Home Posts tagged "Strength Training" (Page 9)

Shoulders: Front Squats or Back Squats

Q: In regards to shoulder injuries, do front squats place less stress on the shoulder than back squats? A: This would depend on the shoulder injury in question. For people with typical impingement problems, the back squat position puts them in the at-risk position (abduction + external rotation). So, for them, the front squat set-up is much better. For people with acromioclavicular (AC) joint problems, the bar position on the front squat will put some really uncomfortable pressure directly on the AC joint. They'll handle back squatting a bit better. So, I guess the answer - as always - is "it depends." Eric Cressey
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Maki Riddington: Why Nap?

The Eric Cressey Blog welcomes a guest entry by Maki Riddington: Even though we spend a third of our lives sleeping, scientists are still trying to learn exactly why people need sleep. In animal studies it has been shown that sleep is necessary for survival. For example, while rats normally live for two to three years, those deprived of REM sleep survive only about 5 weeks on average, and rats deprived of all sleep stages live only about 3 weeks. In humans, those who had been deprived of just one night’s sleep were shown to have a reduction in mental exertion. In real life situations, the consequences of being sleep-deprived are grave. Some speculation has linked sleep-deprivation to certain international disasters such as the Exxon Valdez oil-spill, Chernobyl, Three Mile Island and the Challenger shuttle explosion. Taking this into the gym can mean that the ability to concentrate and focus can become compromised which means less of an effort and intensity in the workout (9). Hopefully it’s not leg day. Athletes who suffer from sleep-deprivation have been shown to see a decrease in cardiovascular performance (10), that is, their time to exhaustion is quicker. Sleep-deprivation in studies has been shown to occur around 30-72 hours. For an athlete who has a full course-load, studies, mid terms, and trains, sleep-deprivation can accumulate very rapidly. Another study looked at cortisol and performance levels after staying up for an 8-hour period overnight. Performance declined and cortisol levels increased. For someone looking to pack on muscle and increase strength, this is bad news since the main focus is to minimize cortisol release since it is a catabolic hormone (11). From a fat loss perspective, sleep deprivation can impair fat loss through a decrease in levels of the satiety hormone leptin, and increases in the hunger hormone ghrelin. According to Dr. Van Cauter a professor of medicine at the university of Chicago, “One of the first consequences of sleeplessness is appetite dysregulation.” “Essentially, the accelerator for hunger [ghrelin] is pushed and the brake for satiety [leptin] is released.” “The leptin levels are screaming ‘More food! More food!’” What this means is that the hormone leptin is responsible for telling the body when it is full. However, with decreased production of this hormone, the body will crave calories (especially in the form of carbs) even though its requirements have been met. For someone trying to diet, good luck! Voluntarily sleeping less than 6 hours per night has been associated with an increased incidence of impaired glucose tolerance, according to a cohort analysis of the Sleep Heart Health Study (SHHS) reported in the Archives of Internal Medicine. (12) This may mean that a chronic lack of sleep can impair glucose tolerance, which can make body recomposition a difficult task. Most people have a hard enough time trying to regulate their carbohydrates and time them so that the body metabolizes them efficiently. So, if you’re getting the required 8 hours of sleep, are you ok? Well, if this sleep is broken up, then its value decreases as the sleep cycle is interrupted. Deep sleep appears to be connected with the release of growth hormones in young adults. Many of the body's cells also show increased production and reduced breakdown of proteins during deep sleep. Since proteins are the building blocks needed for cell growth and for repairing bodily stress (muscle damage from strength training), uninterrupted deep sleep plays an important role in recovery and regeneration of the body. Finally, adequate sleep and a properly functioning immune system are closely related. Sleep-deprivation compromises the immune system by altering the blood levels of specialized immune cells and important proteins called cytokines. These chemical messengers instruct other immune cells to go into action. As a result of being compromised, greater than normal chances of infections are likely to occur. And we all know that being sick can be a big setback both in and out of the gym. Maki Riddington
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Talking Shop: Nick Grantham Part 2

