Monthly Archives: June 2013
When it comes to developing power, whether it is for sport or for life, there are no better exercises then the Olympic lifts. With the O lifts you are incorporating a whole body movement. All O lifts will start with the legs, transfer up through the core, and finish with the arms. This is the same in sports; power starts at the legs and ends at the fingertips. O lifts do a great job at preparing the body to develop power, because they incorporate the whole body just like sports does.
With all this being said, I personally do not do a whole lot of Olympic lifting with my athletes. This is not because I do not see the value in them. It has more to do with me not being an expert in coaching the lifts. Also, they are very complex and require a lot of mobility throughout all the joints in the body as well as coordination, which most people do not possess.
This is why hang cleans and hang snatching has become big. These still allow for a hip hinge but do not require as much mobility in the ankle and hips as a power cleans does (starting from the ground). These lifts are still complex and still require that you have good thoracic spine mobility and shoulder stability.
In the case that one, a coach does not feel comfortable coaching the Olympic lifts and two, the athlete or client at hand does not have the mobility or coordination to perform such lifts, seems to leave a coach looking to train for power, out of options.
But as you can guess we have options, the title kinda gives it away. One of these options is the medicine ball. Medicine balls are not anything new; they have been around since ancient Greece. Much like the kettle bells they are just a long forgotten way of exercising that now is back in vogue.
Med balls can be used in many different ways. The one I will focus on is developing power. Unlike the Olympic lifts, med balls are easier to coach and require less mobility throughout the joints. This makes them more usable for most athletes and clients. There is also a seemingly endless amount of variations you can do with the med balls. You can throw from the side, the hip, overhead, from the chest, etc. From there, you can even make them more dynamic by adding lower body movements such as a crossover step or jump.
Putting Med Balls in Your Program
Where you place med ball work depends on what you are trying to get out of them. For the most part I will place them as one of my first few exercises if I am using them to develop power. To develop true power you need to take advantage of your muscles glycogen stores when they are at they’re fullest at the beginning of your workout.
Another place I will put them is at the end of my workout. They just seem to fit nicely there. Of course when you put them at the end you will not be developing as much power as you would be if you had put them at the beginning of your workout.
Selecting a Weight
Med balls come in many different weights, from 2 pounds to 200 pounds. Well I don’t know about 200 pounds but there is a large spectrum to choose from.
If you are going for speed and power, then for the love of all things holy, do not pick up a 14 pound med ball!
Power is work divided by time, so if this is the case, time has greater effect on power then work. If I use a 6 pound med ball and move it faster then a 14 pound med ball I am going to produce more power with the smaller weight, the 6 pound med ball.
Light is right, at least until you can move a 14 pound med ball as fast as a 6 pound med ball.
Use More Leg
A lot of times when people start out throwing med balls, they try to generate all the force from their arms.
Instead of trying to push the ball harder, think of trying to generate more power from the legs and hips. This will ultimately lead to throwing the ball harder.
I find it strange that I even have this as a point, but I feel it is necessary. As a guy I love throwing things, breaking things, seeing things explode… its fun, don’t know why but it is. So when I give an athlete a med ball that is designed to be thrown as hard as one can throw it, you would think they would do just that.
More times then not I need to explain that the goal is for you to throw that ball through the wall. Every rep should be thrown as hard as possible.
Next time you pick up a med ball, think of trying to throw it through the wall or floor.
If you do not have the training background to coach Olympic lifts, or you just don’t think that the risk to reward is worth it because of the nature of the lifts or the athlete is just not ready or capable do to movement or coordination problems, then start working in some med ball training. You will find that your athletes will still be able to gain power without the use of Olympic lifts.
I get this question a lot, “How much weight should I start out at for this exercise?” This is not a bad question. It is, in fact, a relatively good one. This shows you have the concern that if you do too much weight you could hurt yourself or if you lift too light you will just be lifting for the hell of it.
The thing is, I don’t have a mathematic equation that allows me to tell you an exact number. Such as: [(height + weight)/training age] x (male/female+ exercise) = suggested weight.
This would be nice, but I do not know of such an equation.
My usual suggestion is to go light and get the movement down and then go from there. This would be for a person that I have not been working with for long. For a client I have been working with, I can usually guess within 10 pounds of the right weight. So I do have some good weight guessing skills.
What I am getting at is, if an exercise is important to you and you want to know if you have increased your strength in that exercise, then you should keep track of it.
With your handy dandy notebook (damn you Blues Clues). A notebook is a great cheap way to keep track of all your lifting numbers. It also is a great place to write how you feel and your thoughts.
And, no I am not talking about you writing how the ocean waves lapping against your feet make you feel on a cool summer’s eve. (Unless you want to, and in that case it feels good)
How you feel as in, did you feel tired coming into the work out, how do you feel after the workout, what were some noticeable weaknesses? Also, were you having trouble finishing lifts or were you getting stuck at the bottom? Did you feel tight or notice a lack of mobility? These are the things you should be writing down. Along with this keep track of your numbers for the day.
I am a little weird in the sense that I keep record of every exercise I have done, and at what weight and reps I was able to lift it, in an excel spreadsheet. You don’t have to go that far, but you should keep track of the lifts that you care about improving on.
With a well kept notebook, you should have all the information you need. Such as: what weight you are lifting, areas you need to work on or weakness, and how you are feeling. This record will help you be able to make your next workout more tailored to your specific needs and weaknesses. It also serves as a good reference to look back on to see if you are actually seeing improvements.
The workout journal can be an important tool to helping you meet your goals. And if you want to, you can also doodle cool pictures of you slaying mythical creatures, just to make you look like more of a badass.
