Category Archives: Uncategorized

Putting Some Junk in Your Trunk: My 5 Favorite Glute Exercises

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.

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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 


RDL’s

 

Deadlift

 

Best

Josh Williams

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Managing Shoulder Pain In The Bench Press

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.images

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.

Muscle Quality

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.

Foam Roller

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.

Lacrosse Ball

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.

Warm Up

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

 

Pec Mobilization

 

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:

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.

Perturbation:

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.

Farmers Walks:

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.

Best

Josh Williams

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Full Body Workout vs. Split Body Workout

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Random Fluffy Kitty

It seems like as long as I can remember every workout had to be four days a week with two days devoted to the upper body and the other two be all about your lower half. If you were in college, then the upper body days were broken up into chest and tri, back and bi days, and the lower body days were skipped and replaced with more benching and bicep curls. All jokes aside, the upper lower split is a great way to workout and get results, if you have time for it.

The often forgotten full body workout is another option as well. The full body workout is not as popular due to the fact that it did not have a following behind it. What I mean by this is that the split body workout had the bodybuilding craze backing it. But there are some distinct advantages to using a full body workout over the split routine. These I will most certainly discuss in more detail later on.

Split Routine

I am partial to the split routine because it is the one I have used the most over my lifting career. I have focused primarily on strength, and in my personal opinion believe that if you are trying to get strong the split routine is the way to do so.

By breaking up your days into upper body and lower body days you are able to focus more of your energy on a particular region of the body. This results in more weight lifted for the group of muscle you want to target.

This structure also works well with people that are training for size, like bodybuilders or people who like beach tanning. The four day routine gives you the ability to break days up into more specific focuses, or foci, again letting you focus your energy on the group of muscles you would like to see increase in size.  This is where you would see the back and bi, chest and tri, and legs scheme.

There are some downsides to the split routine. The big one is that it takes up four days, and most people have a hard time making it one day a week to the gym. So a four day commitment would be out of the question for many people.

Full Body Routine

The full body workout has a lot going for it. If you are a person that can only go to the gym two to three times a week, I would highly recommend this routine. The benefit of this routine is that at every workout you are hitting all of your major muscle groups. If you do miss a workout, I would argue that missing a workout on a full body routine is less detrimental then missing one on a split routine.

When working with athletes, the full body routine makes more sense then the split. This is because an athlete uses all their muscles during a sporting event. So training all of their muscles during the same block of time also makes sense as well. During the in season athletes may only have one to two days to devote to lifting weights, so a full body routine would be the better choice.  This allows them to hit their upper and lower muscle groups up to two times per week compared to just one with the split.

Closing

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One more for good measure

Both of these routines offer some benefits.  I would argue that the split is better for building strength and hypertrophy, whereas the full body routine is better for athletes and people that feel they don’t have the time or have commitment issues with the gym.

These two ways of organizing your training are just two of the most popular ways to organize. There are many different ways to structure your workout week. When it comes to choosing which one is best for you, I would recommend looking at how much time you are willing to give to the gym first. After that, look at which way you prefer to workout. It all comes down to what you like to do and what you will stick to doing.

Best

Josh Williams

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Why Do You Do What You Do?

You ever think about why you do something?Unknown

The reason why I ask this question is because if you don’t know why, then why are you doing it. If you know why you are doing something then there is value in the thing you are doing. As you can guess, since this is a blog devoted to fitness, I am going to relate all this to your fitness life, or at lest give it the old college try.

I was thinking a little while back to why I workout and why do I care about my health (other then the reason that it’s what I make my living doing). If you have been reading this blog for some time then you can guess that I love food, and I am not talking steaks and chicken, I am talking Ben & Jerry’s and Twix. The more filled with simple sugars the better, I don’t just have a sweet tooth, I got sweet teeth.

This love of sweet things has led me down a path of laziness and obesity in the past. Don’t believe me?  Here are the pictures to prove it. When I was in 5th grade I weighed a nice 175 and strutted one horrid hair cut, don’t know which one was worse for my self esteem, being over weight or the hair cut. With my pre dinner snack consisting of a two pound bag of Swedish Fish and crushing bags of Saltine crackers I was able to get to 260 by my freshmen year of high school.

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During my school years I was never comfortable with the way I looked. I tried different things to make myself feel less fat. I remember wearing Hawaiian shirts because they were loose fitting and made me feel less big. When Under Armor first came out I would always wear one of their dry fits under my shirts since they made me feel thinner.

