performance

Course Review: Optimizing the Big 3

A few weeks ago, I attended a seminar on optimizing the big three (bench press, squat and deadlift) at Cressey Sports Performance in Hudson, Massachusetts.  Greg Robins and Tony Bonvechhio are two smart dudes and offered a ton of value. 

Greg and Tony's seminar is geared towards the powerlifter but did a great job making this applicable to all walks of life.  I am by no means a powerlifter, yet I love to use the big three in my workouts and in my clients programming.  

The information provided gave me greater insight into the programming and cueing of these exercises.  The best part of the seminar is the hands on portion - in which we actually got to lift and get coached by both Greg, Tony and Miguel.  Getting insight into your bad habits as a lifter, as well as watching them coach several others gives you invaluable education you can't get elsewhere. 

I highly recommend anyone interested in powerlifting or weight training, whether a trainer or someone who is an avid fan of exercises - this is a must course.

Here are some take aways from the seminar:

When it comes to program design for any client, powerlifter or not, you must address the needs of the lifter.  What are the prerequisite movements to be successful at the exercise?  What limitations do the currently have?  What's their training age? etc..

Secondly, when it comes to programming the big three, there are three things we must take into consideration.

  1. They are all saggital plane movements
  2. They are all bilateral movements
  3. They are all extension based movements

Therefore, constant programming of these lifts will create postural and movement changes due to the repetitive nature and loading of these patterns

Greg and Tony talk about a great concept called "covering your basis". Due to the facts above, we address the repetitive nature of these exercises through corrective exercises and our warm-ups.

I have already been a proponent of using the warm-up to address movement concerns of the athlete at hand so this was music to my ears. Having a warm-up designed to prepare the body for the demands of that day is key to owning that session. 

Start from the ground up using a few drills to address movement concerns and prep for the major workouts of the day.  For example, work on scap stability or thoracic extension before bench press.  

Technique is the one thing as coaches that we have control over.  So not learning how to coach and cue is doing a disservice to your clients or yourself. They mention that "crappy technique puts a ceiling on your training."  This is absolutely vital. Poor technique not only puts a ceiling on training, but causes bad habits and increases chance for injury.  Learn how to coach these well, so you can set your clients and yourself up for success in the future. 

  1. Bench 
    • Bar and wrist over elbows 
    • Leg Drive 
      • If you use a flat footed stance, your leg drive is similar to pushing yourself up the bench.
      • If you prefer heels up, then your leg drive is trying to drive your feet into the ground and squeezing the bench with your thighs.
      • The leg drive serves a couple of purposes.  One, to develop more power throughout the entire body.  Two, to assist in maintaining your bar path.
    • Pull your shoulder blades into your back pockets.  This will add more passive stability to the shoulders, but also will help you maintain your thoracic extension - which is crucial to shortening the motion and maintaining bar path. 
  2. Deadlift 
    • Bar lined up over shoe strings
    • Arm pits in front of bar
    • Wedge yourself into the bar
      • What this means is that you are trying to take tension out of bar.  In order to do so you pull the weight of the bar off the floor by dropping your butt and raising your chest.  Once you feel the bars weight in your back, you know you're ready to drive through the floor.  
  3. Squat
    • Greg and Tony used two terms to describe your squat technique:
      • Don't be a stripper
      • And Don't Pop-Lock and Drop - but rather Lock, Drop and Pop
    • What this means is you don't want to arch your back on the decent.  You want to maintain a belt buckle up, ribs down posture throughout the entire set.  So, A - lock in the torso position, B - drop into the bottom of the squat and C - pop back to the top.

Another thing they mention, and I think we all forget this often, is fitness is dependent on the goal/sport at hand.  A golfer and a Cross-fitter require two very different training stimuli to reach their goal.  But does a golfer need to be crushed by a Workout of the Day (WOD) everyday in order to effectively hit a ball 300 yards down a fairway?  No, it can actually hinder their performance.  Point being, know your athlete and find their goals, and as Dan John says "keep the goal the goal."

All in all, this seminar blew away my expectations and I highly recommend you attend.  The work done at CSP is top notch and you can learn a lot from these fine gentlemen. 

