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Friday, August 31, 2007
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!
Thursday, August 30, 2007
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.
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
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!
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
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.
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!
Monday, August 27, 2007
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 naïve.
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!
Friday, August 24, 2007
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
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.
Monday, August 20, 2007
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:
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:
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
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!
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
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!
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
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.
Monday, August 13, 2007
One thing that still baffles me, though, is when people say that either:
A) They don’t warm-up at all, they just hit the bar with light weights on their given exercise and “ease” into the session, or
B) They essentially do only A, but precede that with 3-5 minutes on a treadmill or stationary bike.
Let’s look at the goals of our general warm-up, along with how I would set-up an ideal warm-up for a client.
1) The first goal of a good warm-up is to increase tissue temperature. This not only improves the extensibility of the tissues, but heat also increases excitability of the nervous system. Lastly, an increase in joint temperature helps to improve lubrication by decreasing the viscosity of synovial fluid. A warm joint when training is a happy joint.
2) Improve tissue quality. Elite track athletes often get massage immediately before running. Unfortunately, many of us don’t have the same means as elite track athletes, so this is where foam rolling and/or tennis ball work can come in. Improving tissue quality will lead to smoother movements.
3) Increase tissue length. This is where your basic mobility drills come in. As I’ve stated in earlier blog posts, I really like the idea of using micro-mobility drills first (such as Z-Health’s R-Phase), and then progress into drills with greater amplitude/carryover to movement like the drills from Magnificent Mobility.
4) Finally, I like to finish off with activation drills to improve motor control and get the appropriate muscles firing right before I use them. This may be different from what I’ve espoused before, but it seems to work well. I’m also using more activation drills immediately before an exercise regardless of where it is in my workout. An example would be performing a mini-band side step or hip correction immediately preceding a single-leg lift such as a single-leg RDL or lunge. Activate the glute medius, and then strengthen it with some iron work.
Walking on a treadmill simply doesn’t cut it, as it only satisfies one goal of our warm-up (improving tissue/joint temperature). It does nothing to improve tissue quality, activation, or get you anywhere near the joint positions you’ll be reproducing in your workout.
Warming up on your first exercise of choice (e.g. squat, bench, etc.) is great, but think of that as a specific warm-up. What I’ve outlined above is your general warm-up. A general warm-up should help you achieve the four points from above.
Quite simply, a proper warm-up will better prepare your body for the workout to come. It doesn’t have to take an exorbitant amount of time, but it should be an integral part of your program. Your body will thank you in the long run.
Wednesday, August 8, 2007
But at some point, we need to remember the basics.
In our rush to learn more, I think we forget to use or implement the things that WE KNOW work. With the fitness industry ever evolving, there's a tedency to become caught up in all the hype, the new trends, the newest findings. Whatever happened to just getting under the bar and squatting to get stronger?
When it comes down to basics, think super simple - like this:
Don't we know that if our posture is jacked-up we need to fix it?
Don't we know if we want to get stronger we need to keep adding weight to the bar?
Don't we know if we want to lose fat we need to dial-in our diet, build muscle and crank up the intensity of our training?
Keep learning - but don't forget that you already know quite a bit. If you're one of those people who is constantly spinning their wheels looking for the next great diet, routine, or the ever popular "missing link," chances are you'll never make significant improvements to your strength and physique.
When in doubt:
- Step back and see what in your program you can make simpler
- Apply the basic principles that YOU KNOW work
- Train hard and achieve your goals
Tuesday, August 7, 2007
A simple yet effective way to develop some “Dad” forearms is to add towel work during some of your back workouts. Use chinning as an example: Wrap two towels around a chinning bar at a position where your hands would normally go. Now, crush the towels with your grip and proceed to do your set. You’ll find not only do you get a great forearm and back workout, but you’ll also fall victim to “The Claw.” “The Claw” is the position that your fingers and hands are left in following the set, because they simply refuse to relax!
If towel chins are too difficult, you can always start off with exercises such as seated rows, chest-supported rows, supine rows, etc. So go out, get some towels, and start developing those “Dad” forearms
Monday, August 6, 2007
(And if you don't know how to lunge, be sure to check out the Building the Efficient Athlete DVD series - where Eric and I depict how to perform over 30 common weight training exercises!).
Just wanted to let you guys know that I have had excellent results utilizing
the information from several of your training products.
As a police officer I work long shifts and my body is often placed under
additional stress from the extra weight that I carry around on my duty belt
and body armour (which can weigh from 10 to 20 lbs). I found that with
work and physical training combined I was beginning to suffer lower back
pain along with tight hamstrings which only compounded the problem. I
tried lots of different stretching to try to loosen the problematic areas,
but it never really seemed to make much difference. It didn't matter how
much I stretched my hamstrings they never seemed to loosen up. I then
purchased both the Magnificent Mobility DVD and the Inside-Out DVD.
