mouth feel” and ingestion
2- Add lemon – lemon increases urge to drink and also kills bacteria
3- Chuggables – always carry some sort of jug of water around to ensure you’re drinking. Rubbermaid makes a nice blue top container (Chuggables) that we recommend to our clients.

If you like this tip and want to learn more about JB and his products, check out his Precision Nutrition website.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Use the "Muscle Beach" Effect!

Whenever applicable use the muscle beach effect. Stick your chest out as far as you can like you are at the beach; this will not only put a small arch in your upper and lower back, but it will also make your spine more rigid. This, combined with abdominal bracing (tightening the abdominal and gluteal musculature as if you are about to be punched), will not only help prevent injury, but help you add weight to the bar as well.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Mood Eating

By Dr. John Berardi

Most people eat based on their mood and/or some subjective feelings of hunger. They don’t eat based on what their bodies need. Think of it this way: you’re about to take a long drive on a stretch of highway with no gas station. Do you fail to stop for gas before you hit the road because you’re "not in the mood?" Of course not. Think of eating in the same way. Eating fuels your metabolic engine. So it’s time to start feeling like eating so that you can stop feeling like you’re scrawny.

If you like this tip and want to learn more about JB and his products, check out his Precision Nutrition website.

Mike Robertson

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Try the Hip Extension Test to see if your Glutes are Firing

The hip extension test is a simple way to determine how well your posterior chain is functioning. Lay face down on a table with your ankles hanging off the edge. You will either have to video tape yourself or have someone watch you. Raise one leg a few inches off the table; if the arch in your back increases or if your knee flexes (bends) then your glutes are not working properly. Try stretching your hip flexors and hamstrings, while adding in specific glute work to improve motor recruitment and control.

As well, if you want more tests just like this one, be sure to check out the "Building the Efficient Athlete" DVD series when it's released in a few months!

Mike Robertson

Help Your Clients Acheive Long-Term Knee Health

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Toe-Out To Increase Your Depth

Most people have trouble achieving depth in the squat because their feet are pointed straight ahead. Try this for added effect: Set your feet up at the width you normally squat, and then point your toes straight forward to see how deep you can go with good form. Now, turn you toes out slightly and see how much farther you can go down. Not only will this help improve your depth, but turning the toes out gives you a wider base of support and improves stability.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Check the Glutes for Low Back pain

A lot of people I work with in a rehab setting think that their low back pain is due to their lower back being weak, tight or a variety of other reasons. Quite frequently, however, lower back pain originates in the glute medius muscle. People with glute medius adhesions or trigger points often state that they have low back pain at the top of their posterior ilium or hip bone. Good ART practitioners and massage therapists will often work this area over, but the foam roller is a great tool as well.

Lie on your side with the "meaty" part of your lateral glutes (just posterior to the head of the femur) resting on the roller. Balance on one elbow with the same side leg on the ground and roll that lateral aspect of your glutes from top to bottom. If you find a “hot spot” or trigger point, it helps if you hold on that position for a 15-20 seconds. The foam roller isn’t going to cure the underlying pathology in your back pain, but it can definitely help relieve some pain and get you moving again!

Check out my Feel Better for 10 Bucks article for more great foam roller exercises.

Mike Robertson

Monday, October 15, 2007

Change the Lunge to Change the Muscles

Simply changing the midpoint position of the lunging foot can dramatically change the musculature used. For example, a short-stroke lunge puts an increased demand on the quadriceps. A moderate lunge balances the load between the glutes, hamstrings and quads. Finally, a long-stroke or extended lunge really blasts the glutes and hams.

Still not enough variation? Try lunges onto a box for increased recruitment in the VMO, glutes and hamstrings. As well, a lateral or angled lunge will require increased recruitment of the hip ab- and adductors as well. With all these variations, there’s no excuse not to develop some steel wheels!

If you’d like a more in-depth discussion of these lunges, check out my Single Leg Supplements article featured previously on T-Nation.

Mike Robertson

The Ultimate Upper Body Warm-Up

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Shift the Weight to your Heels

Strength trainers are probably the only athletes on the face of the Earth who want to shift their weight to their heels versus their toes. Think of your heels as the roots to a tree; another option is to ‘screw’ your feet into the ground. This will not only provide added stability, but a more solid base to lift from. This tip works great whether you are squatting, benching, deadlifting or even overhead pressing.

Give it a shot!

Mike Robertson

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Spice Up Dumbbells with Isometric Holds

Even though dumbbell work uses each arm independently, you can improve the effects of DB work by pressing one dumbbell at a time.

From the starting position of a dumbbell military or bench, hold the right arm extended as you take the left arm through the movement. Repeat on the opposite side by keeping the left arm extended and taking the right arm through the ROM. You can alternate arms, or if one side is significantly stronger than the other perform all the reps on the weak side before moving to the strong side. Not only will you prioritize your weak arm, you’ll pre-fatigue your stronger arm with the isometric hold.

Mike Robertson

Experience The Event That Took 30 Trainers, Coaches, and Athletes to the Next Level.

More on marketing...

After one of my recent posts about marketing on the Internet, I received this e-mail from one of my readers. I found it pretty interesting and I hope you will too!

Hey Mike,

I know you’re a busy guy so I won’t take up much of your time. As a business owner myself I study marketing and found the process by which I decided to purchase Bulletproof Knees interesting.

Basically, I’ve read much of your material on T-Nation and think that you’re knowledge and the ability to convey it is excellent so you didn’t have to sell me on that. However, justifying the expense for the book (especially since I’ll probably get hit with duty costs at the border) when there are so many alternatives out there was difficult to me. It’s not that it’s particularly expensive. It was more of a decision of which book to buy.

Here’s where it was strange. I’ve always thought that buyers decided that something was either worth the money or it wasn’t and that was that. Instead, I kept poking back in every so often to see the Bulletproof Knees site and reading over the same material. Eventually (today) it sold me and I made the purchase. I found that particularly interesting.

My guess is that there are several other readers on your mailing list in the same boat and frequent reminders and incentives to purchase the manual just might push them over the edge. Giving them a taste of what’s inside (maybe part of a sample chapter) might be enough to close the deal for some folks. I know it would’ve probably would’ve sold me earlier.