I started hitting the weight room four days a week as a freshman in high school. Slowly the weight started coming off. By the time I was a senior I was down to 215. After my freshman year in college I decided to change up my diet and started eating healthier and dropped down to a solid 195 and 10% body fat with a good diet and hard work, to put this in perspective the last time I weighed 195 I was in 7th grade. With all this weight loss I gained confidence in myself and have become comfortable with who I am.

So my answer to the question “why I do what I do”: I did what I did back then to feel better about who I was and gain confidence. I do what I do now because I don’t want to go back to being the old me, each day I want to be a little better then the me of yesterday.

So why do you do what you do?

Is it to be able to play with your kid, to wake up every morning and look in the mirror and say, “who’s that sexy beast, O that’s right, its me”, or it could be you just want to be the best you, you can be.

Whatever your reasoning is for living a healthy life style, don’t forget why you do it.

Best,

Josh Williams

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Things to Read 5/16/13

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No new fresh to death blog this week. Truth be told I got a little behind this week. I would love to blame it all on the fact that I am graduating this saturday, but the real reason was I got myself into a time management funk. What this means is I just spent countless hours playing disc golf (my new found love) and getting lost in the black hole that is watching Youtube videos.

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I think this fits the mold as far as romantic lifting goes

Next week I promise, well almost guaranty, promise seems like a really strong word, a new post filled with adventure, laughs, and some hot romance (or just filled with stuff I know about, so mostly romantic lifting).

So to make it up to all you knowledge hungry, weight crushing people out there here are some good articles  to get your knowledge fix for the week.

Last week I put out a blog on increasing your grip strength to help increase your overall strength. If you have not read it yet give it a reads: 5 Ways for You to Get A Grip 

As for the rest:

4 Ways to Get you to the Next Level by Doug Spurling

5 Traits of Successful Athletes by Eric Cressey 

4 Reasons Every Woman Should Strength Train by Nia Shanks 

The Key to Your Education by Mike Boyle 

The Magic of Cluster Sets by Todd Bumgardner

Busted! 6 Myths About Strength Training for Woman by Nia Shanks 

Maxims For Squatting Excellence by Dan Blewett

The Novelty Workout by Charles Staley

6 Things I Thought I Knew but Now I Know I Know

The past two weekends I have been away at conferences. There was the Elite Training Workshop at Cressey Performance and the NSCA Maine State Conference at the University of New England. Oh, and I was also an invited speaker for the UNE research symposium.Unknown-1

Let me just dust my shoulders off before proceeding.

What this all means is me spending a total combined time of roughly 24 hours sitting in cheap plastic unsupportive chairs, which has done wonders for my back. Luckily it paid off with me cramming my mind full of new ideas and knowledge, and a couple of cool drawstring swag bagz, spelled with a “Z”. Score!

Since all this new knowledge has been bestowed upon me, I will also let you drink from the cup of knowledge. Sorry, I can’t give all of you cool free drawstring swag bagz as well, but if it makes you feel better I would if I could.

Assessments, They’re Important

You have probably heard the saying “if you’re not assessing your guessing”, well it rhymes so it’s right.

When you are working with a new client, how are you supposed to know their past history and how they move, if you don’t do an assessment? The assessment should consist of some kind of questionnaire that delves into the past history of activities and injuries, along with some kind of movement screen.

From this information you can pull areas of weakness and exercises that they should and should not be doing.

If you are part of a gym that does not have coaches that can perform a full assessment, I would recommend you look into the self movement screen. This will at least give you some idea of some imbalances that you may have that you are unaware of.

So don’t guess, assess.

Look at the Demands of A Sport

Every sport requires a different skill set. There may be some overlapping between sports, but there is some facet of the game that makes it unique and that is why baseball and soccer have different names.

Baseball pitchers don’t have to run a lot so why go for 5 mile runs? Same with hockey players and football players, they are all quick explosive sports. Running long distance is the antithesis of this.Unknown

Side Note: I just used a big word in my writing and did not even have to find it in a thesaurus – little win.

Looking at overall energy demands of a sport is important, but it is also important to look at the movements that are used in the sport.  Look at the work to rest ratio, the explosive vs. non explosive movement, and linear and lateral movements. A program should take all this into consideration.

 Train for Effect  

Well this sounds like a no brainer. Everyone who works out is training for some kind of effect, whether that is strength, fat loss, or sexiness. Everyone is training for an effect. So what does this mean?

When you write your exercise program you should not just think of exercises as movements that strengthen muscle groups – anyone can do that. I could pick any meathead in the gym to write me a program to get me stronger and there is a good chance some of my weights would go up, this doesn’t mean it was a good program.