After using both these dvd's I began to feel much better and my overall
mobility/flexibility was much improved.
With the success I gained from those DVD's I ended up purchasing "Building
the Efficient Athlete" DVD and "Bullet Proof Knees" DVD. I bought the DVD's
to learn more about how the body works and to try to improve on some
imbalances that I had and to try to prevent any future problems from
I soon realized that my tight hamstrings were the result of bad posture
problems from a pelvic tilt issue. Stretching my hamstrings was the exact
opposite of what I should have been doing. Instead I learned that I needed
to focus on loosening up the quads and hips more and actually strengthening
the hamstrings. Since making adjustments to my training and doing more
mobility stretching and foam rolling I have been able to alleviate most of
the problems I was developing and no longer suffer the back pain and tight
hamstrings that I used to have to endure.
I believe the above products that Mike Robertson, Eric Cressey and Bill
Hartman produced are a must for anyone who is serious about sports, about
training, and about improving themselves. The DVD's will teach you some
functional aspects of anatomy, but more importantly they will teach you new
ways of thinking that will help you to assess problematic areas. The DVD's
will also provide you with the knowledge to improve the way your own body
I have had great success from these four products and would definitely
recommend them to anyone who's been plagued with nagging injuries, tightness
in their bodies or for those who would like to make their bodies more
efficient and possibly prevent injuries in the future.
Friday, August 3, 2007
I’ve known Bill for about two years now, and I’ll tell you this – I’ve learned more from him in that time than I probably have in the rest of my life. Bill is one of the smartest people I’ve ever met in any field, and he’s got the unique ability to bridge the gap between rehabilitation (he’s a physical therapist by trade) and performance enhancement. I’m not saying Bill knows everything, but he’s an amazing resource.
Bill’s article discussed how to evaluate your weaknesses in the weight room, and how to train your deficiencies for rapid improvements in strength. If you want to water it down to a bare bones level, it’s this – if you’re really fast, focus on getting stronger. If you’re really strong, focus on getting faster. This isn’t rocket science for those who have been doing this for a long time, but Bill goes on to outline specific tests to determine your weaknesses, along with giving you programming ideas to get the best results. If you’ve hit a plateau in the weight room, I honestly feel this article alone is worth the price of the entire CD-ROM.
If you’re interested in learning more about Bill, be sure to check out his website at www.BillHartman.net.
That’s it for this week. Please, if you haven’t already purchased a copy of the Lift Strong CD-ROM, do so TODAY! All the proceeds go to the Leukemia and Lyphoma society to help us wage the war on cancer. Thanks for your support!
Stay strong and have a great weekend!
Wednesday, August 1, 2007
From what I’ve seen, the Eastern block powerlifters are masters of high volume/high intensity training. Some great examples lay in the “Smolov” squat workout, or Boris Sheiko’s programs where the competition lifts are often practiced multiple times within the same workout. This mix of high volume and high intensity led to some pretty freaky numbers, especially within the Junior and Open divisions. These lifters also tend to be technical masters – very efficient on the platform. This comes from repeatedly performing the competitive lifts with heavy weights. When they get to a competition, it’s business as usual.
In contrast, it seems as though many of the American lifters are slower to mature and develop. Is it due to a slower, less aggressive approach? I think so. I also think this is why we have some amazing Masters level lifters, with the US quiet frequently dominating at Masters level events. Guys like Brad Gillingham, Greg Simmons, Ray Benemerito, and even ladies like Harriet Hall are crazy strong into their 40’s and 50’s.
The question then becomes, what are you willing to do to get to the top? When do you want to get there? And how much do you care about the long-term health of your body?
For me, personally, I’d rather take a slower approach and be as strong as possible for as long as possible. Peaking in my 20’s and then spending the rest of my life trying to “relive the glory” doesn’t sound appealing to me. I’d rather be strong and healthy well into my 40’s and 50’s so I can enjoy time with my kids, enjoy the latter stages of life, etc. Being beat up and hurt because I was reckless in my youth just doesn’t sound fun.
Please understand that I’m not trying to persuade you one way or the other – only giving you my thoughts and feelings on the topic. I’ve never been in a situation where I was an elite level powerlifter, so maybe if I was my feelings would be different.
Here’s what it comes down to – If time is of the essence and your body can tolerate the workload, Eastern European powerlifting schemes can be a holy grail. You’ll work your ass off and pay your dues, but you’ll be rewarded with some awesome gains.
If you’re interested in a slower, more gradual approach, a more “Americanized” powerlifting program would be in your best interests. Take your time, build some consistent size and strength, and in a few years you’ll be a menace on the platform.
I’ll finish this off with a roughly plagiarized quote from Brad Gillingham to summarize my point:
“If you start benching at age 20 with a 200 pound raw bench press, even if you only add 10 pounds per year you’ll be benching 400 by the time you’re 40.”
And that’s nothing to scoff at!