Home Posts tagged "Goblet Squat"

Counterintuitive Coaching: More Loading, Better Learning

It goes without saying that in the overwhelming majority of cases of resistance training technique coaching, adding weight makes it harder to teach an exercise. In other words, we want to deload the movement as a regression, as many trainees get into "panic mode" when you put external load on them. A deadlift that is ugly at 135 pounds is definitely going to look even uglier at 315 pounds. 

Lowering the weight is just one regression we can use to optimize technique. Other strategies include changing the exercise (e.g., trap bar deadlift over conventional deadlift), shortening the range of motion (e.g., rack pull vs. deadlift), eliminating fatigue (e.g., dropping a few reps off each set), tinkering with the base of support (e.g., split squat instead of lunging) and deceleration components (e.g., reverse lunges instead of forward lunges). I went into detail on these options and several more in an older article, 11 Ways to Make an Exercise Harder.

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Sometimes, however, there are exceptions to these rules. In particular, I'm speaking to the idea that in some cases - as counterintuitive as it may seem - adding weight can actually improve your ability to clean up a movement pattern. Here are a few examples:

Anterior Counterbalance - The best examples to which one can look on this front are the goblet squat and plate-loaded front squat. You can see individuals who have brutal squat patterns that are quickly cleaned up just be giving them some external loading in one of these positions to facilitate an easier posterior weight shift and better core engagement.

Truth be told, this same set-up can be used to improve lateral lunges, too. And, it can also help to explain why some lifters have much better front squat technique than with the back squat.

Olympic lifts - There is definitely a sweet spot for teaching the Olympic lifts, which require a higher speed of execution and "feel" of tension against external load. If you're teaching them to a more trained athlete with a decent foundation of strength and power, just putting a 5kg training plate on each side of the bar almost never works. The weight is so light that it's very easy for them to slip into bad patterns like curling the weight or cutting the lower body triple-extension short. Bumping those 5kgs up to 10 or even 20kg bumper plates can make a big difference in syncing everything up.

Deadlifts - While lowering the weight is usually essential for improving deadlift technique, one issue you may encounter is that at very light weights, if you don't have bumper plates, the plates have a smaller diameter. In other words, lowering the weight below 135 pounds may actually increase the range of motion of the movement. This is easily corrected by elevating those smaller plates on a riser (two aerobic steps works well) or going to a rack pull. However, if strength is adequate, just going to 135 is often the easiest correction, even if it means you need to knock a few reps off the set.

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Medicine Ball Work - If a medicine ball is too light, an athlete will do one of two things. First, if it's a rotational drill, he'll use too much upper body work and not engage the hips correctly to create powerful rotation to transfer up the chain to the upper body. If it's an overhead stomp variation, he'll usually hold back because if the medicine ball is too light, it'll rebound excessively off the floor and hit him in the face before he can react to it. For this reason, we'll never do overhead stomps with anything less than 8lb medicine balls - and that would be with absolute beginners. Most folks do best with 10-12-pounders.

Turkish Get-up - I've evolved in the way that I teach the Turkish Get-up in recent years. In the past, I would teach it unloaded - and would always notice that lifters - especially hypermobile ones - would manage to slip into their faulty patterns really easily without external loading. Adding a kettlebell - even if it's only 4-8kg - can make a huge difference in keeping trainees more "compact" and under the kettlebell. Effectively, they guard against vulnerable positions that wouldn't be noticeable if they didn't have to support a load overhead.

Reactive Neuromuscular Training (RNT) - Popularized by physical therapist Gray Cook, RNT involved using resistance to pull individuals into their dysfunctional pattern in order to increase proprioceptive awareness and build-up antagonist co-contraction. The athlete (or patient in the clinical realm) acquires the kinesthetic awareness to avoid the dysfunctional pattern, and the strength and motor control to resist falling into it. Perhaps the most well known example of adding resistance to teach a good pattern is in using a band to drive valgus (caving in) at the knee during single-leg patterns.