Anyway…you may or may not find this useful. I just thought I’d share.

Take care,

M

Want to know what's even weirder? After a short e-mail exchange, here was a second point he brought up that I also thought as interesting (and contrary to what the typical "Vocal Minority") might have you believe:

"The only way you’ll get them to cross the line is to do MORE marketing…or give different incentives."

Very interesting stuff indeed.

Stay strong
MR

Friday, October 5, 2007

Lift Strong Friday #12 – Craig Ballantyne


This week’s edition of Lift Strong Friday comes to us courtesy of Craig Ballantyne and his article, “Fat Loss for Busy Men and Women.”

Since meeting Craig last year at the Ryan Lee Boot Camp, I’ve come to really respect his no-frills approach to training and nutrition. This article gives you a quick summary of how to produce maximum fat loss in a minimal amount of time.

Let’s be honest here: With ever increasing time constraints like work, kids, and other life responsibilities, training is often the first thing that goes out the door. What I like about Craig is he gives you the tools to get in a fast, efficient fat loss workout in 45 minutes. I don’t care how busy you are; if you can’t fit in a 45 minute workout three days per week, you just aren’t destined to be lean!

To learn more about Craig check out Turbulence Training site.

That’s it for this week. Have a great weekend and be sure to pick up a copy of the Lift Strong CD-Rom today!

Stay strong

MR

Thursday, October 4, 2007

N=1

I’m always leery of this. Always.

What am I talking about exactly? I’m talking about trainees and coaches whose experience and frame of reference is limited to one person. Whether that one person is them, one client, etc. is irrelevant.

You’ll quite often hear people say, “I did X with Y client and it worked great.” Or, “I do A and got B.” The inherent problem is this – would you get that same result with another person? With multiple people? With an entire training group?

What I’m getting at here is using the “I do this because so and so says so” pisses me off. Could that person be correct? Sure. For example, I’d accept just about anything that Stuart McGill has to say about low back care, simply because he has a huge frame of reference. He’s worked with an infinite amount of people, and thus has a huge frame of reference.

Contrast this with Johnny Trainer or Internet Warrior, who used a 6-day split routine (with two arm days) to add an inch to his guns. His N=1; it worked for him, but it may not work for everyone else. His frame of reference is quite small.

Whenever you try to take in and assimilate new information, you need to think about the author’s level of credibility, his experience, and the number of people he’s trained to draw his conclusions from. Critical thinking is imperative if you really want to understand any topic.

N=1 doesn’t cut it any more. The key is consistent results with a large number of patients, clients or athletes.

Mike Robertson

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Athletes and Motivation

I’m constantly reminded that all athletes are not created the same. And I’m NOT just talking about their biomechanics or physiology.

In my ~9 years in the field, I’ve had the pleasure of working with a wide variety of athletes – weekend warriors and high school kids, all the way up to professional level ball players. One of the most interesting aspects of this is looking at how motivation levels differ between groups.

High school kids will, generally, have the lowest level of motivation. Quite often kids aren’t even cut anymore, and many are content just to “be on the team.” Collegiate level athletes will generally have more motivation across the board than high school kids, but less than a professional.

Now, keep in mind this is still an individual thing – you’ll always have your extremely high or extremely low motivation athletes on any given team, but as a general rule of thumb this works.

Motivation level then plays into how you must coach any given team or group. With lower motivation athletes, you’re going to need to do a little bit more “prodding” to get them going and performing at the level you’d like. These will generally be the kids that you need to work the hardest with, and there may be a certain level of hand-holding until they start to see progress and/or change.

In contrast, high level athletes inherently understand that doing weight training, plyos and agility drills will improve their performance. These are the athletes with whom you can take a more “hands-off” approach, and will respond well to tweaking and minor coaching adjustments. They’ll be the best at helping you regulate a large group of athletes, and may even pick up and employ some of the coaching tactics you use! Anyone who has ever had a high-motivation kid who’s also the best athlete on the team knows what I’m talking about here.

Quite simply, you can’t treat all levels of athletes the same. Determine their level of motivation and adjust your coaching style as necessary.

Mike Roberston

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Planned Recovery is Key

I can't tell you how many people I know who DON'T plan recovery into their training.

And I'm not just talking day to day recovery. I'm talking about going with balls-out intensity day after day, and week after week until they either get injured or burn out.

For beginners, you can probably get by with an unload week every 6-8 weeks of training. Could you go longer? Maybe. But why bother? You might as well get in the habit of taking planned recovery weeks now.

For the more advanced trainees, I'd recommend an unload week every 3-4 weeks at the latest. When under high levels of stress outside of the gym, some of my best progress occurs when I alternate loading and unloading weeks on a 1:1 ratio!

Regardless of what you decide on, planned recovery is one of the simplest things you can do to keep yourself healthy and seeing progress.

Who ever would've thought I'd have to ask you to take some time off? ;)

Mike Robertson

Friday, September 28, 2007

Lift Strong Friday #11 – Chris Shugart

This edition of Lift Strong Friday comes to us courtesy of Chris Shugart and his articled, “Display Adaptability.”

The basic premise of Chris’ article is that you are at the EXACT level of fitness that you should be. If you are in great shape, it’s because you’ve worked your ass off to get there. If you are too fat, inflexible, or weak, it’s because you should be! If you aren’t putting in the time and effort to achieve the physique you want, you need to figure out why and address it. Excuses are weak.

Think about how this applies to you currently. Are you on track to achieve your goals? What thing(s) are holding you back? Is it your diet? Your training program? An injury? Once you figure out what is holding you back, you need to develop an action plan to eliminate it.

One thing I really love about this article is the fictional characters that Chris develops. It reminds me of fitness coach and author Jen Heath in particular; Jen is the mother of four, yet she’s in amazing shape. Many in her position would say, “I don’t have the time to train hard, eat right, etc.” It’s just an excuse! I’m sure Jen could come up with a ton of reasons why she couldn’t or shouldn’t stay in shape, but she doesn’t. She knows exactly when she’s going to train, what she’s going to feed her family, etc. She’s made her health and well-being a priority.