There should be a purpose for each exercise. You have depressed shoulders so you program exercises X, Y, and Z to help fix that; your core is weak so you program this exercise over that exercise. The point is you want your exercises to cause an effect, its not just sets and reps with bench, squat, and deadlifts. Writing a good exercise program is so much more than that.

Think about the effect you want to cause.

Base of Aerobic Fitness

This is an idea that I guess I have always known but never actually put much thought into it. Your base of aerobic fitness is what allows you to progress to more strenuous activities, like sprinting. Without a base the individual will have nothing to build off of.

For example if you have a client, or you yourself have not had any form of training in over a year, you can not expect them to know how to pace themselves. By developing an aerobic base first, this will lead to better endurance, allowing them to do more work. Once you, or your clients, have an idea of how to pace yourselves then you can move on to harder activities.

What I mean by pacing is that a sprint should not be the same speed as a jog and visa versa. Without an aerobic base you and your clients may not know the difference or be at a fitness level to perform at a higher level. So get that base and then build off of it.

Ice Cream, Hot Dogs, and Omega 3’s

What do all three of these things have in common?   Well, nothing really, except ice cream and hot dogs are not the healthiest food choices. So what is omega 3’s doing linked with these two outlaws of food health.flax-heathbar

With our ability to inject almost anything into any food, we now have the ability to put omega 3’s into any food we want to. This includes foods like ice cream and hot dogs. So now my junk food will have some resemblance of being good for me.

So instead of taking fish oil pills I can now just eat some ice cream to get my daily recommended value of omega 3’s. And people can now say, “It’s ok that I eat ice cream every day because it’s good for me.” Let me just say, and this is my last point, a part does not make a whole. Just because something has some healthy part to it does not make it inherently good for you.

PRI Is A Lot of Smart

After hearing about PRI (Postural Restoration Institute) I now fully understand what the phrase “drinking from a fire hose” means. What is PRI?  Well it was developed by some smart PT by the name of Ron Hruska.

Their principles are: “To explore and explain the science of postural adaptations, asymmetrical patterns and influence of polyarticular chains of muscles on the human body. To develop an innovative treatment approach that addresses the primary contributions of postural kinematic movement dysfunction.”

Intriguing right? Sounds like a whole lot of smart to me, something that I will have to look into.

Wrap Up

 These are some of the big things that I learned over the past two weeks. So assess, don’t guess, look at what the sport demands, train for an effect, get that aerobic base, ice cream is awesome but still not good for you no matter how you dress it up, and PRI, that is just smart.

Best

Josh Williams

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Mixing Up the Monotony Part Dos

Last week I looked at how our lives can become over run by the monotony of our everyday routine. You can read it here: Part I. This week I am going to look at how to mix up the monotony that can be at the gym.

Every once in a while we get sick of the whole lifting weight thing; a lifting rut so to speak. (Of course this never happens to me; I am generalizing here, and talking about everyone else that’s not me). So what do you do when the gym has become so monotonous that you can’t stand the sight of hardened steel? Do you just stop or are there other options.  Well I am here to tell you there is another way. gym_boring_sq

What I have for you guys today is 4 ways to help make your gym time less repetitive and boring.

1. Good Programming

Simply put, a well put together program will go a long way for all facets of your fitness life. A good program will be tailor made to you and your goals. It will also take into account your limitations, your likes, and your dislikes while at the same time keeping you motivated and helping you reach your goals. All this being said, your program should make you look, and more importantly, feel better.

Even the best program will only work for so long. You can’t keep using the same program for months on end and expect to see the same improvements. Eventually you will stop seeing results.  You could start seeing some overuse injuries, and assuredly become fed up with the same exercises everyday.

Mixing up your program every 4 to 6 weeks is a good way to keep your exercises fresh. If programming is not your thing, find someone that knows their stuff. This will usually cost about 25 dollars a program. Another option is to use a proven training product like Show and Go.

2. Make Your Off Days Fun Days

My off days are usually Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Sundays I always take off, but I like to leave my Wednesdays and Saturdays open. If the previous two days were a real killer then I might take those days off. Just to give one more day to recover so I can hit the second half of the week hard.

Other ideas for your off days:

Power Work:

I don’t always fit power work into my regular programming. So I use my off days to do my med ball work and Olympic lifts. These sessions are intense and short lasting only 30 minutes. These are also activates I enjoy doing so it’s almost a little treat.

Technique:

Your off days are a great time to work on your technique. This could be your squat, deadlift, or Olympic lifts. Whatever you choose it’s a great time to get some extra practice time in.

Weaknesses:

When I program I don’t really care too much if you don’t like an exercise. If it does not hurt you and it will benefit you then I am going to program it. If I just picked exercises that people liked or I liked, then I would never give lunges, step ups, Bulgarian split squats, or any unilateral leg work that involves flexion (side note: I love unilateral leg work, I just think it sucks to do).