Weighted Baseballs - We've used weighted baseballs as part of our throwing programs since 2008 with great results. The reason isn't just to get contrast between heavy and light to increase arm speed via post-activation potentiation, but also because using weighted implements can actually help to improve arm action and clean up mechanical faults in certain individuals. If a pitcher has a very long or deep arm action, weighted ball throws can help to shorten it up. If a pitcher has a short deceleration pattern (including a big whip-back), doing some weighted ball holds can teach and train a longer, more joint-friendly pattern.

Wrap-up

There are just seven examples of how increasing external loading can actually facilitate teaching, but there are undoubtedly many more that you may already be using on a daily basis without even realizing it. There are many different ways to clean up movement, so don't ever rule anything out! Feel free to share additional strategies on this front in the comments section below. 

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12 Ways to Know if You Should Include an Exercise in a Strength Training Program

At Cressey Sports Performance, whenever we're training a new staff member to write strength and conditioning programs, I always heavily emphasize the following point:

[bctt tweet="Want to put an exercise in a program? You must be able to quickly and easily justify its inclusion."]

Without a doubt, exercise selection is one of the most important programming variables one must take into account. To that end, there are many ways that one can determine whether an exercise belongs in a strength training program (or not) - and each justification begins with a question. Here are ten questions to get the ball rolling:

1. Can it be sufficiently loaded, or does it allow you to achieve a training effect with less loading?

If one is looking to purely gain muscle mass, then a side bridge row probably isn't a great choice, as it doesn't give rise to athletes using significant loading:

Conversely, if someone has a cranky forearm and needs to find a way to maintain an upper body training effect with less gripping demands, the side bridge row can be a great option.

2. Does it offer functional carryover to an individual's life or athletic endeavor?

A deadlift is easy to sell on this front. It trains individuals to have a strong hip hinge that they'll use regardless of whether they're picking a child up off the ground, or jumping to grab a rebound. Conversely, juggling dumbbells while standing on one leg on an unstable surface isn't going to provide you with much (if any) real-world carryover. Don't waste valuable training time on unproductive exercises.

3. Does the individual have the capacity to perform the movement?

This question applies to both the osteokinematics (gross movements - flexion, extension, etc. - of bones at joints) and arthrokinematics (subtle movements - rolling, rocking, gliding, etc. - of bones at joint surfaces). As examples:

a. An individual with femoroacetabular impingement (a bony block) at the hip may not be able to get into a deep squat position. This would be a limitation on the osteokinematic front (limited hip flexion and, likely, internal rotation).

b. An individual with poor rotator cuff control might not be able to limit the anterior gliding of the humeral head during an external rotation toss to wall. This would be a limitation on the arthrokinematic front (even if the drill might look good to the naked eye).

4. Will an individual have sufficient equipment to perform it?

I always get a kick out of looking at canned, mass marketed programs that include things like the safety squat bar, chains, and sleds. Most commercial gyms don't have these things; heck, a lot of gyms don't even have kettlebells or medicine balls. Learning about equipment access up-front if you're writing a program for someone who isn't in "your gym" is an important step to save time and hassle.

As an interesting aside, I've had a lot of positive feedback on the "exercise modifications" section of The High Performance Handbook. Basically, this helps individuals modify the program to work with their equipment limitations. Versatility is very important to gym-goers!

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5. Does it allow for sufficient time under tension to yield hypertrophy (muscle building) benefits?

If you want to put muscle mass on someone, you need to have some time under tension. For that reason, an exercise like a rotational row would be an inferior hypertrophy training option, even if it is great for training power in an athletic population.

6. Does it take a lot of set-up?

If the individual performing the program is crunched for time, exercises that take considerable set-up time are generally better left out of the program.

7. Does it fit in with where an individual stands in a regression-progression continuum?

If someone can't even squat to parallel with body weight without major compensations, then programming a back squat probably isn't a good idea.

Conversely, if someone is an elite Olympic lifter with an excellent squat - both in terms of patterning and loading - then telling them to do three sets of eight goblet squats probably won't offer much benefit.

