Category Archives: Training
The difference between a successful lift and a failed lift may come down to something as small as the ten digits that make up what is known in laymen’s terms as your right and left hands, respectively. Without them you could not lift anything. Go out and try and lift something without your hands, it just doesn’t work.
Before I go too far into this blog I just want to point out the level of creative quality that goes into my titles. You may think I spend countless hours thinking up these gems of titles, truth is they just come to me, it’s a gift I must bear everyday.
Your hands, in many cases, are the only thing linking you to the weight. What this means is if you want to be strong, then the link between you and the weight must be strong as well. You can get around this by using straps that tie you to the weight but if you are an athlete this does not help you. You are not fixing the problem, but rather finding a way around the problem.
To fix this problem here are 5 exercises that will help increase your grip strength and give your forearms as big as a gorilla’s.
Grip the Weight
Too often I see people just holding dumbbells in their hands loosely with a false grip (just the fingers holding without the thumb), its just laziness on their part. When you pick up any weight or cable, or what have you, make sure you grip it like someone is trying to take it from you.
Another big thing I see with people using dumbbells is that they hold the dumbbell with the head of it resting against their thumb and index fingers. If you were to move your hand to the middle of the dumbbell where the knurling is, you will notice that you have to grip the dumbbell tight to stabilize the weight causing your forearm muscles to do more work.
These two fixes of squeezing the weight and holding a dumbbell in the middle are two things you can do with every exercise that will help increase your grip strength immensely. The reason is that you are now actually griping the weight instead of just holding the weight.
I love farmer’s carries. They are great for so many reason and one of the reasons is they can be used to increase grip strength. I can’t forget to mention that any exercise that requires you to carry heavy weight over a distance just looks awesome.
To do a farmers carry all you need is a heavy object that you can pick up and hold at your side and then walk with. So dumbbells, barbells, trapbar, kettlebells, or a child will all work. As long as you can grip it tight and then walk with it you’re all set for a killer forearm workout.
Over Hand Grip Deadlifts
When you start off deadlifting, many will start with an over hand grip and as the weight becomes heaver you will most likely switch to an under over grip, so you can grip heaver weights without dropping the bar.
Another great way to increase your grip is to go back to the over hand grip. You will probably not be able to lift as much as you were with the under over grip, but you will only be doing the over grip for a few weeks and then switch back to the under over. The point of this is that the over grip forces you to grip the bar. If you don’t then you won’t be able to hold on to it. Or you will just fall into a false grip, which counts for jack!
Towel Chin Ups
I personally love chin ups, I think they’re the cats meow, and anything that makes them more challenging I am all about. One of those ways is to drape a towel over a chin up bar and then grab each end with your hand and proceed to do chin ups.
This works well. A towel is hard to grip anyway and then add on to that the fact that you have to lift your whole body while holding the towel adds a whole new level. The end result is some strong ass fingers and some mean arms.
Fat grips are plastic grips that fit over anything that has the circumference of a barbell. They can make any exercise a more grip demanding exercise when these puppies are used. Literally any exercise, you want to make bicep curls more grip focused throw on some fat grips. How about a Turkish get up? Never done it before but I am guessing the result would be me with some swell arms.
As you can see there are a number of ways to make your grip stronger. With a strong grip you will be able to lift more, and people with strong grips give great handshakes and a strong handshake leaves people with a better impression of you. This can lead to you having more friends and a better job. What I am getting at is grip strength is the key to unlocking your life’s true potential.
So get out there and grip some heavy ass things!
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
If you have been lifting weights for longer the 6 months, then this might be a familiar happening.
You planned out your workout perfectly. Each set and rep and exercise was strategically picked to optimize your results. The first 4 weeks or so your bench seemed to jump by 5 pounds each week with ease. The next 4 to 6 week you are still seeing some improvement, you are still going up 5 pounds every week or so. By the third month you see your lifts come to a screeching stop.
The first thought you have is to increase the work. “I am not working hard enough. I need to do more sets. The more sets the stronger I’ll get.” You try this for a few weeks but nothing happens, your weight seems to have stayed the same or even slightly decreased in some instances.
The next idea might be to change up your workout. Either you make a new one or pull one offline that seems appealing to you, or one out of the latest issues of some muscle magazine. You stick to the program, doing everything it tells you to do. Your bench goes up in the first two weeks but after that nothing. Once again you find yourself stuck.
If you have ever been stuck at a plateau you know how frustrating it can be. It is as if you are in no mans land, nothing you do seems to work.
Why You Plateau
To beat the plateau we must first understand why we plateau. If you are someone who has just started a workout routine then the first 4 to 6 weeks is going to be filled with weight increase. You can do almost anything and see increase in strength.