Move Well, Stay Strong

 

Hinge Your Way Free of Back Pain

What's your plan of attack when your back aches? Painkillers? Stretching? Ice and heat? While these might provide temporary relief, we're missing the bigger picture if we don't address the way we move through our hips.

Often times when your back hurts it is often due to lack of stability and/or mobility at joints.  This makes sense when we review Gray Cook and Mike Boyle's joint-by-joint approach to the body.

When we look at this model we see that the body alternates segments of stability and segments of mobility.  These areas align themselves so that we can stabilize in certain areas in order to move freely in others. An example of this (not on the chart above) is learning proper scapula stability so we can enjoy all the range of motion the shoulder provides.  If the scapulae aren't stable, compensation patterns inhibit optimal movement of the shoulder joint.  

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With repetitive stresses or lack of movement over time, bodily joints have the potential to lose their inherent mobility. Once this happens the body has to compensate for this lack of motion by creating motion at the segment directly above or below.  What this ultimately does is flip-flop the order of mobility and stability.  One of the most common examples I see of this is through the loss of hip mobility.  Most people, especially those who sit at work all day lose the ability to hinge at the hips.  This loss of hip mobility causes either the lumbar spine or the knees to move excessively while moving. Whether bending over, squatting, deadlifting, or picking up your child to name a few examples, the ability for your body to maintain the joint-by-joint approach is imperative in order to prevent muscle tightness, stiffness, weakness and pain.  

Based off this information, one of the first things I assess when having a patient with low back pain is their ability to hinge.  Most often than not, their hip hinge is not up to par... and that's putting it nicely.  Even if you don't have pain, the inability to hinge from the hips will rob you of strength, power, mobility, and overall quality of life.  

Check out the video below to see some hip hinge hacks.  They will make you a better person.  

If these helpful tips helped you out, or if you just plain hated them leave me a comment below and tell me all about it!

Feel Better In 5 Minutes A Day

If I told you that in 5 minutes a day you could decrease pain, increase energy levels, and decrease stiffness in muscles and joints, would you do it?

Is this some sort of magic pill that will make you feel like you just drank from the fountain of youth? No, not quite. The "pill" I speak of is what I like to call movement variability.

Movement variability is defined as, "repetitive movement that is not repetitive" (insert confused emoticon here).  To simplify this definition, you should simply move in ways that are different than what you are currently accustomed to. 

For most people, sitting at a desk is a reoccurring stimulus on an everyday basis. For marathon runners, this repetitive movement is constant running in one direction without ever moving within any other planes of motion.  Over time as we continue to load the same patterns over and over, pain can develop due to multiple factors.  If we spent time moving with variety throughout the day it is possible that both our perception of tightness and pain can be diminished.

Here's the crazy part. 

In order to start moving and feeling better, all you need to start with is five minutes of movement.  For those of you who follow me on Instagram, you know that I love Max Shank's 5 Minute Flow.  I've done this since June and honestly feel better now than I did in my college days.  Since initiating in a daily five minute flow, I've dramatically decreased pain in my lower back. I feel much more limber and mobile throughout the day, which has boosted my confidence when lifting weights. I also feel more energized to start my day, after just five minutes of free and random movement!

Max Shank states that you should, "move for five minutes in a way that gently pushes your flexibility but keep moving.  Don't worry if you get stuck somewhere, retrace your steps while you think of the next movement.  If you're into martial arts or yoga throw your own blend of that together."

Everyone can find five minutes in their day, whether it be in the morning, during a lunch break or sometime in the evening.  If you claim to not have time to flow, you need to take a better look as to why you really are not doing this. Not having time is an underlying translation for, "I don't want to do it." Give it a chance, I promise you, in just a few days, you'll feel like you're reliving your youth.

HOW TO:

  1. Set a Timer for 5 minutes. If you have a favorite song that's exactly five minutes, use it.
  2. Find an open space where you don't have to worry about banging into tables, or having anything fall on you.
  3. Just move continuously. Do any stretches, mobility drills or yoga poses for 5 minutes straight. The only rule is to constantly move. 
  4. Commit to 30 days.  Try it for 30 days, see how you feel, and keep doing it afterwards if it makes a positive change. 

Below is a 5 minute example.  The video is time lapsed, if you would like to see a full version you can click here

Get your Joe Flow on and let me know how you feel in the comments section below.