For more articles like this one, purchase the Lift Strong CD-ROM today!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

FitSchools

I just found out about this from Scott Quill of Men’s Health fame, but it’s pretty cool.

www.MensHealth.com/FitSchools

With child obesity rates going through the roof, this is something we need to address now. I work in a high school and can’t tell you how many kids are overweight, out-of-shape, and just plain lazy. The foods they consume have little or no nutritional value, they don’t have gym class, and they are generally overworked and overstressed on a daily basis.

Something needs to change; hopefully this will be a great start!

Stay strong
MR

Monday, September 24, 2007

Push ups, Face pulls, and Shrugs

In your and Bill Hartman's article "Push ups, face pulls and shrugs for strong and healthy shoulder's" you guys talk about how during a proper and efficient bench press, the scapulae don't really protract and in fact should actually be retracted and depressed. You go on to say that this position is the same position the scapulae are in during the contracted portion of a row, so the idea of horizontal training balance in terms of pushing and pulling isn't as simple as balancing rows with benching. Now with that being said, in BTEA you and Eric include "all bench pressing" in the "scapular protraction" column of "A structural balance crash course, the Upper Body" chart in the powerpoint slides and in opposition to that you include all rowing movements (upright rows excluded) in the "scapular retraction column".

So my questions to you are:
1.) Is the bench press a scapular protraction movement or scapular retraction movement? And if pressing movements like the bench press aren't in fact scapular protraction movements, are there any other movements besides a push up or push up plus that are?

MR: It’s tricky, right? ;)
The bench press is in fact a protraction movement pattern; the problem is, the scapulae never actually protract! So while you’re training the pecs, anterior delts, triceps, etc., you’re never really focusing on the serratus anterior. This is an obvious issue w/the bench press exercise.
Now, with regards to “true” protraction exercises, push-ups are obviously great, but they aren’t your only choice. You can also perform a variety of protraction exercises using a standing cable machine or heavy bands – mix it up by standing with feet aligned and in a split-stance to get more “core” involvement.

2.) I understand that the contracted portion of most rowing movements put the scapulae in a depressed and retracted position but during the other portions of rowing such as on a t-bar or isolateral rowing machine where not much effort is needed to maintain neutral spine, I feel like my scapulae can protract if I allow the weight to take them into that protracted position. Would allowing my scapulae to protract during that portion of the row be in essence training scapular protraction in that phase and scapular retraction in the contracted phase? or since your not actively using your serratus to protract the scapula would you not really be training scapular protraction?

MR: Now you’re thinking man!
I’ve actually just written an entire article on this topic. The goal during all rowing movements should be to allow/control protraction at the start/finish of the movement. By doing this, we allow the rhomboids to relax and stretch, thus ensuring a better contraction during the actual movement. You’ll see quite often where people maintain a small amount of retraction, even at the start/finish – they simply can’t relax into protraction and still complete the movement. This is typical of someone who is dealing with rhomboid dominance and/or scapular downward rotation syndrome.

3.) If performing push up variations are indeed the only way to actively train scapular protraction, then would I be understanding things correctly if i said that balancing rows and push up variations would serve someone better for shoulder health and scapular function then balancing rows and bench press variations?

MR: Yes!
Just remember that our goal is optimal alignment of the upper extremity, and the upper extremity just seems a lot harder to “balance” overall than the lower body. If we’re developing a program for someone that’s already in optimal alignment, it’s much better to try and balance protraction/retraction strength than just focusing on bench presses versus rows.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Lift Strong Friday #10 - Remembering Randy

This version of Lift Strong Friday will not include any reviews. Instead, I want to briefly share my memories of a good friend who recently passed away: Randy Presslaf.

You may be wondering, what does this have to do with Lift Strong? In a word, everything. Randy (along with Alwyn and my family) was one of the main reasons I contributed to the project. Randy was a good friend and massage therapist here in town, and I feel like the tools she was developing were nothing short of astounding. Randy was truly gifted not only her in understanding of the human body, but in the application of her massage techniques as well.

Randy had been battling cancer for 5 or more years when I met her. She’d done it all – chemo, radiation, experimental therapies, surgery, the works. You name it, she’d tried it. She’d often tell me her only goal was to live until the next batch of cancer drugs came out; as they developed a new one, she’d see some progress until the next one came out. There were many times where I’d see her on a Tuesday or Wednesday, and she’d have had a round of chemo the day before! To say that she was an influence and an inspiration would be an understatement.

The worst part about all this was that Randy was only 42 when she passed away. 42! She was so young, and even in spite of the cancer she’d always great me with a smile and kind words. People like that are put onto this Earth for a reason; I can only hope that she’s been taken away from us for a reason as well.

Support Lift Strong – purchase your copy today.

Best
MR

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Training Quality

One of the most critical (yet underappreciated) components of training is quality.

Before my knee surgery, I was a huge proponent of the Modified 5x5 program for training. I still love the protocol, but the caveat here is making sure your training quality is optimal.

When I first started this training cycle, I was 24 years old and willing to do anything to bring my squat up. Over course of two years I brought my squat up from 407 pounds to 530 pounds, something that I’m quite proud of. I feel like the squat is the most mentally challenging lift (especially when performed in a powerlifting meet), so while 530 isn’t the biggest number out there it’s something I worked hard to achieve.

Problem was, I think there were times when I got a little lax with my quality. Part of that is coaching: You need a quality coach watching you and reinforcing flawless technique on each rep. That’s not as easy as it sounds. Another part of it is maturity – at 24, you’re more interested in getting the volume in, even if you get “loose” on a few reps.

No more.

I’ve been letting quality volume dictate all my current training. I have an idea of what weights I want to handle on each day, and then I’m letting the quality of my training dictate how much volume I take. So if my goal is hit around 85 or 90% of my max deadlift, I’ll hit that weight as many times as I can while maintaining perfect technique. The first rep that feels off, I stop. Ideally, you stop right before this rep, but it’s largely a matter of feel and listening to your body. I’m getting there with this.

For example let’s say you’re squatting and your goal is to hit 5 sets of 5 at 315. But as you’re moving along to your third set, you feel like you’re starting to fatigue and the technique slips just slightly. STOP! Either stop the set, or stop the workout, the choice is yours.