The reason is that you are untrained. Going from something to nothing is a huge stimulus change for your body. The first 6 weeks your strength goes up due to your nervous system and your body being able to coordinate muscular contraction and motor unit recruitment.
The next 4 to 6 weeks you have actual muscle adaption. This means the muscle grows in size and is able to recruit more motor units. This is why you still see gains but not as drastic as the first 4 to 6.
By the fourth or fifth month adaption seems to come to a halt. This is due to the body’s inability to adapt. Without adapting you can’t lift more weight. The reason for this lack of adaption is because the body does not have enough time to adapt between workouts.
Simply put, you plateau because you are not allowing enough time for your body to adapt between workouts.
Getting Over the Plateau
Now that we have an idea of what plateauing stems from. We can now address the issue. To beat the plateau you need to allow more time for adaption. So the mind set of making your workouts harder or increasing the workload is the exact opposite of what you want to do.
What you need to do is go through a week or two of less work. This is called a back off period or a deload. This works by decreasing the workload without decreasing the intensity.
Example: You were doing 5×5 at 205. For your back off period, or deload you will know do 2×5 at 205.
The weight stays at the same intensity. You want to stay within 90% of your rep max, even during the deload, this will allow your body to maintain its level of neuromuscular readiness. What is changing is the amount of total reps. This is what we want to decrease. By keeping the intensity the same we are able to maintain our strength while giving your body time to adapt.
The back off period will last for a week or two, but it could be a full month before your body is fully recovered. Once you have recovered you can go back to your normal sets and reps and progress to higher weights.
Getting stuck at the same weight week after week can be very frustrating. The natural human thing to do is just to push through it and think you need to do more. This mind set will only take you so far, you have to let your body recover and adapt to the stimulus that you are throwing at it.
Keep the weight up and decrease the sets. This will allow you to get over your plateau and help you see gains for months to come.
I was thinking back to the days when I first started lifting; how simple it was, it was upper body or lower body days. I did what I wanted. Loading up the leg press with all the weights in the gym, it was a small gym, but still as a high school kid I felt badass, doing 400 pound shoulder shrugs, the true test of how strong you are, and sets and reps, always without a doubt, had to be 3 sets of 10 reps.
I don’t think I ever went higher or lower then the 3×10 until my junior year in high school. I always thought it was the perfect number, hell it was what everyone else was doing. It turned out that 3×10 was not the best set up for my goal of becoming a stronger athlete. I would have fared much better from a 5×5 or even a 5,3,1 set up. But with youth comes ignorance and many years of ineffective lifting.
At this point I have done a plethora of different set and rep schemes. Two that I have been playing around with recently is cluster sets and high-density sets (honestly I have know idea what these are called, if you know the common name feel free to tell me).
The Cluster Set
Cluster sets are a great way for you to be able to lift heavier weights for a higher number of reps. This results in an increase in strength.
Before you carry me off to be burned at the stake for my wizardry, let me explain how they work. You will soon see that there is no magic involved, just some simple sets and reps manipulation.
The cluster set is a group of mini sets within a set. This is what it looks like: (4×2)x5, this would be five cluster sets of four sets of two. You would do two reps rest 10 seconds and then do the next set and repeat this for four total sets. This equals one cluster set.
Are you following me? Just think of it as the ‘Inception’ of sets, a set within a set within a set.
If you were confused by the movie ‘Inception’ at any point then you should first watch it again and figure it out before attempting these.
For simplicity I will stick with the (4×2)x5 as my example. When selecting your weights you will not be able to use your two-rep max or your eight-rep max but something more like your five-rep max will be used.
You will end up lifting your five-rep max eight times. Isn’t set manipulation great? You can now lift your five-rep max eight times in one set. This will lead to an increase in strength, allowing you to do more work within each set. You can also use this for increasing muscular size and endurance by changing the reps and sets to fit your goals.
High Density Sets (Put Name Here)
This is very similar to cluster sets but with a little twist. This is how it works. You would have your sets and reps set up something like this: 3×5/2×8. At first glance this seems cut and dry, that is because it is.
The magic in all of this is not seen just by looking at the sets and reps. You also have to look at the numbers. This setup allows you to do more work within your workout. Let’s say your five-rep max is 225 and your seven-rep max is 200. If you were to do 5×5 at 225 you will have lifted at total of 5,625 pounds. If you did 3×5 at 225 plus 2×8 at 200 that will be a total of 6,575 pounds lifted. That is 950 more pounds lifted.