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8. Will it provide a training effect without creating significant soreness?

Sometimes, we want to avoid creating soreness. A perfect example is in-season programming for athletes, where we might avoid drills with a significant eccentric component, instead programming things like step-ups, deadlifts from the floor, and sled pushing/dragging. At other points in the year, it might be fine to have post-exercise soreness, so our exercise pool expands significantly.

9. Does it build "good stiffness" or reduce "bad stiffness?"

As we know, quality movement is a balance of mobility and stability. You need range of motion, but stability within that range of motion. Likewise, you need some rigidity, but not so much as to not allow for fluid movements. Every exercise should help you to find that "balance" in some way. For instance, look at the reverse crunch, which builds "good" stiffness in the anterior core (particularly external obliques) while reducing stiffness in the lats and lumbar erectors.

10. Will it allow an individual to train around an injury?

I'll admit: there are some exercises that I almost never use unless when we have an athlete who is on crutches, in a sling, or dealing with some other type of injury. When someone is hurt and wants to maintain a training effect without exacerbating an injury, you have to get creative.

11. Can it be used to train power?

Squats, deadlifts, bench presses, and overhead presses are all exercises that can be utilized to train power. Conversely, good luck trying to turn a chin-up into a power training exercise without blowing out a shoulder or elbow. An overhead medicine ball stomp would be a much better option for challenging high velocity shoulder extension.

12. Does an individual love or hate it?

Some people love certain exercises because they're good at performing them. In most cases, to make long-term progress, they need to emotionally separate themselves from those exercises a bit so that they can devote extra effort and training volume to bring up their weaknesses.

Conversely, in beginners who aren't completely "sold" on lifting weights, it's okay to use a favorite exercise to help deliver a message. I can't tell you how many women we've had over the years who love to trap bar or sumo deadlift in their initial months of training - and they actually request it in their new programs. If seeing a particular exercise in a program gets a new client fired up to put in extra effort and stay adherent, I'm all for meeting them halfway by including it.

Wrap-up

This is certainly not an exhaustive list of considerations one must take into account on the exercise selection front, but it's a good place to start. In the comments section below, I'd love to hear your thoughts on other things you take into account.

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Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better: Installment 57

 It's been a while since I chimed in with some random tips to help out your nutrition and strength and conditioning programs, so here are five suggestions to kick off your healthy weekend on the right foot.

1. Use a simple chain for added weight to chin-ups or dips.

A lot of people think that you can't load these exercises without a specialized chin-up/dip belt, but believe it or not, we don't actually have one of these at Cressey Performance - nor have we in the seven years we've been in business.

Why not?  Well, it's just as easy to just take a regular chain and use your butt to hold it in place. Check it out:

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2. Don't use "but it's paleo" as an excuse to overeat.

My wife and I cook out of paleo cookbooks all the time, and the food tastes great - and obviously includes unprocessed ingredients.  However, one thing that I often see with folks who go this route is overeating. They assume that since they're replacing regular flour with almond flour, that they can eat a lot more.  This is just one example, but I think it's important for people to realize is that just because it's minimally processed doesn't mean that it's automatically lower in calories. If you look at some of the paleo pizza recipes, as examples, they can be incredibly calorically dense.  "Clean"ingredients are great, but don't overdo it.

3. Try this exercise to train around shoulder pain.

One of the biggest complaints of folks with shoulder pain is that they struggle to find drills to train the pecs that don't make the shoulder discomfort worse.  Here's a basic drill that allows for a solid training effect with minimal equipment - and rarely any discomfort: the Pec Horizontal Adductor Iso Hold.

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With this exercise, you aren't raising the arms, so impingement isn't exacerbated. You also aren't slipping into a bad posture that would exacerbate that impingement, either.  In short, you're applying force in joint positions that are pretty close to "neutral."  Isometric exercises don't get much love, but this is a good one; you're basically trying to crush whatever is between your hands (a power rack or doorway are the best bets, in my experience). I'll usually prescribe one 15-20-second iso hold per set.