Maybe you need to get the volume in, but can’t do it within sets of 5. That’s fine – instead break it down to sets of 2 or 3 and maintain that flawless technique from rep to rep.

This is why I’m quickly becoming a huge proponent of singles, even if it’s not of the max effort variety. Constantly working on the set-up and perfect technique on every rep is much more mentally taxing than “blasting” through a set of five where you technique fails around rep number three. Those final two reps aren’t doing nearly as much for you as they should.

Next time you’re in the gym, focus on hitting high-quality reps on each and every exercise. Not only will you need less volume, but you’ll feel better and probably move more weight to boot!

Stay strong
MR

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Neutral Spine

This is another topic that I frequently get questions on

Our goal, quite simply, should be to have a neutral spinal alignment. Now keep in mind that’s now straight up and down, just “neutral.” Simple, isn’t it? I’d love to give you an exact definition, but this is something that even the “experts” disagree on. Needless to say, everyone should have a slight lordosis in their lower back, and a slight kyphosis in their upper back.

In most sports, and even more specifically weight training, we see an excessive curvature in the lower back, or an excessive lordosis. This increased lordosis quite often leads to back pain, as the opposing musculature such as the external obliques and rectus abdominus are lengthened and weak. You’ll often see this excessive lordosis paired with some degree of anterior pelvic tilt. Once we start to slip into this posture, our low back muscles are really our only option with regards to stabilizing loads in exercises like squats, deadlifts, etc.

In my Core Training for Smart Folks article I discuss the need to train the external obliques and the rectus abdominus for stability vs. movement. We need to get them stronger in isolation first, so they can then help us produce stability and optimize low back/pelvic alignment. The goal is, first and foremost, to achieve optimal alignment in static posture – if it’s not right here, it won’t be right when you start producing movement!

Once you’ve achieved appropriate spinal/pelvic alignment statically, you then need to start reproducing that during weight training movements. Static and dynamic alignment are not one and the same, either; once we start moving stiffness can change the entire ball game. And, quite frankly, that’s more of an article and not a blog post!

So here’s the deal – if you’re excessively lordotic and/or in anterior tilt, start working to bring up your core strength/stability via rectus abdominus and external oblique drills. Static stretching of the hip flexors and quads will help, too. Improve your static alignment, and by that time I should have some more food for thought!

Stay strong
MR

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Zercher's = Pain


“Clubber, what’s your prediction for the fight?”

*Ominous Pause*

“Pain!”



For some reason, any time I perform Zercher Squats I’m reminded of this scene from Rocky III. No matter what I’ve tried, I can’t seem to figure out a way to make them even remotely pain-free. I’ve tried rolling up a towel, using a 2”x6” in the crook of my arms, etc. If anyone out there has any ideas, I’d love to hear them – I’ll even hook you up with some free product if I try it and like it!

Elbow and forearm pain aside, I feel the Zercher squat is a great exercise because it trains you to maintain upright torso positioning while blasting your core. If you don’t have your anterior and posterior core working together to stabilize yourself, this lift is going to be hell.

If you want to check out more core blasting moves, check out my High Performance Core Training article.

Stay strong
MR

Monday, September 17, 2007

Hip Mobility

HIP being the key word here.

When Eric and I released our Magnificent Mobility DVD, the goal was to get people moving and feeling better. Quite simply, better movement capacity is vital to anything in life, whether you’re an elite athlete or an 85 year old who just wants to hang out with the grandkids.

One issue that I’m really trying to reinforce is that the movement here needs to come from the hips. For example, watch people perform a rather simple exercise like an A-P or S-S leg swing, knee hug, etc., and you’ll typically see movement at both the hips and lumbar spine. This isn’t what we want! Obviously improved mobility and joint ROM are the goal, but we need to ensure that we’re targeting the correct joint during our movements. Here are some simple cues to remember:

- When you’re stretching your posterior chain (this can be either via dynamic or static means), make sure to keep a slight lordosis in your low back. If you try to stretch your glutes, hammies, etc., and there’s a rounding or flattening out of the lumbar spine, you’ve gone beyond what your hips are currently able to do. Remember, quality always trumps quantity.

- When you’re stretching your anterior chain (again, either statically or dynamically), make sure to maintain a neutral pelvic alignment throughout. Quite often, you’ll see people who are in anterior pelvic tilt but appear to have great flexibility/extensibility in the hip flexors and quads. How is this? Because they are allowing their pelvis to move! Brace the core and squeeze the glutes/keep the hips extended throughout – I’m sure you’ll feel a huge difference in the quality of your stretch.

Try some of these simple tips out; I’m sure it will make a profound difference in how you move and feel!

Stay strong
MR

Of Course... This All Relates to Efficiency. Get Started.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Double-Post Friday!!!


Sorry for the double-post today, but I just seem to have a lot on my mind!

The main reason I'm posting is to wish Greg Oden (former Indianapolis basketball star and #1 pick in last year's NBA draft), a speedy recovery from microfracture surgery yesterday. I don't know Greg personally, but being a huge fan of basketball is reason enough! Greg is arguably the best big man to come out of college since Shaq in the 90's, so I know everyone in the basketball community wants to see him recover quickly and compete against the best.

If you follow the NBA, you probably know that a slew of NBA stars have recently undergone microfracture surgery; this list includes Chris Webber, Jason Kidd, Darius Miles, Zach Randolph, Allan Houston and Amare Stoudemire. Some of these guys, like Stoudemire, have returned to their previous levels of performance. Others, like Allan Houston and Chris Webber, have been robbed of their prevous athleticism and were never the same players post-surgery.

What I'm getting at here is this: It's a major surgery and rehab, which will most likely cost Greg of his entire rookie season. Looking on the bright side, the affected area was small and he is very young (contrary to what he looks like!), so I know everyone is hoping for a full recovery similar to Stoudemire's.
I must admit, all this has me thinking about working on Bulletproof Knees 2.0; I've learned a lot since the original release in April, so we'll see if this gets me motivated enough to get going ;)

Have a great weekend everyone!

Stay strong

MR

Lift Strong Friday #9 – Dr. Chris Mohr

Dr. Mohr’s article contribution to the Lift Strong project revolves around current research on training for cancer patients.

