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

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Random updates

It's been an interesting week overall. For the last 3 days I've been doing some fill-in duties at the local high school; they wanted someone to come in and do a mini-course on strength training, so that's been fun. I've been trying to convince the kids that this is stuff they can use the rest of their lives, and they seem to be really enjoying it. I also forget how easy it is to teach a newbie/blank slate to lift weights, versus re-programming someone who has been taught incorrectly.

The gym is progressing as we speak. There's a rumor on the street that the bathroom/shower buildout will be completed soon, so that means we might even be able to start moving in this weekend! That would be really cool, as I'm ready to get this thing up and running ASAP. In the interim Bill and I have been working hard on the website, and I've had a recent surge of article ideas I've been trying to wrap up. Luckily for me, when inspiration hits it doesn't take too long to flesh things out. Be on the lookout for new material from me on T-Nation, Elite, and even Muscle with Attitude.

I had some good friends in town from Nashville and Ft. Wayne this weekend, so it was great to re-connect and spend time with them. I feel like overall I'm much more "balanced" now than a few months ago - like I have a greater perspective on the big picture and life itself. I know, very philosophical for a meathead like myself ;) I guess I just feel like I'm in a good place right now - mentally, physically and spiritiually.

We'll see if that "balance" can stick around once the gyms opens!

Stay strong

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Q&A: Zercher Squats

Hey Mike, how are things going? Well, beyond the whole lacking sleep and stomach ulcers from stressing out for your seminar! I hope everything goes well :)

I've been listening the Strength Coach Podcast, and something that I was thinking of but never thought of asking came up...

How do Zerchers make your core work harder? There's no doubt (NO doubt!) that it DOES work your core harder, but I can't think of a good biomechanical justification. Shouldn't it work your lower back harder because the lever arm becomes longer?


Bah! Stress is overrated - I'm only trying to sell a condo, open a gym, and run a seminar this week. What do I have to complain about? ;)

Seriously, though, great question and it's one I've been looking to answer myself as well. Why do anteriorly loaded core exercises hit the core so much harder? Examples would be front squats, plate squats, Zercher squats, etc.

I think there are a few reasons this is true. First, I like to use the old-term by Ian King of "co-contraction." When you anteriorly load the weight, you get a natural co-contraction between your anterior and posterior core stabilizers. Unless you're an Olympic lifter or someone with a very balanced physique, co-contraction probably isn't a natural thing. Essentially you need your posterior stabilizers (spinal erectors), to keep you upright so you don't pitch forward and dump the weight - but that's the case in back squats and good mornings as well. I think the real difference is what happens to your center of gravity in these lifts, and the muscle groups you can rely upon to help develop the necessary core stability/stiffness.

We know when we squat, that the bar must stay over our feet. In a back squat with the placement of the bar (especially with a low bar placement), you can sit back much further and incur much more torso lean into the lift. While this will naturally hit the glutes and hamstrings harder, you can also rely predominantly on the spinal erectors to create your stability for you. Think about the physique of many powerlifters; they have huge erectors, but they're almost all in anterior tilt. Really strong lower backs and thighs, but more importantly not as strong in their anterior cores as they should be.

In a front squat, because the weight is loaded anteriorly you're forced into a more upright stance. This will not only have more balance on hip/leg development (between the quads, glutes and hamstrings), but on the core as well. You need contracture of the spinal erectors to keep you upright, but they are no longer your sole source of stability. You also recruit your anterior core to help you develop the "active stiffness" to stay upright and to transfer the power that your hips/legs are generating.

In a really roundabout way, I hope this is answering your question. Much like the front squat, the anteriorly placed loading of a Zercher squat forces you to maintain a more upright torso position. This, in turn, forces you to balance stiffness and stability between the anterior and posterior stabilizers of the body.

Whether my reasoning is 100% sound or not, the point is this - most people need to work on their anterior stabilizers, both with isolation and integration based exercises. Good luck!

Stay strong

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Q&A - Bulletproof Knees

MR, I am doing the Sample Phase I Workout.