This results in more weight lifted but with using less weight due to the increased reps and decrease in weight in the last two sets. This is another great way to do more work but at the same time lifting less weight. Resulting in strength gains and muscle hypertrophy, while giving your joints a rest from the heavier weights.
Give these two sets and rep schemes a try. Not every workout has to be 3×10 or 5×5. Get a little crazy with your planning. Throw in a cluster set for your squat and bench or try using the high-density sets for your lunges and chin ups. If strength is what you’re after then try them out.
I am going to be honest I have not been in the fitness industry that long, but without a doubt the #1 goal for all females that are not athletes, or are athletes for that matter…. O.K. let me rephrases this; the #1 goal for any female that walks in through your doors is to tone up. The conversation goes something like this.
Me: What are some of your goals that you would like to accomplish?
Female: I would like to loose some weight and fat and maybe get a little stronger, but I don’t want to bulk up, I guess I would like to just tone up a little. Oh and I’d really like some abs.
Don’t get me wrong. I think this is a great list of extremely vague goals. The goal of wanting to be toned is a fine goal, if you know what it is.
For some reason the phrase “toning up” has come to be the all-encompassing phrase to sum up, “to get in better shape”.
The word tone means to be firm or to have the appearance of being firm. I used to think this was a combination of weight loss and muscle gain. As you loose fat and gain muscle mass the skin will appear to be firm or tone. This is what toning up meant to me. It’s pretty much the same thing as just getting into better shape, which is a part of the toning process.
While reading Mark Rippetoes’ book, “Practical Programming for Strength Training,” I was able to gain a better understanding of what it truly means to be tone. Here is a quote from his book, “The term muscle tone or tonus describes an electrophysiological phenomenon, a measure of ionic flow across muscle cell membranes. It can be thought of as the muscle’s readiness to do anaerobic work. The more fit the muscle, the more electrophysiological activity it exhibits at rest.”
So what does this all mean? What it means is the more your muscles are ready to lift weights the more tone you will be. So a sedentary person is going to be less tone then a person who frequently lifts weights, and a marathon runner is going to be less tone then a power lifter.
How To Get Tone
If you look at the spectrum of what will get you toned the fastest, going from least effective to most effective, it would look something like this.
Low Toning Medium Toning High Toning
Aerobic Exercise → Low Intensity → High Intensity
Weight Training Weight Training
Huh, that’s funny, if this spectrum is correct then most of the programs that are out there to get you tone buns and thighs are not the most effective means of programming. The typical commercialized toning program usually involves loads of long duration cardio or a cross between a bodybuilding program and an endurance program. This would fall somewhere between aerobic exercise and low intensity weight training, but where you really want to be is all the way over to the right.
Just to clarify, the word intensity is not describing how hard the workout is, it’s describing how heavy the weights are you are using. Doing circuit training and bootcamps can be taxing, and described as an intense workout, but this is not what is meant when talking in terms of weight training. High intensity means to be lifting heavy weights. If you want tone then you need to lift heavy.
If your goal is to have rock solid buns that resemble week old biscuits, not the best analogy moving on though, then take off the pink head band and put down the pink doubles and pick up some heavy weights. The more your muscles are ready to do work the more tone they will be. This is accomplished by strength training, not aerobic exercise or interval training but by good old strength training. Remember its 2013 and strength is the new sexy.
By now most of you have seen the Calvin Klein super bowl commercial. You know the one with the guy gyrating around in just his skibbies, which made most of the America population salivate in their pants over his shredded midriff. The strange thing is after watching this; I had no inclination of going out and buying any kind of underwear.
If you have not seen it, here it is.
Where am I going with this? Well for some reason people think of the abdominals as a vanity muscle, good for two things; making you look good and shredding cheddar. These may be two great reasons to like the abs but there are many better reasons to love the abdominals.
The rectus abdominis or abs, as they are commonly called, are only a small part of what makes up your core. What consists of the core depends on how you look at it. Is the core from the chest to the hips or is it from the shoulders to the knees?
I am inclined to think of the core as being the muscles that help transfer power and help sustain proper posture. This would include both the muscles that control your shoulders and the muscles the control your hip alignment. I would argue that the anything below the neck could be considered part of the core, but my goal is not to discuss this in depth but to make you aware of my definition of the core.
Now that I got that out of the way, lets look at some of the individual muscles that make up the core and what their roles are.
Rectus Abdominus- Trunk Flexion
External Obliques- Trunk Flexion, Contralateral Rotation
Internal Obliques- Trunk Flexion, Ipsilateral Rotation
Quadratus Lumborum- Side Bending
Spinal Erectors- Trunk Extension
This is one way to look at the core, by training each one of these muscle groups by what they do. Examples: Trunk Flexion- sit-ups, Obliques- dumbbell twists, Quadratus- side bends, Spinal Erectors- supermans.