Long story short: If you have (or have had) cancer, exercise can help. I’ll leave all the science speak up to Chris ;)

Beyond that, I wanted to talk a little bit about how cancer has affected me yet again. One of my new friends here in town was a rising baseball star. This kid was a stud – a top 100 pick straight out of high school, he decided to attend college instead of immediately pursuing his dream of playing in the bigs. Unfortunately he blew out the same knee three times, and now his dream will never be realized. Obviously, his baseball career is a thing of the past, but this story isn’t about baseball.

My buddy is young, only 23 years of age. However, he’s now dealing with kidney cancer for the second time in his life. Imagine that – dealing with cancer TWICE by the time you’re 23! When I was 23, I was just happy to make it through an arduous day in the lab or in the weight room, let alone worrying about cancer.

What’s my point here? Cancer is a big-time enemy. You may not have fought him yet, but chances are either you or someone you love will. Do your part and contribute to the Lift Strong project today.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Kicking off the NFL Season

I don’t about you all, but I love football.

I don’t just like football – I LOVE football. I don’t know if it’s the mental chess-match that goes on, the preparation, or just the amazing speed, grace and power of the athletes, but I think football is truly an amazing sport to watch.

Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the past week, you probably caught a game or two this past weekend. What’s intriguing is that it seems this week was especially bad with regards to injuries; just off the top of my head I remember hearing of ACL tears, separated shoulders, patellar tendon tears, rotator cuff tears, sprained ankles, etc. You name it, and it probably happened to someone on some team.

One injury that I’ve followed with a lot of interest was that of Bills Tight End Kevin Everett. On a routine play in the second half, Everett suffered a head-on collision with another player, and was actually seen twitching on the field. After 15 minutes of laying on the field, he was taken off by stretcher to the hospital.

As if that doesn’t sound bad enough, it gets worse: He was immediately rushed into surgery. If someone is that bad off, you know it’s bad. The surgeons came out on Monday and discussed his potential to walk again as “grave” and “dismal.” In fact, they still weren’t convinced he was even going to live!

What’s even more amazing is what happened next. On Tuesday, even after these terrible reports, they doctors went back on their word and now think he’ll be able to walk again! The most interesting information is how they achieved this. It appears as though the Bills Orthopedic Surgeon, Dr. Andrew Cappuccino, immediately infused Everett with an ice-cold saline solution, putting him in a hypothermic state. In essence, they were putting his nervous system on ice, just like we would ice down an achy joint or muscle to reduce swelling and inflammation! I don’t know about you, but I find this to be fascinating stuff.

For more info on this story and procedure, check out the following link.

Quite simply, I love the game of football. But it’s moments like this one that remind us that the brutal strength and power of these players can be taken away in an instant. While he probably will never play football again, I’m sure football is the last thing on Kevin Everett’s mind right now. At age 25, he’s got his entire life ahead of him.

And for now, it appears as though he’ll be able to walk through it.

Stay strong
MR

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Addressing the Lordotic Posture

I have a lordotic posture and unable to achieve pelvic neutral with tight hip flexors and active back extensors, core strength is good, could I utilize any exercises from Magnificent Mobility, Inside-Out, and Building The Efficient Athlete to help the above?

Magnificent Mobility
Pull-back butt kicks
Glute bridges
Mini-band walks
Warrior Lunges
Walking Spidermen
Squat-to-Stand
Etc.

Mike, checked out the lovely Blood on the Barbell program, as a raw beginner,what are your best basic exercises needed to gain adequate strength base or would one need to have a coach learn perhaps all the exercise assessments or maybe all the structural balance listed from BTEA in order to interprate a similar program for beginners?

It's great to have a coach/trainer evaluate you in the beginning, but you still need a basic strength base to see progress. Unless you have a specific pathology that needs to be addressed, stick to the basics (squat, bench, deadlifts, push-ups, lunges, pull-ups, etc.) and you should see plenty of progress.

what exercises should a trainer teach me to get wet with as a beginner?

See above

Basically, of alot changes happened over time such as staying away from sit ups but sticking with reverse crunches that puts people off, please can you tell me if curl ups,toes to sky variations (reverse curls),thin tummies,hip extensions, wide grip bench presses are any good exercise now?

I'm not familiar with all those exercises - just remember that while there are good and bad exercises, you need to qualify the exercise to the individual, not vice versa. What's great for one person and their goals is terrible for another.

Stay strong
MR

Everything Starts with Efficiency. Click to Get Started.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Bullet Proof Knees: The ACL Tear

For an athlete with a slight ACL tear, what would be the protocol? What to avoid, what to do, what if we also have some mcl and medial menicus in it? Again, we're talking about something at a low degree. My guess is "Everything from the Bulletproof Knees article", but just asking if there's anything else ;)
Thanks.


It's going to be pretty hard to do further damage to your ACL in the weight room. If you're playing sports and don't want to risk it, I would stop immediately until things get cleared up. Obviously you want to do a ton of posterior chain strengthening work as well.

If you truly have issues going on with all three structures (ACL, MCL, and medial mensicus) you need to get it checked out by a qualified ortho. If any of these issues are leading to decreased stability, you're leaving yourself open to increased risk/onset of osteoarthritis.

Stay strong
MR

Friday, September 7, 2007

Lift Strong Friday #8 – Charles Staley

This weeks Lift Strong Friday comes to us courtesy of Charles Staley. Charles’ article is titled “Why I Don’t Want to Power Clean 315 Pounds.”

This article is refreshing because it reminds us that if we have serious goals, there are also serious consequences to getting there. Quite often someone will set a lofty goal, and not accept the reality of what it takes to get there. Elite athletes will often tell you that the drive and desire to get to the top alienates them from others; their focus is so singular on their performance that other areas of their life suffer. The same goes for training.

For every additional percent of body fat you want to drop, for every additional pound you want to add to your squat, you have to make sacrifices. Are you willing to do that? Are you willing to make the sacrifices necessary to take your performance to that next level?

These are all questions you need to ask yourself. If getting strong and fit were easy, everyone would be doing it!

That’s it for this week. Have a great weekend and don’t forget to pick up a copy of the Lift Strong CD-ROM today!