You list Static Stretching and Activation as number 2 in the Program, but in other parts of the same chapter you recommend stretching after one finishes the rest of the routines, or doing stretching before bedtime. Should I do the described stretching before number 3, Dynamic Flexibility Drills, do them after, or do stretching at two different points (before Flexibility AND another set before bed)?

I am rehabilitating a reconstructed left knee (surgery done in 1978). Can you recommend a good TFL/IT band stretch - I cannot find one in your manual. Because of said injured knee, I use the Tummiello piriformis stretch, since performing the one you give in the manual's stretching section causes me pain in the anterior left knee.

Thanks to you, I finally have a comprehensive program to get both of my wheels back on track. Keep up the good work. Larry

I can see were this would be confusing, Larry. There are various times when static stretching can be beneficial within the Bulletproof Knees program. Let me explain.

Pre-workout, we include what's called "Acute Corrective Strategies" to help re-groove better movement patterns in the muscles. For instance we would stretch your hip flexors, and then follow that up with an activation drill to enhance neural drive to the glutes. In this case, we're very specific in the stretches that we would perform.

After you've included the "acute corrective" drills to optimize neural drive to the glutes, you'd move in to your dynamic flexibility drills. Just as an aside, you can do this either before or after your dynamic flex, it's really more of a preference than a physiological law.

Now at the end of your day, that would be the optimal time to go through an extensive static stretching routine. This is where we would stretch all the muscle groups that we outline within the appendix of the manual. Most people have a very poor stretch tolerance, so this should help quite a bit.

As for your question regarding the TFL/IT Band, the IT band itself is very hard to stretch since it's not muscle tissue - it doesn't have the same physical properties. To stretch the TFL, try kneeling on a pad or pillow, activating the glutes and posteriorly tilting the pelvis. If you have a tight TLF on one side, you should get a nice stretch here. If nothing else, cue yourself to stay tight, tall, and drive the hips forward.

I hope this helps and keep me posted on your progres!


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Q&A - Deadlift Training

Mr. Robertson,

Hello my name is Andrew and I live on the westside of Indianapolis. I currently train at Next Level Gym with Josh Bolin. I had a question about deadlift training.

I have been seriously training for about a year and a half. Up until recently the majority of my lower body ME days consisted of box squats and good mornings of different variations. My DE lower body days have consisted of only box squats with different bars and resistance, and I have never pulled for speed.

I think the main reason I have not trained the DL very often is because so many people advise against it in different articles I have read. I saw that you mentioned in an article on Elitefts that one should pull more often as a beginner. I feel like I am stronger conventional and I am weak at the lockout at near or around 100%.

How would you recommend I train the DL and how often? If I pull on ME day does that mean I should not pull on DE day? I am sure my deadlift has gotten stronger from other lower body movements and supplemental/accesory work, but I bet I would gain faster if I trained it directly.

Thanks a lot for your time,

Wow, a lot of questions in there Andrew! Here goes...

I firmly believe that in the beginning, you HAVE to train the deadlift. Sure if you're already pulling 600, 700 or 800 pounds, you may not need to train it that often. But as a beginner, you absolutely have to train it.

In the beginning, heavy sets in the 3-5 rep range would be adequate. More than anything, you need to get some high quality reps under your belt. How do you know what you need to work on technique wise if you never pull?

Once you get into the 400 and 500 pound range, I would suggest throwing in speed work and/or ME deadlift variations. Let's assume you do a ME workout on Monday and a DE workout on Thursday.

If you perform a ME deadlift variation on Monday, then I wouldn't include speed work for the DL on Thursday. Just DE squats and assistance work.

If you don't perform a ME deadlift variation on Monday, then I would definitely include speed work on Thursday.

The thing I always liked to do (and no, those who train Westside may not approve of this), was to perform a heavy squat workout on Monday, followed by assistance exercises. Then, on Thursday I would perform DE squat work and follow that up with either DE or ME deadlift work as necessary. I really feel like you can train heavy 3-4x/week in the beginning/intermediate phases; it's not until you get to the advanced/elite level that you should consolidate solely into ME and DE days. This was covered in my artice for Elite, The Intermediate Deadlift Cycle.