Since I don’t always get to do what I like, I will use my days off for low intensity and moderate to higher rep work. That focuses on areas I feel weak in (what I am really saying is I just hit the bi’s and tri’s for hours). Or just do exercises I enjoy.

Whatever you decide to do, make sure your off days are fun. If you have to drag yourself to the gym on your off days, take it off. Don’t burn yourself out.

3. Finishers

I like to use finishers as the exclamation point to the end of my workouts or just that kick in the ass for the rest of the day. They are also a nice way to mix up your workouts and get a little conditioning in at the same time. If you train with a partner or a group of people, finishers can be a fun competition among friends and just the thing to break up the monotony.

Some of my favorite finishers:

Trapbar Finisher: Put 225 on bar, do three reps, walk 5 yards, and repeat

Sled Finisher: Push sled with 90 pounds for 25 yards, then do 5 med ball slams, push it back and do 5 more med ball slams. Or you can do burpees instead of the med ball slams.

Airdyne Bike Sprints: Get on an Airdyne bike and do intervals. These suck.

There are many more finishers out there and you are only limited by your imagination.

4. Deload 

overtrainingI know what your thinking, “Deload, really? I don’t take breaks I go hard all day every day!” Well hear me out. If you lift heavy all day every day, you will eventually become burnt out. You will either hit the wall and not making any progress, or you will become so run down that you don’t even want to think about lifting.

The deload can be a beautiful thing, if used correctly. If used correctly it can be a nice change of pace that can bring back that weight crushing animal within you. The two ways in which I use deloads are:

  1. Just take a planned week off from the gym. This does not mean you don’t stay active, it just means you get away from the iron for a week. This week off will allow your body to recover. The hope is that when you return to the gym you will be rested and hungry to get after it once again.
  2. The other method I use is to make the last week in your program a deload week. If you have a four week program all you would do is decrease the intensity and volume of the fourth week’s workout. By doing this, you give your body a nice recovery week before starting the next program. For me this is also a motivational thing, I get excited when that deload week is coming up.

The Wrap Up

The gym can become same old same old quickly if you let it become that way. By sprinkling in some of these change of pace ideas every so often it will help keep you coming back to the gym for more for weeks to come.

For ways to mix up the monotony in your everyday life, checkout Part I of this blog.

Best

Josh Williams

Connect with me on Facebook and Twitter.

Throw A Wrench In It: Mixing Up the Monotony

Our day-to-day lives can often become quite monotonous. We wakeup at about the same time everyday, eat the same breakfast, go to the same job, and so on. You have heard it said before, “We are creatures of habit” this is not a bad think but at some point the same things day in and day out will make you lose your mind.pulling-hair-out

This week while at the grocery store I lost it. No, I did not push over the dividers and cause a domino effect all throughout the store. I should have thought of that though. What did happen was I had one of those self-awareness moments where I was reaching for my coco covered almonds for the 45th week in a row. I then though, “what the hell am I doing?” The monotony of it all finally hit me all at once. In that moment I realized that I had been doing the same routine for that last 5 months.

I had to throw a wrench so to speak into the middle of all the monotony (had to sneak the title in here some how). So I drove three hours north of where I live to hike with my dog. I woke up at 5 a.m. the next morning so I could see the sun rise, romantic right a man and his dog watching the sun rise from atop a mountain, it was 8 degrees out and the wind was blowing 15 mph, it took me three hours to climb and descend the mountain, but it did the trick. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

What does this have to do with fitness and being strong? Well more then you would think. Mental health is a big part of your overall health. You need to be enjoying what you do, this is being happy. If you are loving life 90% of the time I would say you have a good life. It is how you deal with the other 10% that can really determine your level of happiness.

A great peace of advice that I received was, no matter how bad the circumstances is, you can control how you react to the situation. When life sucks you choose to allow the external situation to effect the internal you. In any given situation you choose to be angry, sad, or frustrated. Its as easy as deciding to be happy in these moments.   Just reminding yourself that you always have control of how you responded to any given situation will go a long way. This is a simplistic solution to a complexes situation. This minds set works the majority of the time but not always.

What I mentioned above is a great mental exercise to try, but sometimes the solution is to physically get up and do something. One-way is to just get way from everything for a few hours. This can be a really nice way to mix up your day-to-day routine. We are so over run by technology, cell phones, computers, TV, ext. That it can be hard to think sometimes. Just going somewhere where you are completely free from it all for a few hours can be relaxing; I equate it to restarting your computer after leaving it on for the past 3 months. It’s a reboot for your mind.