The question is, is this the best way to train the core? The answer that I have come to believe is a resounding no. Hundreds of crunches and sit-ups and Russian twists are not going to optimize the role of the core.
Role of the Core
If the role of the core is not to bend every which way, then what is it? It would make sense that its role is to prevent flexion in all directions.
One of the main roles of the core is to keep our spine and body in proper alignment. The muscles that make up the core create rigidity, in an otherwise flimsy spinal column. When lifting weights you should always be bracing the core to make sure you have good posture. Not to mention, to keep you safe from injury.
Transfer of Power
When performing many athletic motions the core plays a major role in transferring power from the legs to the arms. A great example of this is a baseball pitcher. The motion starts at the legs and ends with the ball being thrown. To get maximal velocity the power generated at the legs must be transferred all the way to the arms. This is accomplished by having a strong core to transfer this energy over.
If we are trying to train the core to optimize rigidity at the spine and the transfer of power through the core, then we need to look at the function of the muscles in a different light. Here is the new function of the muscles of the core.
Rectus Abdominus- Anti Extension (Resisting Extension)
External Obliques- Anti Rotation (Resisting Rotation)
Internal Obliques- Anti Rotation (Resisting Rotation)
Quadratus Lumborum- Anti Lateral Flexion (Resisting Lateral Flexion)
Spinal Erectors- Anti Flexion (Resisting Flexion)
How to Train
1. Anti Extension
Exercises: TRX Fall Outs, Planks, and Ball/Ab Wheel Rollouts
2. Anti Rotation
Exercises: Pallof Press
3. Anti Lateral Flexion
Exercises: Farmers Cares, Suitcase Deadlift, and Side Planks
4. Anti Flexion
Exercises: Deadlift and Squats
I am Out
The abs are one sexy group of muscles, but sex appeal is only a small part of why they should be desired. Without them you would have no rigidity to your spinal column and without that you are not lifting heavy weights or transferring mass amounts of power. This is a way cooler function then just a show piece for the beach and bed room.
That’s all I got.
There are many factors that play into how much weight you can lift. Factors that play into this are muscular strength, power, motor unit recruitment, technique, and so on. One aspect that I feel is over looked is the rate at which you can move the bar, or “bar speed”.
Why It Matters
When you are performing a lift it should be controlled going down and fast up. This is true for most lifts. Too often you see people on either ends of this model, either controlled all the way with no speed or uncontrolled down and fast up. The first person is not going to develop power with being controlled all the way through the lift, and the second person is letting the weight control them. This could end in injury.
With this being said, the individual with a faster bar speed is going to be able to successfully complete more of their lifts, missing less lifts. Reason being, the faster you can move the bar the more force you will be putting into the ground. The more force you can produce the more work you can do, resulting in heaver weights lifted.
How To Increase Your Speed
The great thing about speed work is that you are able to perform two multi joint lifts in the same day. For instance, you could do a deadlift and then perform a speed squat directly after or the other way around.
This is because when performing speed work you are using less weight and focusing of the speed in which you can move the bar. The weight of the lift is going to be less then 80% of your 1 rep max, and the reps will be in the 1 to 5 range. The rule here is that the greater the percentage the lower the reps and vice versa. You want your rest intervals to be in the 30 second to 1 minute 30 second range.
Example: 10×1 80% 1RM, 8×3 60%, 4×5 35%, or something like this.
The Wrap Up
If you train slow you’re going to be slow. This is true with lifting weights. If you want to lift heavy weights then you need to get that bar speed up. The faster you can move the bar will result in more force and the more force produced equals more weight lifted. So get out there and increase that speed.
In 2006 the latin singer Shakira came out with the hit song My Hips Don’t Lie. If you haven’t seen the music video, believe me there isn’t any deception in those latin money makers. The same is true in the weight room “the hips don’t lie”.
With most athletes being quad dominate or knee dominate the backside is often just along for the ride. Even with exercises designed to strengthen the glutes and hamstrings, like deadlifts, you will see people shift their weight forward onto their toes to lift the weight like a squat, activating the quadriceps not the glutes.
The hip hinge is a corner stone of power and strength. This pattern is seen in the squat, deadlift, Romanian deadlift, rack pulls, hang clean and kettlebell swings. Just to mention a few.
With younger athletes it is important to teach them the hip hinge pattern early on in their lifting career. The problem isn’t that athletes want to use their quadriceps for their lifts, but that more of their body is taking the path of lest resistance. The body is smarter then we give it credit. It does what it knows best, which is lifting with the quads over the glutes.