Stay strong
MR

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Success Stories: The Skinfold

On the personal front, here are my old and new skinfold test results. From 6/5/07 (I can't remember how long I'd been training with you, but it wasn't more than a month at that point.) to tonight 8/28/07. The first measurement was taken in the morning, and this one at 7pm, which means my numbers could actually be more impressive if I had taken them in the morning again.

Old/New

Chest- 19/11
mid axillary - 22/11.6
Sub scapular - 21.3/16
tricep - 27.6/16.3
abdominal - 33.6/22
supraillium - 33.3/18.6
thigh - 26/13.3

bodyweight 177.2/170.2

Body Fat % - 22%/15.1%

So that means I lost 15.9lbs of fat and gained 8.9lbs of lean body mass.

Thank you so much for your help, and as soon as financial aid comes in, I'll be contacting you again.

Sincerely,
T. Grandstrand

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Recovery: The Whole Nine Yards

I just wanted to inquire about your thoughts on recovery practices.
The training volume right now is incredibly high, and though I am
happy to bear some soreness and have been sticking to my
activation/stretching/soft tissue stuff, I wonder about cryotherapy or
contrast showers, foam rolling post-training and any other stuff I can
do to keep the lactic acid flushed out.


MR: If you're experiencing a boat-load of soreness/inflammation
post-workout, an ice-bath may not be a bad idea. It sounds like your
training volume is through the roof, so an ice bath may help keep things
under control.

Another idea that may help is just some very light hurdle or squat-rack
mobility drills. Obviously you don't want to increase fatigue, but one of
the best ways to maintain mobility and flush metabolic waste is movement.
You've already picked several M2 drills to incorporate pre-workout, so this
may be a time to do some different ones and just move around a bit.

I usually foam roll before practice or sprint work/fitness stuff, will
it really help me to do more after training? I'm actually feeling
quite good despite some moderate soreness, but I just want to maximize
recovery options since I'm training almost 5hrs a day right now. I've
been eating a TON of food, taking my few but trusted supplements and
taking contrast showers. Think I should hit up the ice bath, or do
anything else?


MR: Again, the ice bath may not be a bad idea. Some other ideas:

I've always found Epsom salt baths to help speed recovery (i.e. reduce
muscle soreness) and just in general "feel better." Don't discount the
psychological effect of feeling good!

Another option that's not as sexy is some old-school static stretching
before bed. It may have an acute change on flexibility, but again, it also
feels good and I think it parlays into some good results w/regards to
improving tissue quality.

In other news, I posted the fastest times on the 20, 40, 60, 80 and
100m tests today. I'm really enjoying my time on the field and am
looking forward to being part of a team again!
Funny how we sometimes underestimate ourselves, despite knowing that
we can be limitless in our dreaming. Funny eh?

Have a nice night..and thanks so very much!


MR: I'm really glad to hear you performed that well! I knew that as we
worked to improve your efficiency, your performance would follow along. It
seems as though you're already starting to see some improvements in just a
few short weeks - GREAT WORK!

Mike Robertson

Friday, August 31, 2007

Lift Strong Friday #7 – Chad Waterbury


Chad Waterbury’s contribution to the Lift Strong project is titled “The 3-6-9 Method.” This article not only discusses a little neuro-physiology (for all you geeks out there), but also outlines an entire program for you to follow.

The 3-6-9 principle is predicated on a concept called “undulating periodization.” Traditional periodization schemes would have you follow a certain rep scheme for an extended period of time, say 3-4 weeks. The goal of that phase could be improved maximal strength, power development, hypertrophy, or a host of other goals. The main take-home point here is that you’re only training for one specific physical quality in each phase.

Undulating periodization, on the other hand, employs all these training methods into ONE WEEK! In other words, each workout you’re training for a different goal; whether that’s maximal strength, hypertrophy, or muscular endurance, there’s a lot more set/rep variation within the week than a more traditional approach.

There’s been a lot of research done on undulating periodization, and in my opinion it seems very well fit to certain populations:

- Intermediate level lifters who have been training in a more standard 8-15 rep range
- People who suffer from training ADD (you know who you are!)
- Trainees who have “tapped out” their non-functional hypertrophy reserves and need to start a shift to more max-strength based lifting

Chad does a great job of outlining why the program works, and then backs it up with a program following the same principles. If you’d like to learn more about Chad, you can find him online at www.ChadWaterbury.com.

That’s it for this edition of the Lift Strong Friday. Pick up your copy of the CD-ROM today and have a great weekend!

Stay strong
MR

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Talking Shop: Mike Roussell

Supplements won’t make or break your success. This is a key point. But many people will interpret this as supplements don’t work. That’s not the case; certain supplements do work and can boost your progress. At the simplest level if you are taking a fat loss supplement then you need to be in caloric deficient for it to work. The same goes for a supplement that is going to help boost muscle growth; you need to be in a caloric excess. This sounds basic but it is often overlooked by people.

Here’s another idea that I’ve been thinking about lately. Before you take a supplement you owe it to your body to understand the general mechanism in which that supplement will elicit the desired response. If you are taking a fat burner then you should take the time to educate yourself to the ingredients and how they work. Once you do that you will be able to better compare products, cater your supplementation to your own body, and make some killer stacks.

I was just talking with Bill Hartman about this the other day. Take Biotest’s Hot-Rox Extreme for example. HRX rocks my world (pun intended). It makes me so wired. I am very sensitive to the combination of caffeine and yohimbe. If I take it past 2pm then I have trouble sleeping. But one of the ingredients that I really like in HRX is Biotest’s forskolin derivative, Carbolin-19. So what I’m going to do now is just take the HRX in the morning and then take a full dose of Carbolin-19 in the afternoon. Carbolin-19 isn’t a stimulant so I won’t have any trouble taking it in the afternoon. By using it I will still be able to upregulate cAMP – if the supplement does what it is supposed to and from looking at the literature I think it does. cAMP is important for facilitating fat loss.

Mike Roussell

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Endurance Training: Weight Loss

Saw you again in Men's Health again (way to go). Had a question for you. Have you ever trained someone for a marathon? I am thinking of entering the 1/2 this year in Tempe and going for the full next year. I have been working on dropping my wight for the past 9 months and have gone from 207 to 177 lbs as of yesterday. I think I need to work on a weight training program that will build endurance without adding unnecessary weight to compliment my running program, but I may be on the wrong track. Any thoughts?