I love being routine. It is apart of who I am, but you have to know when to mix it up. I am not saying everyone has to go out and freeze some serious sack like I did, but it worked for me. What I do suggest is you think of something that you really enjoy, something that you just have not done for a long time. Doing something spontaneous every once an a while can help break up the monotony in your life. Not to mention keep you sane.

Next week I will talk about ways to break up the monotony of the gym.

Best

Josh Williams

P.S. If you did not know I have the sexiest dog on earth.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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Things to Read 2/1/13

This week for me was a mentally taxing week. Full of reading and just work I needed to get done. When it came to writing this week I decided to have a little fun with this weeks blog, Things That Are Acceptable In The Weight Room but Not In Real Life. Give it a read, it’s like a deload but for your mind.

As for some post with more content be sure to checkout these 7 reads.

Improving Agility-One Step at a Time by Doug Spurling

8 Things I Learned in 2012 by Eric Cressey

8 Great Rowing Variations by John Meadows

Personal Training/Coaching/Writing: Why You’re Not That Special by Tony Gentilcore  

Teaching the Hip Hinge by Michael B. Zweifel

Quick Thoughts on Maximal Deadlift Form by Bret Contreras

Why We Are the Even Weaker Sex by Kellie Davis

Best

Josh Williams

Connect with me on Facebook and Twitter.

 

 

Are You Mature Enough to Lift?

I love the big multi joint lifts. You know deadlifts, squats, and bench. They are great bang for your buck exercises. They can help develop full body strength, but they are not for everyone. People with range of motion limitations, stability problems, or pain with certain movements may be prohibited from performing some of these lifts. This is why it is important to perform an assessment before hand.

The assessment is the time where the client proves to you what they can do. A client may show that they are able to perform the multi joint lifts. Physically they may be capable but one aspect that I think is overlooked is if they are mentally able to perform these lifts.

I know lifting weights is essentially lifting heavy circular objects over and over again until you get that sweet swell. So anyone can do it without putting any thought into it. (This is my attempt at sarcasm.)

When working with young athletes I think it is a privilege for them to perform the big barbell lifts. This is why I am never quick to throw someone under the bar until they have proven to me they can handle it, both physically and mentally. I am like the Gandalf of barbells. I don’t know if that works, but I am sticking with it.media_httpblastrcomas_wwfci-scaled1000

If you look at the deadlift, there is so many things to remember: hips back, chest up, back flat, push through the heels, and I could go on. What I am getting at is that if you don’t have the mental capacity to remember at least a hand full of these reminders, then there is a chance you will end up getting hurt. I don’t expect kids to remember all of them, but there is usually at least one or two cues they are going to have to remind themselves of during each lift.

Weight lifting should be fun, but when it comes time to perform the lift it should be all business. This is where the mental aspect comes in. It is our job to put our athletes in position to improve, while at the same time keeping the risk to reward as low as possible. There is nothing that irks me more then seeing someone mistreat a big lift. It makes me want to go up to the person and slap the bar out of their hands and say, “No”. Of course I don’t do that.

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They may be physically ready but are they mentally ready?

The question is how you know when an athlete is mentally mature enough. Age does play a role. An athlete of college age is more likely to understand the risk of performing a lift improperly. A younger high school athlete may not understand or see the importance of lifting with techniques. They could possibly see it as a need to just lift this weight any way possible, regardless of form. I am not going to mention middle school because I am not a big proponent of prescribing squats or any other big lifts to middle schoolers.

During the assessment it is good to take note of how the athlete acts and responds to your corrections. If they seem to take correction more seriously, then they may be more mentally prepared then someone who may seem to reluctantly take your corrections. From this you may get an idea of where they’re at. If you feel they show good form and are able to focus during the lift then prescribe them some big barbell lifts. You can always back off the lift if they show they are not ready to handle it. You can giveth and taketh away.

All the responsibility does not fall on the shoulders of the athlete. We as coaches need to spend time with our athletes, getting to know them. The more they are comfortable with you the more they will trust you and listen to your instruction. If you get your new athletes to open up to you it is amazing how much more they will listen to you.

Putting Everything Together

The multi joint barbell lifts are not for everyone. The athlete or client must show that they are physically and mentally able to perform the lifts. This is for their safety and well-being. Take note of their level of perceived maturity. From this, if you feel they can handle the big lifts, then prescribe them. You can always remove them. Finally it is our responsibility to get to know our clients. By doing so they will have a greater respect towards you and the lifts they are performing and will understand that you have their best interest at heart.

Best

Josh Williams

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