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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,


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

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


Thursday, October 4, 2007


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