Regardless of my thoughts, I hope this helps. I would definitely be getting some DL training in every single week, at least until you get to a moderately high level of strength. From there, focusing on the assistance work may be more fruitful than training the DL itself.

Stay strong

Monday, May 12, 2008

Q&A - Plantar fascitis


My fiance's father is experiencing a bout of plantar fasciitis. It started about 6 weeks ago and migrated from his right foot (he's right handed) into both feet. Initially it started in his heels and now is painful in both arches with no pain in the heels. The doctor had given him a cortisone shot in the heel initially and some stretches to perform. It doesn't seem to get any better - I had suggested a tennis ball for some soft tissue work on both feet, and wondered if somehow keeping the feet dorsiflexed at night would help.

I figured you've probably seen a lot more plantar fasciitis than I ever will, and might have some tricks that work. It seems that there's a lot of theories on the subject, and I was interested in what your practical experience has been.

Keep up the blogs and great interviews - you and Eric are so good at what you do - thanks!

First of all, thanks for the kind words. I hope this post will help!

There are several things I like to look for when someone is dealing with plantar fascitis:

- Soft tissue length in the lower extremity
- Soft tissue quality of the lower extremity
- Issues that may need to be resolved via behavior modification

Generally, the soft-tissue quality in the lower extremity is going to be quite poor. In this case, ART, massage and foam rolling/tennis/lacrosse ball work will all help. I'd start with the plantar fascia itself, and then work your way back up the kinetic chain like this:

Plantar fascia-->Achilles tendon-->Gastroc/soleus

Next, static stretching is really good here to help build up the tolerance to stretch. Place him in a doorway with the opposite leg flat on the ground and the affected leg up on the door frame. The key here is this - make sure that leg is straight! If he's as tight as you describe, this will be very uncomfortable. To increase the stretch further, have him place a towel over his toes to pull himself into a dorsiflexed position while stretching. This will stretch the entire posterior chain and, while uncomfortable, should eventually feel really good.

Finally, I'd look at his behaviors and determine what needs to be addressed. It sounds silly, but if the covers on your bed are too tight and constantly pulling your feet into a plantar flexed position, this isn't a good thing! It's much akin to sitting at a desk all day for your hip flexors. You're essentially telling your body to adaptively shorten those structures, which isn't a good thing. In this case a boot while he sleeps may be a great idea; this will help keep him in neutral, which I'm assumming will be a stretched position for him. Doing this for a few days/weeks should greatly resolve the issue.

I hope this helps and keep me posted on his progress!


Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Random thoughts #3

While prepping for the upcoming Indy Seminar, it's been hard stringing together coherent thoughts. For that reason alone, let's continue on with some random thoughts I've been having:

- Developing a presentation, or series of presentations, really dials in your thought processes. I'm constantly striving to fill in the gaps and make the presentations more thorough. Hopefully that will be the case.

- I got a chance to check out the seminar facility yesterday as well, and it's pretty damn nice. Right in the heart of downtown Indy, it should be a great location for this and years to come.

- Heavy, deep front squats are just about the only thing that irritate my knee. My meniscal tear was in the antero-lateral region, so it isn't until the femur rolls and glides quite a bit until it hits that exposed area. After talking with Bill, he also mentioned that shear forces are greater laterally than medially, so these will be excluded from the programming for the time being.

- I think the interview with Eric Cressey yesterday was one of, if not the best, I've had on the site so far. In case you missed it, you can check it out HERE. As well, don't forget to sign-up for future newsletters so you can receive them directly in your inbox.

- Finally, Mike Roussell's and Alwyn Cosgrove's new Warp Speed Fat Loss went live today as well. Like I said in the newsletter, even if you don't purchase the product there's tons of free info to digest on the site as well. I'm always up for learning more, so be sure to check it out.

I think that's it for me right now. I'm definitely in seminar mode right now, so if I'm a little sporadic with the blog posts please forgive me!

All the best

Friday, May 2, 2008

An amazing story....

This is one of the coolest thing I've ever read. If you think sportsmanship is dead, read this article:

Sporting Gestures Touches 'Em All

A truly amazing story. Have a great weekend!

Stay strong