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

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


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


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

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.


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

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

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Zercher's = Pain

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

*Ominous Pause*


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

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

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


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

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

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

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 ;)

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

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

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.


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.

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