It won't take your bench press to 500 pounds, but it should help you avoid wasting away while you're on the mend.

4. Avoid bad upper extremity positioning with sled drags.

I'm a big fan of sled work, but when it comes to forward dragging, the upper extremity can be put in a compromising position.  You want to avoid a posture where the shoulder blades are anteriorly tilted, and the head of the humerus is allowed to glide forward; this positioning is really rough on the AC joint, biceps tendon, anterior capsule, and even many of the nerves and vascular structures of the upper extremity:

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Instead, make sure to get the shoulder blades posteriorly tilted (tipped back) slightly, and don't allow the arms to drag behind the body.

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5. Remember that the barbell isn’t always best.

The barbell is an unbelievable training tool - but it's far from the only effective training implement at your fingertips. I was reminded of this when reading through Bret Contreras' new resource, 2x4: Maximum_Strength.  In the text, Bret observes that you actually get better glute activation on kettlebell deadlifts and goblet squats than you do on barbell variations - in spite of the fact that the load utilized is substantially lighter.  Bret remarked that it likely has to do with the fact that the external loading can be kept closer to the center of mass (and, in these cases, the hips).

 

As a friendly reminder, this awesome new program is available at the introductory price through the end of the day today (Friday). I highly recommend that you check it out: 2x4: Maximum_Strength.

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4 Steps You Might Have Skipped in Your Strength Training Career

After he read my blog post from earlier this week, Mike Robertson reached out to me with this great guest post, which highlights in more detail how to be "smart from the start" with your training career.  Mike's new resource, Bulletproof Athlete, has set the new gold standard for safe and effective training for beginner lifters.

As EC discussed earlier this week, a lot of things can go right for beginners, but a lot of things can go wrong for them, too - even if these mistakes aren't perceived.  These problems aren't as simple as dropping a weight on one's foot or misloading a barbell and having it come crashing down.  Rather, they're usually acts of omission - meaning you skipped something (either intentionally or unintentionally) that needed to get done to ensure optimal long-term progression.  Here are four steps a lot of people skip along the way:

Step #1: Developing Quality Mobility and Stability

This is probably the most notorious offender on the list, and yet I think this is the point to which people are the most unwilling to listen.

Case and point: think about how your lifting career started. I can tell you how mine did. Here goes…

The summer before my junior year, we got a bunch of strength training machines at our school. We also got a bunch of hand-me-down barbells and dumbbells from Ball State University. With this mish-mash of equipment, my lifting career started.

Our upper body days were grueling – 5-10 sets of various bench presses, no upper back training, and biceps and triceps work until the cows came home.

And legs? Pffft – well, our leg training left a thing or two to be desired. We didn’t squat – ever – because we didn’t have a rack. And, because they were obviously bad for our knees. My leg training consisted of leg presses, leg extensions and leg curls. Do you see what I’m getting at here?

For most of us, our basic movement foundation is so screwed up, it’s no wonder we’ve either plateaued or ended up injured.

The Fix

Go back to home base. Rebuild your movement foundation via smart mobility and stability training. Teach yourself to squat, push-up, lunge, etc., with good technique and quality movement.

Don’t worry about things like load for now; just get yourself moving better. When you go back to lifting heavy things, not only will you be far more efficient, but you’ll be stronger as well.

Step #2 - Integrating the Core

Let’s quickly return to my first years in lifting.

We had tons of machines, which were great at isolating specific body parts. But we also know they’re virtually useless if you want to coordinate movement like you would in sports, powerlifting, Olympic lifting, or any ol’ activities of daily living.

Mike-Robertson-Deadlift

In my “main” lower body lift (a leg press, at the time) you have a built-in core. No wonder you can throw so much weight around when you’re totally supported and just allow your legs to do the work!

And my main upper body lift (like any young, American male) was the bench press. Again, great for developing the upper body, but not so good at integrating or “tying together” the upper and lower body.