EC: Speaking of sinking ships, where are most athletes missing the boat? What common mistakes do you see all the time?
NG: Don’t get me started or we will be here all day! I will try to keep it brief and give you my top three: 1. Lack of consistency – So many people want a quick fix and want to see results yesterday. Newsflash: it takes time. I’m sure we are all familiar with the general rule of 10,000 hours of correct, progressive and adaptive training to be a successful athlete at the elite level. Okay, so some of you may argue that not everyone will be operating at an elite level, but the general rule still applies; you need to do your time before you can expect to get some payback. There are no shortcuts and one of my favorite quotes is “The only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary.” Think about it! 2. Being too clever - People trying to be too clever and thinking that innovation should always mean advances in technology or the like. Sometimes, innovation can be adopting a very simple approach. I was recently listening to Vern Gambetta speak and he summed it up with this quote: “Everyone is looking for the 2% that is going to make a difference – but what about the other 98%?” All too often, we worry about the small things when we don’t even have the basics under control. You have no right to be doing the clever stuff until your have the 98% covered – and don’t forget it has to be done consistently. I think your Magnificent Mobility DVD is a great example of taking care of the 98%. Please don’t be offended, but what you deliver is a simple-to-use resource. The content is proven, it’s not fancy, it’s not clever, and you don’t need the latest piece of kit to perform the drills. It takes care of the basics – that’s what will boost performance. 3. Poor Recovery – It’s all about training and what takes place during the 1-2 hour training session. The majority of people neglect what happens during the other 22 hours! You don’t improve from training; you improve by recovering from training. This is an area that I’ve been looking at for the past 18 months and I guarantee that if you take care of the fundamental rules of recovery you will see your performances in the gym and in your sport go through the roof. I’ve recently pulled together a heap of recovery information into a single training manual and I’ve put together the “recovery pyramid” that guides you through the myriad of different recovery strategies available. For more details, check out www.recoveryregeneration.com.
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Don’t Be So Linear

Got to any gym, and you’ll see loads of people doing cardio at varying intensities, with different machines, listening to different music, and wearing different exercise sneakers. While they each appear unique, the reality is that they’re all stuck in linear movements that always have them moving forward. Take any of these people off their precious ellipticals, treadmills, and recumbent bikes, and you’ll find that they lack frontal and transverse plane stability and carry their weight anteriorly. The solution is pretty simple; get them moving in different ways! The first step is to include some single-leg work in all exercise programming. This does NOT include unilateral leg presses and Smith machine lunges; you should actually be doing some of the stabilization work! Second, make sure that you’re training movements that require full hip flexion (knees get above 90 degrees) and hip extension (glutes fire to complete hip extension). Sprinting meets these guidelines very easy, but cardio equipment that limits range of motion will always fall short. I’m not saying that they don’t have their place; I’m just saying that I’d rather have people outside doing sprints and multi-directional work instead. Third, and most importantly incorporate more backwards and lateral movement in your energy systems work. Here’s an example that I used with an online consulting client of mine recently: Dynamic Flexibility Warm-up The following should be performed in circuit fashion with the designated rest intervals from below incorporated between each drill. A1) High Knee Run: 20 yards A2) Butt Kicks: 20 yards A3) Backpedal: 20 yards A4) Carioca: 20 yards to the right A5) Carioca: 20 yards to the left A6) Side Shuffle: 20 yards to the right A7) Side Shuffle: 20 yards to the left A8) Backpedal: 20 yards A9) Scap Push-up: 15 reps A10) Sprint: 50 yards Week 1: 3 times through, Rest interval: 15s between drills, two minutes between sets Week 2: 3 times through, Rest interval: 10s between drills, two minutes between sets Week 3: 4 times through, Rest interval: 10s between drills, two minutes between sets Week 4: 2 times through, Rest interval: 5s between drills, two minutes between sets Eric Cressey Improved Posture is Not Only Good for your Health, but also good for your Performance.
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Reconsider Your Single-Leg Training Approach