With regards to training endurance athletes, I basically have a few goals:

1 - Use the weight training to "counteract" the muscle imbalances developed via their training. Generally the quads and hip flexors are crazy tight, so strength training is focused on developing the posterior chain (e.g. glutes and hamstrings)

2 - Keep them healthy via stretching, prehab, foam rolling, etc.

3 - Use strength training to increase strength and develop connective tissue (tendons, ligaments, etc.)

If you're running a lot, you really don't need to worry about putting on much mass with your strength training. Quite simply, your body won't have the energy reserves to build muscle. In essence, distance running and strength training are at opposite ends of the spectrum - your body has to decide between using energy to recover from runs or build muscle, and recovering from runs always wins out!

Basically, I would focus the bulk of your upper body training on developing the upper back, as most runners are hunched over to begin with. Rowing exercises, properly performed chin-ups, and face pulls are all great choices. For the lower body, focus on exercises that develop the posterior chain - Romanian Deadlifts, glute-ham raises, swiss ball leg curls, traditional deadlifts, etc.

Let me know if any of this makes sense - it's a rather long, drawn-out answer but I hope it helps!

MR

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

My Thoughts: Personal Trainers

While at the gym the other day, I had some mixed emotions while watching one of the “trainers” take a client through a workout. Let’s examine both the pros and cons:

Pros

I have a lot of respect for anyone who does this for a living, especially if they got into it for the right reasons. Most trainers are going to work long hours, get paid an average (but not outstanding wage), and probably be in and out of the industry in a few years. It’s definitely not the easiest job in the world.

As well, people often think of all the glitz and glory of working with highly functioning people or strictly elite athletes. I hate to tell you, but it’s not always all that glamorous, especially when starting out. In the beginning, you take whomever you can whenever you can to make ends meet. You don’t have the ability to pick and choose who you want to train. Especially if you have other people underneath you within the business, it’s not just about you making money – you are responsible for your other coaches and their lifestyle as well.

It’s easy to criticize trainers if you’re not in the industry, or if this isn’t your sole means of employment. But making a living as a trainer? Well, let’s just say it’s not the easiest thing in the world.

Cons

While I can appreciate the hard work and dedication these people put in, there are certain things that just flat out piss me off. First off, I’m pretty sure one of the guys had little or no training experience, let alone a certification. The “training session” consisted of weighted lunges (she didn’t need any extra weight, believe me), ab machine crunches, and a host of other poorly chosen exercises. So while the exercise selection sucked, the coaching wasn’t any better. The people who lose in this equation are the people paying for the sessions, and the good trainers out there who get a black eye from being associated with this trainer.

Now, couple this with a total lack of professionalism when it comes to attire. A polo shirt is fine, but take the time to at least tuck it in. It’s no wonder why people think trainers are total idiots; if you look the part, people will assume it to be true.

If we want this profession to be elevated to a higher level (whether it’s strength coaching, training, therapy, whatever), not only do we need to act the part but we need to look the part as well. Get your education up to par. Read articles and books. Listen to high quality CD’s and DVD’s. Attend seminars. You get the point.

But once you have the education and the know-how, take the time to look the part as well. Shaving from time to time, dressing appropriately, and keeping yourself in shape all help to raise the bar.

If we want to be paid like professionals, it’s time to look and act the part!

Mike Robertson

Monday, August 27, 2007

I Reserve The Right...

…to market myself and my products.

A while back, someone was calling me out for “marketing” myself. I hate to tell you, but each and every one of us is being marketed to every second of every day. If you don’t believe that, you’re quite na├»ve.

Driving down the road the other day, I was repeatedly “marketed” to: Advertisements on the radio, billboards on the road, signs alongside the street, etc.

Watching the TV, we’re constantly marketed to via commercials; unless you have a DVR or TiVo, it’s part of the price you “pay” to watch TV.

Selling my products and services is a big part of how I make a living. I hate marketing myself, but it’s a necessary evil. If I don’t market myself, who else will? People don’t magically know when a product is released or a service is offered. Someone (and typically the person who created it) has to let people know.

Here’s the trade-off I offer with people who read my articles, my blog, or my newsletter – I promise to consistently deliver great information, essentially, FOR FREE. Will I plug my products and services from time to time? YES! I feel like this is a small price, though. On my website and blog alone I have over 70 free articles and around 100 blog posts for your consumption.

Most importantly, remember that you don’t EVER have to purchase one of my products. You can read every article, every blog post, and every newsletter and no one will ever make you buy a product – just like watching TV. Just understand that its part of my job to let you know that said products and services are out there and available, should you so choose.

I appreciate each and every person who takes the time to read my ramblings. Hopefully you can get past the “marketing” and enjoy the information I’m trying to disseminate along the way!

Stay strong
MR

Friday, August 24, 2007

Liftstrong Friday #6 - Brian Grasso

Brian Grasso of the International Youth Conditioning Association is one of the premiere coaches of young athletes. Brian is so passionate and committed to improving youth athletics that he’s developed the IYCA to help improve coaching of youngsters.

Brian’s contribution to the Lift Strong project is titled “The Art of Coaching.” Luckily for me, I’ve seen him give this presentation and it is awesome! Brian discusses several important topics in this piece:

- The Kaizen principle of small, incremental gains throughout a career
- Long-term planning for the youth athlete, not session-to-session smoke and mirrors
- The art of philosophy design
- And how to coach athletes of different motivation and skill levels

Quite simply, if you work with youngsters, you need to read this piece. While many are looking for the next “cool” thing to include in their training, it never hurts to go back to the basics, working on your coaching cues and communication skills. You could be the smartest coach on the face of the Earth, but if you don’t have the ability to communicate with athletes your coaching ability is going to be limited.

If you work with youth athletes, be sure to check out the IYCA web page and don’t forget to pick up a copy of the Lift Strong CD-ROM. All the proceeds go to the Leukemia and Lymphoma society!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Improving Posture via Strength Training

A concept that I’m asked about quite frequently is using strength training to improve posture. As Eric discusses in our Building the Efficient Athlete DV D series, the law of repetitive motion definitely comes into play. Of course we need to address posture via behavior modification, but strength training gives us a great return of investment as well.

