Monthly Archives: April 2013

5 Ways to Make Any Exercise More Challenging

I am sure most of us have been here before, you know, just lifting the same old boring weights. You have the thought, “How can I make this exercise more badass i.e. harder?”  Well, my friend, do I have a treat for you.

Coming up, I have not just 1, not just 2, but 5, yes, five ways to make your exercise more challenging, which increases overall badassness.

As the late Emeril Lagasse would say,  “Let’s kick it up a notch!”.  And that we will Emeril.

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Sets/Reps, Rest Interval, and Weight

Ok, this first point does not really count. By manipulating any one of the above variables you will either increase or decrease the difficulty of a given exercise. Increasing the weight will always make an exercise more challenging, same with decreasing the rest interval.

You can mess around with these variables all you want, but only the right combination of all of them will lead to the outcome you desire.         

Center of Mass

The center of mass on the average person is somewhere around the waist. When you start loading up with weights, your center of mass will change. The closer the weight is to the base the more stable you will be. As the weight moves further away from your center of mass the more difficult the exercise.

We can use this concept to increase the difficulty of your exercises. Lets look at some exercise variations and how they become harder with the change in weight positioning.

Squat:

Dumbbell Squat with dumbbells at side: center of mass is low and close to base of support

Barbell Squat: center of mass is moved up further way from base of support

Barbell Front Squat: center of mass is moved up and out away from the base of support

Barbell Overhead Squat: center of mass is moved to its greatest distance from the base of support

Deadlift:

A Trapbar Deadlift will be easier since the weight is going through you as compared to a conventional Barbell Deadlift where the weight is positioned in front of you. Both lifts have a low center of mass due to the weight being close to the base of support. The big difference is the conventional Deadlift is moving your center of mass more to the front, like the front squat.

Points of Contact

The more points of contact you have the more stable you will be, it just makes sense. A three legged stool is less stable then a four legged stool. It’s the same with your body. A squat is more stable then a single leg squat and the same goes with a RDL vs. a single leg RDL.image0131

You can do the same with pushups and planks and various other exercises by taking one leg or arm off the ground. This makes you less stable and changes the distribution of bodyweight.

Range of Motion

By increasing the range of motion, or ROM for short, you can make an exercise more challenging. This puts you in a new position where you will have to gain stability. You will also increase the time under tension, which increases the stress put on your muscles. This creates more muscle breakdown.

Two of my favorite exercises to increase the ROM for are reverse lunges and Bulgarian split squats.  The way that I do this is by doing them from deficit. All this means is I place my front foot on a 4in plyo box and then perform a reverse lunge or Bulgarian split squat the same way I usually would but now I have to go through a greater ROM.

Base of Support

The wider your base of support or the wider your legs are, the more stable you will be. The squat requires less stability then a lunge. This is because your base of support is wider with a squat.

I like to use this concept a lot when doing anti rotation exercises like Pallof presses or cable rotations.

Unstable Surface   

I am not a big fan of unstable surface training by any means, but it can definitely make an exercise more challenging. Doing a BOSU ball squat may look cool and be challenging but if you are trying to gain strength it makes no sense.bosu2

The only time I will use an unstable surface would be without weights or with very light weights. The goal would be to gain stability or to make a stable movement pattern unstable; this does not require much weight or any at all.

But this article is not about how I feel about unstable surface training; it’s about how to make an exercise more challenging. And doing an exercise on an unstable surface does fit that requirement.

There are many ways to make any given exercise more challenging. After reading this there should be no excuse as to why your exercises are not challenging enough.  So go out there and badassify those boring old exercises.

Best

Josh Williams

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Things That Are Acceptable In Real Life But Not In The Weight Room

A few months back I published my critically acclaimed, beloved by all post, Things That Are Acceptable In The Weight Room but Not In Real Life, or TTAAITWRBNIRL for short.

So since it’s [MY BIRTHDAY TODAY!!!!] and I can do what I want to. I am going to give you the flip side of this post.

In TTAAITWRBNIRL I discussed things you do in the weight room that just don’t translate over to the outside world all that well. In this post I am going to tell you  51/2 things that don’t translate over from the real world to the weight room, or as I like to call it, The Palisade of Weights.

Without further adieu here are my 51/2 things.

Cell Phones 

Where would we be without cell phones, no snapchat, no instagram, no angry birds, and no possible way for somebody to get a hold of you every second of your life.

Got to love technology. It gives us the ability to stay connected without actually having to spend time with people, awesome.

Cell phones are all well and good and very useful in fact, but when it comes to the weight room there is just no need for them. This has to be my biggest pet peeve. Is it really not possible for someone to go one hour without being in constant contact with the rest of the outside world? Let’s be honest, can you honestly think of anyone out there that needs people to be able to get in contact with them 24/7.

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I am guessing he is calling for a spot

If you think that’s you, well, you’re wrong – you self-thinker.

Cell phones outside, “Wow wee, cool new phone”. Cell phones in the gym, “Awwww, what is that”, and better question, “What is it doing here?”