I get a lot of questions about whether single-leg exercises are quad-dominant or hip dominant and where to place them in training programs. After chatting more with Mike Boyle and considering how I’ve approached it in the past, I’ve realized that if you categorize things the way Mike does, you have a lot of “wiggle room” with your programming to fit more of it in. Mike separates his single-leg work into three categories: 1. Static Unsupported – 1-leg squats (Pistols), 1-leg SLDLs 2. Static Supported – Bulgarian Split Squats 3. Dynamic – Lunges, Step-ups From there, you can also divide single-leg movements into decelerative (forward lunging) and accelerative (slideboard work, reverse lunges). I’ve found that accelerative movements are most effective early progressions after lower extremity injuries (less stress on the knee joint). I think that it’s ideal for everyone to aim to get at least one of each of the three options in each week. If one needed to be sacrificed, it would be static supported. Because static unsupported aren’t generally loaded as heavily and don’t cause as much delayed onset muscle soreness, they can often be thrown in on upper body days. Here are some sample splits you might want to try: 3-day M – Include static supported (50/50 upper/lower exercise selection) W – Include static unsupported (only lower body exercise) F – Include dynamic (50/50 upper/lower exercise selection) Notice how the most stressful/DOMS-inducing option is placed prior to the longest recovery period (the weekend of rest). 4-day M – Include static supported in lower-body training session. W – Include static unsupported (only lower body exercise in otherwise upper body session) F – Include dynamic in lower-body training session Sa – Upper body workout, no single-leg work outside of warm-up and unloaded prehab work Be sure to switch exercises and rotate decelerative/accelerative every four weeks. Eric Cressey See How This Fits Into Your Upcoming Season
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Axe the Smith Machine

Q: Many members have complained about the thought of getting rid of the Smith Machine in our gym and replacing it with a power rack. If you wouldn't mind giving me some ammo (arguments) to shoot them down , I’d really appreciate it.
A: 1. The Smith Machine offers less transfer to the real-world than free weight exercises. 2. Depending on the movement, the shearing forces on the knees and lumbar spine are increased by the fixed line of motion. 3. The lifter conforms to the machine, and not vice versa. Human motion is dependent on subtle adjustments to joint angle positioning; the body will always want to compensate in the most advantageous position possible. Fix the feet and fix the bar, and the only ways to get this compensation are inappropriate knee tracking and, more dangerously, loss of the neutral spine position. 4. Smith machines are generally more expensive. I suspect that you could get a regular coat rack for about $2K cheaper – and it would take up less space. Eric Cressey
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Guilty: Femoral Anterior Glide Syndrome

Q: I've been getting a bit of pain in the front of my hips when squatting. I'm not sure whether it's the hips flexors or something else. Squats with a stance around shoulder width are fine, as are any hip flexor exercises that work my legs in line with my body. It's only when I squat with a slightly wider stance or do overhead squats that my hips are bothered. It's only when I do leg raises with my legs apart, making a “Y” shape with my body, that I really feel the irritated muscle working. Although these do seem to help it rather than cause it pain. Do you have any idea what this could be? Or, tips on how to strengthen the area to avoid it? Thanks for any insight you can offer.
A: Femoral anterior glide syndrome is a classic problem in people with poor lumbo-pelvic function (overactive hamstrings and lumbar erectors coupled with weak glutes). The hamstrings don’t exert any direct control over the femur during hip extension; their distal attachments are all below the knee. So, as you extend the hip, there is no direct control over the head of the femur, and it can slide forward, irritating the anterior joint capsule. This will give a feeling of tightness and irritation, but stretching the area will actually irritate it even more. The secret is to eliminate problematic exercises for the short-term, and in the meantime, focus on glute activation drills. The gluteus maximus exerts a posterior pull on the femoral head during hip extension, so if it’s firing to counteract that anterior glide caused by the humerus, you’re golden. We outline several excellent drills in our Magnificent Mobility DVD; when handled correctly, you should see almost complete reduction of symptoms within a week. Lastly, make sure that you're popping your hips through and CONSCIOUSLY activating your butt on all squats, deadlifts, good mornings, pull-throughs, etc. Incorporate some single-leg work as well. For now, though, keep your stance in for a few weeks, stay away from box squatting, and get some foam rolling done on your adductors, quads, hip flexors, ITB/TFL, and piriformis. Eric Cressey