In its simplest format, we can use strength training to counteract what goes on with us the other 23 hours of the day; but, the key is in proper exercise selection. If your “corrective exercises’ consist of bicep curls and bench presses, you’re not going to see much return on your investment. However, if you use better exercise selection including exercises like front squats, Zercher squats, face pulls, etc., you can use strength training as a viable means to correct posture.

Another question that’s always brought up is, “When can I go back to regular training?” The answer? Maybe never! This doesn’t mean you can’t include your favorite exercises, but maybe you need to decrease the focus on them, or only include them at certain points in your yearly plan. Here’s an example using the bench press.

We know that people like to bench press, especially powerlifters as it’s one of their competitive events. With the focus on bigger and better gear, many have shifted to twice weekly training for the bench press: a raw, full range of motion day, and a heavy lockout day. This can be extremely hard on the shoulders, especially as it reinforces rhomboid dominance around the scapulae. So what do we do here? Forget about training the lockout?

Instead, what you could do is perform “bench” training twice per week – one day still being a true bench press day, the other focusing on closed-chain, weighted push-up variations. This will still overload the triceps, while allowing us greater activation and strengthening of the serratus and rotator cuff. Do this for 3-4 months, and then take the last 2-3 months of training to focus on the lockout. After the meet, return to the push-up variations.

Better exercise selection reinforces better postures while lifting, but it also allows for better posture outside of lifting as well. In essence, when you have optimal alignment and strength train appropriately, the strength training further “cements” that ideal posture. You see the opposite as well; when someone has flawed posture, every lift they perform will be compensated for in some form or fashion, further cementing and reinforcing their flawed posture and movement.

Stay strong
MR

Monday, August 20, 2007

Ankle Mobility with Bill Hartman

One of the most common questions I get is how to address ankle mobility. For those of you who have issues w/this, I’d advise checking out Bill Hartman’s ankle mobility video on You Tube. I’ve posted it below:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vxr9-IB0Rr4

Remember that when we’re talking about getting better mobility (aka dorsiflexion), a holistic approach is best. This can include actual ankle mobility drills, strengthening work for the tibialis anterior, static stretching of the gastroc, soleus, and superficial back line, as well as soft-tissue work. I’ve been using the Starr tool for my soft-tissue work lately, and really like the results it gives. You can find it here:

http://www.starrtool.com/

Being victim to multiple serious ankle sprains in my day, I think it’s going to help loosen things up and lengthen some of that built up scar tissue I have in my lower leg.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Liftstrong Friday #5 - Bob Youngs

Bob Youngs is not only a super strong powerlifter (he’s trained under Louie Simmons and totaled elite), but a smart guy as well.

Bob’s article is entitled “Seven Considerations for Goal Setting.” This article discusses why people don’t succeed, and how to use goal setting to help them achieve their goals. It’s not rocket science, but goal setting is one of those simple things that very few people actually use. When I was training strictly for powerlifting, I would set aside time after every meet to figure out what worked, what didn’t, and to start setting goals immediately for my next meet. This ensured that I was always focused on improving and getting stronger.

One part of Bob’s article that I really liked is his discussion of indicators. Dave Tate and Jim Wendler have talked about this as well, and if you haven’t figured out your indicators yet, you need to ASAP. What are indicators? Well, you need to read the article yourself!

Again, when I was more purely focused on powerlifting, I knew the exact range my competition squat and deadlift were based on my training indicators. If I could squat X amount of pounds for a set of 5, I knew within 10 pounds of what I was capable of come meet day. Not only does this decrease your stress level at a meet, but it gives you more confidence and allows you to perform better each and every time you hit the platform.

Pick up your copy of Lift Strong today!

Mike Robertson

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

People Power

No science here, just cold, hard truth: If you want to hit some big time PR’s in the gym, you better get some people around you to help!

Ever tried to plow through a really grueling workout by yourself? Sure, you might get about what you expected out of it, but don’t expect any super-human efforts. If you take the exact same situation and add in some motivated training partners or spotters, you’re damn near guaranteed to blow your old PR out of the water. The best explanation for this is the enhancement of the fight-or-flight response; you’d better fight to move that weight, or get your ass out of the gym before you’re ridiculed to death.

Next time you’re ready to move some big time weights, get some motivated people in there with you and watch the PR’s fall!

Mike Robertson

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Myth Busting: Mobility Training Doesn't Work

I was on a forum yesterday (yes, this was my first problem!), but I read a post where a guy stated that “mobility training didn’t do anything for him.” It didn’t improve his mobility OR his lifts.

HUH?

As all of you know, I’m a big proponent of mobility work, and not just because I’ve devoted two products to improving it. I believe that as you age, if you don’t use your mobility (or improve it, if you’re already immobile), you lose it. That lack of mobility is also a big reason why people have a greater tendency to get injured as we get older. But, I digress.

Saying mobility training doesn’t work is a lot like saying strength training doesn’t work. About the only time strength training doesn’t work is if you’re applying it incorrectly.

If you aren’t getting the most out of your mobility training, I’d suggest you ask yourself the following questions:

- Where am I most immobile?

For instance many people complain of “tight” hamstrings,which is in fact the result of an anterior pelvic tilt – so they fail to stretch/mobilize the appropriate areas. If they focused on the quads/hip flexors, they’d probably see better results.

- Am I working hard enough to address this area?

If you are ridiculously tight and/or immobile in certain areas, 4-5 repetitions of a drill twice a week isn’t going to cut it. Increase your repetitions per set.

- Am I getting in sufficient volume?

Many think that mobility drills can only be done on training days. However, most mobility training can be done daily to reinforce and “groove” better mobility. When I start out with new clients, many will have daily mobility drills to get it up to snuff before engaging in more intense training.

- Am I doing any soft-tissue work to coincide with the mobility training?

Mobility training is great, but only one small part of a program. By adding in tissue quality work such as ART, foam rolling, or deep tissue massage, you’ll get a better return of investment. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

Granted, these are “Readers Digest” answers to a big question, but saying mobility training “doesn’t work” ignores the basic tenets of physiology. Instead, figure out why your mobility training isn’t working and come up with a better plan.

Stay strong
MR