See, phone in gym is just not as cool.

Hats

I get it that hats are nice to keep the sun out of your eyes and keep you warm during the winter. They can even change the way others see you, depending on which style you go for. The three most common are:

  1. Hats makes you seem like you are an every day Joe, just loving life and maybe hiding a bald spot.
  2. Hats make you look sexy. In most cases you have to be a cowboy, or in all cases, one or the other.
  3. Hats make you look like a total jabroni.
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If your wondering if that is in fact Vanilla Ice from the movie Cool As Ice, you would be correct

I understand hockey players like to keep their long flows out of their face, but a hat makes you look stupid. You don’t wear sunglasses inside do you? No, hats are the same thing, except they go on your head to protect you from the sun.

The one exception is beanies; they keep your head warm in the winter and they feel good to wear while lifting. They are designed for keeping you warm, not protecting you from the sun, so they are serving their true purpose both inside and out unlike ball caps. This is why they are OK to wear and hats aren’t. It just makes sense.

Gloves

Got to love me some gloves, especially those fleece ones; O so soft and so nice. Gloves are functional.  They protect your hands from the elements. They can also make your hands go from plain and boring to badass, with a sweet pair of leather biker gloves.

I got me a pair of leather goatskin gloves for a dollar one time. Let me just say, once I slipped my hands into those gloves I became a whole new man, but that life is all behind me now.

Moving on.

Lifting with gloves does the same thing except for one big difference. They don’t make you look badass. On the contrary they do just the opposite. If your hands can’t handle the knurling on the bar, then you can’t handle the gym. If you are wearing gloves because your grip sucks, then work on strengthening your grip and grab some chalk.

Big Headphones

Music is pretty great to say the least. Good tunes will put you in a great mood and get you ready to crush weights.

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Pro Tip: Super set all your exercises with dancing, it keeps the fun level high and shows all the ladies in the vicinity what they’re missing out on.

When I see someone walking down the street in a Beats Headphone or Bose or whatever brand, I think they must really like music. When I see someone in the gym with the same aforementioned headphones I instantly think, “Wow what a D-Bag”.

This opinion is based on years of pre judging and I am sticking to it. So if you wear big ass headphones, I’m just letting you know its cool outside but in the gym you look like a giant bag of D.

Half Shirts and Skinny Jeans

I don’t know if either of these is actually acceptable in the real world but I know for sure they are not acceptable in The Palisade of Weights.

Well, except for half shirts, I can see them being useful in some really specific situations. I just have not figured out what that situation would be or what it would entail yet.

Maybe if you were working out and someone broke their arm, and the only thing you had available was the bottom portion of your shirt to fashion a sling out of. Then, after helping the person, you went back to finish your lift. I could see that being all right. So until this happens half shirts not cool.

As for skinny jeans, there is no scenario where they should be worn in a gym or anywhere else for that matter.

There you have it.  My 5½ things that are acceptable in real life but not in the weight room.

Best,

Josh Williams

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All Natural vs. Organic Foods: Their The Same Right?

Food is a big part of our lives, it gives us energy, it brings friends and family together, and most of all it does not judge you. It just looks at you and says, “Eat me friend, I am here for you”

Then, I and the food, run across a field at each other in slow motion, meeting in the middle, gazing at one another as if finally meeting your… Ok this has gone on long enough.

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In my mind it looks something like this

Ok, back to the point of this post.

It has become very trendy to try and eat all natural and organic foods. These foods are supposedly healthier for you, due to the fact that they have not been injected with HGH and other meat enhancing drugs, or MEDs* for short, and the fact that they cost more then ordinary foods. As we all know, the more it costs the better it is.

When you see ‘all natural’ you may think it is the same as buying organic. Natural means it should be from nature and nature does not use HGH and pesticides. Organic means coming from living matter. They both sound the same. So are they?

Not if you ask the USDA. The USDA has two very different criteria for what qualifies as natural and what is organic.

Natural

The term natural is meant to imply that the food was minimally processed and does not contain manufactured ingredients. The thing is, the government does not have a specific definition of the term natural and does not regulate the use of the term on products.

Not Allowed

Artificial colors or flavors, artificial preservatives, and irradiated products/ingredients.

Allowed

Pesticides and herbicides, GMOs, antibiotics, and growth hormones.

If GMOs and growth hormones are allowed in production then natural foods do not sound all that natural. Added to that is the fact that they are loosely regulated and no one has to tell how the food/animals were raised.

USDA Certified Organic

Labeling for products that meet the USDA-NOP s...

The term organic is well defined you can read it here if you want the nitty gritty of it.

Here is the short and sweet of what needs to be fulfilled to get a USDA Organic sticker on your products.