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Cressey’s Take: Static Stretching

Q: What’s your take on frequency of static stretching? Is it "the more, the better"? More or less, how many days per week would be a good idea? A: In a nutshell... 1) I'm not as huge an advocate of stretching as I used to be, but I still think people need to do it – especially those who sit at computers all day. 2) Activation work and dynamic flexibility drills are ten times as valuable as static stretching. I’d rather do 6-8 mobilizations than a 12-15 second static stretch. 3) More people need to pay attention to soft-tissue work. Many times, muscles will just feel tight because they’re so knotted up. It's not just about soft tissue length anymore; it's about quality, too. You can check out my article The Joint Health Checklist for details. 4) My clients do 2-3 static stretches pre-training at the very most (only chronically overactive muscles), and the rest are at other times of the day. We’ll include some static stretching of non-working musculature during training in between sets just to improve training economy. 5) Stretching daily has helped a lot of my clients improve faster, but I think that they've come along almost just as well with pure activation and mobilization work (we do both). Eric Cressey Step-By-Step What It Takes to Become a Superior Athlete
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Weekend Warriors: The Off-Season

Q: Eric, I have a question about your Ultimate Off-Season Training Manual. Knowing who wrote this manual, I know that it's going to be a great product! I realize that this would be geared more towards the high performance athlete, but could the "Weekend Warrior" realistically utilize this manual?
A: Good question - and I've actually received the same inquiry from a few people now. Here's my (admittedly-biased) take on things: If you've read stuff from Mike Robertson, Alwyn Cosgrove, Kelly Baggett, and me (among a few others), I hope one message you've taken away from the articles is that the ordinary weekend warrior would be a lot better off if he'd train more like an athlete. The strength work athletes do helps you move bigger weights and build more muscle while burning more calories to stay lean. The movement training keeps you functional and helps you with energy system work to keep your body composition in check. The mobility work keeps you healthy and functional so that you can stand up to all the challenges in your training programs without getting injured. This manual shows you how all those pieces fit together at different times of year, and it also provides a lot of "stuff you just ought to know" if you train. Another cool thing is that you'll actually start to watch sports on TV in a different light; you'll begin to pick up on the little things that make each athlete unique. And, if all that isn't enough, you've got 30 weeks of sample programming to keep things interesting! Again, great question! Eric Cressey
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Training and Coaching

Competing has completely changed me as a coach and a writer; I never realized how much better I am at what I do when I share a competitive mindset with my athletes. My decision to compete was one of the wisest choices I ever made. In fact, this decision had such profound implications that I think I could go on all day. However, a few things that I have come to appreciate in a whole new light: 1. Planned overreaching is tremendously valuable when used correctly. 2. You need to appropriately schedule back-off/regeneration phases. 3. Success rests with attention to detail. Imagine putting in an entire 12-week training cycle and then bombing out because your squat technique was off on just one day…this hasn’t happened to me, but it does happen. 4. Train for performance, eat clean, and things will almost always fall into place. I couldn’t care less about “the pump” anymore. 5. Attitude is the single-most important factor that determines your success or lack thereof. I’ll take a guy with a great attitude on a garbage program over someone with a lousy attitude and the best program in the world anyday. 6. The value of a good training crew cannot be overstated. It changes your attitude completely. They pick you up when you’re dragging, and you do the same for them. They pick up on the little things that make the big differences and help you get personal bests when you don’t realize you have them in you. I could go on all day, but you get the point. If you don’t have a goal, it’s hard to view exercise as anything more than “working out.” Anybody can “work out;” you need to train. Eric Cressey
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