What we’ve ended up doing is training either the upper OR the lower body, but not focusing on exercises that integrate the two.

The Fix

You’re probably already smarter than me early on, so keep doing those compound lower body exercises instead of isolated garbage.

On the upper body training sessions, put an emphasis on upper body exercises that unite the upper and lower body. Push-up variations are awesome here, as are inverted rowing exercises.

Step #3 – Jumping Right Into Deadlifts

I don’t know two guys who love deadlifts more than Eric Cressey and me. Well, maybe Konstantin and Andy Bolton, but we’ve got to be pretty darn close!

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Here’s the thing: if you watch enough people move, you realize that most aren’t ready to do a conventional deadlift on Day 1.

First off, most people these days have zero body awareness. ZERO. You ask them to hinge at the hips and all they really do is extend their back into oblivion.

Then, to make matters worse, they talk about how deadlifts (and hip hinging) “hurts their back.”

The Fix

I like to ease my clients into the hip hinge pattern. If they’re really dysfunctional, we may start with something like a hip thrust to teach them how to extend their hips first.

From there, I want to get them on their feet so they can start to put the pieces together. Whether you choose a Romanian deadlift (RDL), pull-through, or rack pull is irrelevant.

The goal is to get them hinging with a neutral spine, often with a reduced load and through a shorter range of motion than they would a traditional deadlift. Let them groove this pattern and get confident for a few weeks (or months, depending on the client) and then slowly progress them back into full range of motion pulling.

I love deadlifting as much as the next guy, but they may not be appropriate right off the bat.

And along those same lines, here’s one more thing to think about…

Step #4 - Back Squats

I’m pretty sure if I haven’t already gotten my powerlifting man-card revoked, it’s definitely gone after I say this.

Not everyone is prepared to back squat on Day 1.

I know I’m not alone in this sentiment, either. Gray Cook has gone on record as saying, “train the deadlift, maintain the squat.”

I know EC is a big fan of the front squat as well – not just for himself, but for his baseball guys as well.

The bottom line is, the back squat isn’t an easy exercise to master. Does that mean we just forget about it? Absolutely not – I love squatting, and it’s actually become my favorite lift over the years.

But again, that doesn’t mean we should jump right into back squatting Day 1.

The Fix

First and foremost, get that movement foundation first.

Once you’ve got that foundation, then start to re-build your squat technique. I love goblet squats (ala Dan John) and front squats early on in a program. Not only do they lock your spine into an upright position, but they maximize and reinforce good mobility through the hips, knees and ankles.

Plus, if you’re building a rocking posterior chain with your hip hinging exercises, it’s okay to blast those quads a little bit with a really quad dominant squatting variation!

Summary

We’ve all skipped steps along the way. Unfortunately, it’s just not that easy to find an amazing performance coach when you’re young and start working with them!

However, that doesn’t mean you can ignore the facts.

If you skipped any of the steps above, now is the time to rebuild your foundation, once and for all.

And if you want someone to outline all this for you, pick up a copy of my Bulletproof Athlete program. It’s on sale this week ONLY, and I guarantee you’ll be leaner, stronger and more athletic after you finish the program.

BPA Cover Photo

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Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better: Installment 28

Here's this week's list of tips to get your nutrition and strength and conditioning programs on track.  Greg Robins took a break this week, so I'm stepping up my game and covering this installment.

1. If you always squat, try a month without squatting.

There's an old saying in the strength and conditioning field that "the best program is the one you're not on." In other words, everything works, but nothing works forever.  Squats have come under a fair amount of scrutiny over the past few years as diagnoses of femoracetabular impingement have gone sky-high and we've encountered more and more people in the general population who simply don't move well enough to squat in good form.  So, it makes sense to not shove a round peg in a square hole; at the very least, try to remove them from your strength training programs for a month here and there.