Some of the ways that we can teach the hip hinge is by using cues. The main cues that are used are hips back, ass to the wall, or hump the air. The goal of all these cues is to have your athletes or clients engage with the hips first, not the knees. This will help prevent the knees from going over the toes, decreasing the shear force. Along with making your knees feel happy, you will be loading your backside to do some serious work.
Cues don’t always fix the problem. That’s why it is good to give exercises that will help teach driving the hips back. One of my favorite exercises to accomplish this is the cable pull through. The reason for this is that it forces the hips back by having the force of pull directly behind you. Your hips have no choice but back. The only draw back is it’s a little awkward if you make eye contact with any one else in the gym while performing this exercise. I like to think of it as showing off my sexual supremacy to the rest of my on lookers.
Other exercises that help hammer home the hip hinge are deadlifts, RDLs, and kettlebell swings (the only caveat I have with the KB swings is it’s a power movement and should only be given when the athlete has shown the ability to perform a solid hip hinge). I also have experimented with partial rep RDLs and have liked what I have seen so far, you can read all about partial rep RDLs from Wil Fleming.
Without a well endowed backside, Shakira may have never been the hit singer she came to be. Why is this? Because, if she did not have any hips to sing about, then there would be no song entitled “My Hips Don’t Lie”. When an athlete has a poor hip hinge, they often have week glutes as well. This is due to them never loading the hips and never finishing with the hips. When you think about it, the hip hinge is in many athletic movements. It plays a key role in jumping and running, which will increase your power and speed. There is not an athlete in the world that I know that doesn’t want to increase one if not all of theses abilities.
Take a closer look at the hip hinge. It could be the key to unlocking some unused strength. And maybe next time people will be asking, “How did you get all that ass in them jeans?”
Putting everything together: teach hips back, bend at the hips first then knees. Give exercises that will help athletes feel a proper hip hinge, like the pull through. This will lead to stronger glutes, which will increase your overall strength, power, and sex appeal.
We have all been there, when you’re out with friends and you’re looking for a cheap place to eat. Then you start entertaining the thoughts of Chinese. Thoughts of duck sauce and dumplings creep into your thoughts, and eventually you think about how you feel after, like crap, but we still go.Most of us go into a buffet with the mindset that you are going to get your moneys worth of food. You always fail and most likely think, “Why did I come here in the first place”. That’s why it’s always best to know what you want before hand and stop after your second plate. But this article is not about how to eat at a Chinese Buffet, it’s about what you can learn from eating at a Chinese Buffet to help you plan better workout programs. I know this sounds crazy right.
Have A Plan
When it comes to setting up your workouts the first thing you must know is what your goal is; is it strength, size, power, or endurance. Pick one and stick to it for the duration of your program, whether that is a 4 week or a 6 week program. Picking a little of everything leads to achieving nothing; other than general fitness.
Know What You Want
We all want to get the most out of each an d every one of your workouts, but this does not mean that more exercises per workouts = better results. There are a lot of exercises out there but not all of them can be fit into one program. Remember your goal and pick the exercises that will help get you to that goal the fastest.
When it comes to gaining power and strength you don’t need 8, 9, or 10 exercises in all your workouts. Remember you’re going for strength and power so all you need is 2 multijoint lifts (dead lift, bench, squat, etc.) and 2 or 3 accessory lifts that focus on some of your weaknesses. Throw in some core and mobility work to “kick it up a notch”.
Bon appétit, you have a recipe for a good power and strength program.
For size and endurance you can add some more accessory exercises or increase the sets and reps as well as decreasing the rest time to 30 sec or to1 min.
Know When To Stop
Going along with not needing 20 exercises per program, your goal at the end of a workout should not be feeling like you were hit with a sledgehammer. I know walking around like you have been assaulted after a hard legs day is all the rage, but for me I would rather drop the weight or skip a few reps then have to limp around for the next few days.
Listen to your body. If you are feeling tired and rundown take a break and get at it another day. Being sore is not a sign of a good workout, being sore is your body’s way of saying you over did it
So when making a program, you need to have a goal in mind. This will allow you to focus on one area to maximize your results.
From the goal pick your exercises and your sets and reps. Use the chart I provided to help give you an idea of how many reps you should be doing based off of your goals. As far as sets go, the higher the reps lower the sets and the lower the reps the higher the sets.
Lastly know yourself. If the program is too challenging, modify it so it’s easier or make it harder if it is too easy. The program is written on paper not in stone so it’s ok if you have to make changes. Most importantly, know when to call it a day.