I am just going to come right out and say it, I love me a great pair of glutes. I mean what’s not to love. With a strong pair of glutes you can do almost anything: lift heavy things, run fast, jump high, and make any leg clothing look great.
For too many years the glutes have taken a back seat to the quads (pun intended). And I am not going to stand for this any longer!
Strength starts at the legs. Why are football linemen strong? Is it because they can bench a lot? Well, that does play a part but it’s mainly because they have those big old bubble butts. NFL scouts look for players with large butts because they know that most of your strength and power come from your hips. Same goes with pitchers, pitchers don’t throw 95 mph because the have insanely strong arms. It’s because they have strong legs and a strong core that can then transfer that power to the arms.
Whether you want to be a strong powerful athlete or just want to look good in some yoga pants. Development of your glutes is a must.
Here are my 5 favorite glute exercises for stronger, sexier glutes.
Cable Pull Through
Barbell Glute Bridge
Wide Stance Barbell Box Squat
As I am sure you all are well aware, the bench press is a great bang for your buck exercise for your arms and chest. It is also the measuring stick to all things man. Most people, young and old alike, seek to be able to bench large amounts of weight. Benching heavy over the course of many years will put a lot of stress on the shoulder. This is why it is imperative to take precautionary action in making sure your shoulders stay healthy. This becomes even more important for the person with already jacked up shoulders.
The importance of a warm up has been preached to us for years, but many will still skip this step to save a few minutes. And instead they grab some 5 pound plates and do a couple of shoulder circles, some scap retractions, and to finish it off some shoulder internal external rotation. Worse yet they do nothing and just jump right under the bar.
A good warm up will prepare the muscle to do work. The warm up should be two part. The parts consist of a muscle tissue quality portion and a dynamic warm up portion. This will allow for maximal tissue recovery and preparedness to do work.
For getting after the shoulders you should have a foam roller and a lacrosse ball. The foam roller will be used to hit the over all upper back. The lacrosse ball will be used to get into the nitty gritty areas.
First start off with the foam roller hitting the upper back. Do several slow rolls along the upper back. You can change your hand position each time to hit different spots. For example: hands directly in front, hands overhead, hugging self with left arm on top, and hugging self with right arm on top.
Next, roll over to your side and place the foam roller on the back part of your armpit, this will hit the insertion of your lat onto your arm.
You will find that the lacrosse ball will become one of your best friends, especially if you have shoulder discomfort.
The areas you want to hit with the lacrosse ball are your: pec major, pec minor, and the shoulder blade (infraspinatus and supraspinatus).
This will take any knots out of the muscles and help your tissues to repair, which will lead to better recovery, and ends with you lifting more weights.
While the foam roller and the lacrosse ball help with shoulder health and recovery, the warm up prepares the muscles to do work by increasing blood flow to the working muscles and preparing your neuromuscular system. This is also a great time to work on any mobility issues you may have with your shoulders.
Your warm up should be a full body warm up. It should hit all the major muscle groups. In my warm up I incorporate a good mix of both mobility work and dynamic stretching.
Here are some of the exercises I use to warm up my shoulder and help gain/maintain shoulder mobility:
Note: I will only pick one or two of these for my warm up.
Scapular Wall Slide
Yoga Push ups
No Money Drill
Scap Push Up
Shoulder Friendly Presses
If the barbell bench press causes discomfort you should, you should not be doing it. But don’t worry, there are plenty of pressing variations that will allow you to still get your press on.
Here are four of my favorite non barbell pressing presses:
Dumbbell Bench Press:
By not having you arms fixed to a bar you are able to move your arms into a more favorable position i.e. elbows at 45 degrees.
Dumbbell Floor Press:
The floor press has all the advantages of the dumbbell bench press but also allows you to really lock you shoulder into position against the ground, creating more stability. It also decreases the range of motion preventing any anterior humeral head gliding.
Push ups also will allow you to more easily keep your arms at a more shoulder friendly position. You can also elevate you feet to incorporate more of your serratus anterior, which will create more acromion space leading to a decreased chance of shoulder impingement.
Neutral Grip Bar:
The NGbar allows you to, well, keep your hands at a neutral position, decreasing elbow flare and increasing acromion space.
Working Shoulder Stability
Having an unstable shoulder can be the cause of pain. Incorporating some of these exercises my help to relieve some of your shoulder ailments.
There are many ways for you to get your perturbation on. I prefer to have someone else assist me but you can also do it by yourself with a med ball. The goal of perturbation is to stabilize the shoulder.
A kettelebell farmers walk variations are also a great way to increase shoulder stability.
Kettelebell Arm Bar:
The kettelebell arm bar is an exercise that was brought to my attention by Mike Robertson. I have been using it in my own programs and have loved the bang for your buck you get out of it. With this exercise you get a whole lot of scapular stability and recruitment of the shoulder muscles.
Cues For Benching
Bad form can also cause your shoulder to get a little irritable. Here are three things to keep in mind while benching.
Screw Shoulder Blades Back:
Before setting up to bench have your arms out in front of you and think of screwing your shoulder blades back together. When you do this correctly you should feel your shoulder pull tight together. This will help keep your back tight and stable.
Actively pull the bar down:
Don’t just let the bar fall to your chest. Actively pull the bar to your chest. This will activate your back muscles, keeping you nice and stable.
Tear the bar apart:
When you lift the bar think of ripping it apart with your hand. This will help prevent you from flaring you arms out to the side.
Putting It All Together
There are many reasons your shoulder can be causing you pain. It could be due to instability, overuse, or a bone or ligament issue. You may find that even the shoulder friendly lifts many be painful, if this is the case you should not perform them.
What I have outlined above are ways to keep your shoulder healthy and to give you some ideas of how to work around some jacked up shoulders, not injured shoulders.