In these instances, I like to start the training session with an axially-loaded single leg exercise for 3-6 reps/side.  If you're not good in single-leg stance, start on the higher side with a lighter weight. If you're a long-time single-leg believer, though, you can really load these up:

After that, you can move on to deadlifts, barbell supine bridges/hip thrusts, or any of a number of other exercises.  The point to take away from this is that eliminated loaded squatting variations for a month here and there won't set you back.

2. Work on the squat pattern, not just the squat.

A lot of folks struggle to squat deep because they lack the ability to posteriorly shift their center of mass sufficiently.  This is particularly common in athletes with big anterior pelvic tilts and an exaggerated lordotic curve.

If you give these athletes a counterbalance out in front of their body, though, their squat patterns "clean up" very quickly.  As such, in combination with other mobility/stability drills, I like to include drills to work on the actual squat technique both during their warm-ups and as one of the last exercises in a day's strength training program.  Goblet squats and TRX overhead squats are two of my favorites:

3. Make muffins healthier.

My favorite meal is breakfast, and I know I'm not alone on this!  Unfortunately, once you get outside some of the traditional eggs and fruit choices, things can get unhealthy very quickly.  That's one reason why I'm a fan of Dave Ruel's recipe for the much healthier high protein banana and peanut butter muffins from Anabolic Cooking.  Dave has kindly agreed to let me share the recipe with you here:

Ingredients (for three muffins)
• ¾ cup oatmeal
• ¼ cup oat bran
• 1 tbsp whole wheat flour
• 6 egg whites
• ½ scoop vanilla protein powder
• ¼ tsp baking soda
• ½ tsp stevia
• 1 tbsp natural peanut butter
• 1 big banana
• ½ tsp vanilla extract
• ½ tsp banana extract

Directions
1. In a blender, mix all the ingredients (except for the banana). Blend until the mix gets thick.
2. Cut the banana in thin slices or cubes. Add the banana to the mix and stir (with a spoon or a spatula)
3. Pour the mix in a muffin cooking pan, and cook at 350°F. Until cooked (about 30 minutes).

Nutrition Facts (per muffin)
Calories: 190
Protein: 17g
Carbs: 18g
Fat: 4.5g

Quick tip: you can cook a big batch and freeze the muffins, then just microwave them when needed down the road.

Anabolic Cooking is on sale for $40 off until tonight (Friday) at midnight, so I'd encourage you to check it out and enjoy the other 200+ healthy recipes Dave includes.  My wife and I cook from this e-book all the time.

4. Dominate the back-to-wall shoulder flexion drill before you overhead press.

Whether your shoulders are perfectly structurally sound or not, overhead pressing can be a stressful activity for the shoulder girdle.  To that end, you want to make sure that you're moving well before you move overhead under load.  I like to use the back-to-wall shoulder flexion "test" as a means of determining whether someone is ready to overhead press or snatch (vertical pulling is a bit different).  Set up with your back against the wall, and your heels four inches away from the wall.  Make sure your lower back is flat against the wall, and make a double chin while keeping the back of your head against the wall.  Then, go through shoulder flexion.

If you can't get your hands to touch the wall overhead without bending the elbows, going into forward head posture, arching the back, or moving the feet away from the wall, you fail.  Also, pain during the test is a "fail," too.  Folks will fail for all different reasons - but a big chunk of the population does fail.  Fortunately, a bit of cueing and some corrective drills - and just practicing the test - will go a long way in improving this movement quality.  Hold off on the snatches and military presses in the meantime, though.

5. Drink with a straw to get better about water intake.

I always give my wife, Anna, a hard time about how little water she drinks.  She'll get busy at work and will simply forget to have a sip of water for 5-6 hours.  Other times, though, she just doesn't want to drink cold water - because it's winter in New England and she is always trying to get warm!  One quick and easy solution to the later problem is to simply drink with a straw, as water won't contact your teeth, which are obviously very cold-sensitive.  My mother gave Anna a water bottle with a straw for Christmas, and she's been much better about water consumption ever since.  Try it for yourself.

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LEARN HOW TO DEADLIFT
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