– No human sewage fertilizer used for animal feeds or plants

– No synthetic chemicals

– Farmland has to be free from prohibited synthetic chemicals

– No GMOs, Antibiotics, Growth Hormones

– Animals must be on pasture for pasture season

– Organic products separated from non- certified products

– Undergo on-site inspections

Putting It All Together

If you plan on spending money on so called, ‘all natural’ foods, then save and just buy generic.  At least you know that they are not putting crap in your food. There is a chance that the company that puts ‘all natural’ on their products is actually following the loose set of guidelines that is not regulated by any second party. I mean hell, food companies are known for their honesty after all.

If you are trying to eat organic then make sure it is USDA certified organic. This is the gold standard in organic food. Don’t waste your money on foods that claim to be all natural. Either buy the generic or spend a little more and get the good stuff. Don’t pay more by straddling the fence on so called all natural foods.

Best

Josh Williams

*This is a made up acronym so do not think that MED stand for Meat Enhancing Drugs

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Considerations When Working With Female Athlete

The growth of the female sports industry has exploded in the past 10 years. This is seen in the increased participation in high school sports by female athletes and at the college level as well. In 2012 there were more then 200,000 female athletes participating at the college level. This is a huge increase in participation compared to just a few years ago in the early to mid 90’s. This growth trend should only increase with more opportunities and scholarships available for young female athletes.

titleIX-charts-athletes

The weight room has always been primarily thought of as a male’s place, but it should not be looked at that way. Strength training is just as important to the female athlete as it is to the male athlete. A good strength program will increase strength, increase stability, and decrease the chances of injury.

Even though the female athlete needs a strength program just as much as the male, there is some noticeable differentness between the two. For starters – appearance. Females look different than males. It is vital that you can tell the difference between the two.

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On the left is a female and on the right is a male. Take notice of the differences.

Other things that need to be taken into consideration are that the majority of females that come into your facility will have no previous weight training experience; they are more prone to joint laxity, and have a larger Q angle. These need to be considered when training and programming for your female athletes.

New Environment Considerations

As I stated above, the majority of female athletes that come into your gym have no previous weight training experience. This is a new environment and can be intimidating. Walking into a warehouse setting with circular metal objects just lying around is not always the most welcoming sight for a middle school or high school girl.

Many of the girls that I have worked with at first seem a little sheepish and come across as not confident in our first meeting. This is all because they are in a whole new surrounding.  After a few sessions, they will feel more relaxed and eventually they will think of the gym as their own.

This process takes longer for some then others. If they have friends working out at the same facility this can help speed up the process. Different personalities take different amounts of time. A smile, caring words, a few jokes and knowing their names goes a long way.

Weight Training Considerations 

Let’s get some things out of the way right off the bat. One, girls will not bulk up when they workout. Two, girls can do squats, deadlifts, bench and all the other lifts men can do.

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Which way to the weight room? O ya I forgot I am already in the weight room.

Ok, girls can bulk up, if they want to, but for the most part their body is working agents them hormonally. Women have less testosterone, testosterone is a key contributor to muscle growth and without it you will not have big muscles. So unless you are taking testosterone or any other PEDs you should not worry about it. Don’t worry, you can still get your tone on without it.

As for those big bad multi joint lifts. They are just as effective for the development of the female athletes as they are for the male, and should not be held back from them, if they have shown that they are capable of doing them.

Now that those two are out of the way, lets move on to my last two considerations.

The Q Angle and Joint Laxity

A common difference between male and female athletes is that the female, on average, has wider hips. This results in a larger Q angle, the angle in which the femur meets the tibia. This causes instability in the knees and tracking problems. This could be one of the reasons females are more prone to ACL injuries.

Have you ever noticed that a large number of girls can hyper extend their elbows and knees. Females have a tendency to have more joint laxity. Males can also be extremely lax as well. It is not safe to assume that all female athletes are overly lax, but it is something to take into consideration when working with them.

If you combine a larger Q angle with joint laxity the chances of injury will increase. The injury in particular that we want to avoid is ACL injuries.

ACL injuries will likely happen in three situations, landing, change of direction, and deceleration.

The training program should take into account all of these variables. The program should create stability. This will happen with the introduction of strength training, but you may have to direct it at a specific area depending on the athlete. Some laxity may actually be desired in some sports such as throwing or gymnastics, but it should be managed in such a way that we do not inhibit their performance, while decreasing the likely hood of injury.

With ACL injury prevention we must teach proper jumping, and more importantly, landing technique. Watching out for the knees coming in as well as making sure they are landing softly, absorbing the force of impact correctly.

Changing direction can be taught by teaching the athlete to bend at the knees when making quick cuts. Bending the knee takes tension off of the ACL decreasing the likely hood of a tear.

Controlling deceleration comes with having strong hamstrings and gluts. A good program will make sure their posterior chain is getting the proper attention.

Closing

When looking at the female athlete, all of these factors should be considered, from how they are treated to how their programs are designed. Without your female athletes feeling comfortable they will never stick around long enough to reap the benefits that a strength program can offer.

What this program will offer is more stability, better landing and cutting technique, and stronger hamstrings and gluts. If all of these are considered, you will have a stronger less prone to injury athlete. This is what we want for all of our athletes regardless of gender.

Best

Josh Williams

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