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Never Let Go- I read that sh*t

February 22, 2012 2 comments

A client got me a Kindle for Christmas and I must say this thing is an impressive little device.

Any who, when Dan Johns book Never Let Go became a Kindle freebie a couple of weeks ago I snatched it up. (It’s $10 now, but still worth it). Now this bad boy is long, 418 pages but it’s a really easy read and every article/ story is really good. They’re mostly reprinted, old articles, from T-nation.com, in fact I had already read most of them but after reading them again I’m reminded of how  easy it is to forget things we “know”.

Here’s a quick synopsis of the book:

  • Learn and do the basics: Squat, deadlift, clean, bench…you know the stuff they judge to be unacceptable at the “Judgement Free Zone”.
  • Lift HARD consistently, it takes time, repetition, practice to get “good”.
  • When you work, WORK, when you rest, REST…Make the highs high and Lows low.
  • If it’s important do it….. EVERYDAY
  • Everything works….for about 6 weeks, then things have to change
  • Training systems and fads come and go….the basics always stay

See, stuff we already knew, just need to be reminded of sometimes and it only took 400 pages for this genius to do it.

If you have a Kindle and you’re into lifting, spend the $10, you’ll get your investment back and more.

Why Everyone Learns to Squat

February 17, 2012 Leave a comment

Virtually (not always if they don’t stick around long enough) every client I train learns to squat. We’re talking 90% or better, obviously I think it’s important. So I was caught off guard a little this week when I got hit with this gem  by a “fitness professional” none the less (paraphrasing):

“You know, you should only have experienced athletes squat because it’s bad for the back and knees and it’s non functional. I went to a seminar and learned there’s just too much spinal compression to justify using it.”

at first I was in disbelief for these reasons:

  • I just met this person an hour before.
  • they told me every fallacy attached to the exercise in 2 sentences.
  • my client was using body weight.
  • she, “fitness professional”, clearly hadn’t been informed of my reputation and wasn’t prepared for the forthcoming Bruce Lee style flying dragon kick that was targeted for her face.

Let’s get through this one by one.

Only “experience athletes”, what the hell does that mean? Define that. What qualifies as experienced and who decides?

I don’t have a definition either, but here’s how this works.

If YOU make a claim YOU need to provide EVIDENCE to back it up..it’s on the ACCUSER not the ACCUSED to prove the point. So yeah, I don’t have a definition but I’m not pushing jackassery either.

First Strawman….DEAD

Bad for the back: Really, how so? Have anything to back that up?

I’mmmmm guessssing….ummmmm, no. But I do, Mcgill, Reinold, Contreras.

Here’s the deal in short. Some spines can take compression, some can’t, the amount of force is individual and depends on their individual level of tolerance. There are no blanket tolerances.

observe the client who transitions to laying on the floor by using a deep squat – this overloads their back. Squatting is appropriate for getting off a toilet or chair but not for dropping to the floor. Instead a lunge that does not bend the spinal discs is a much more appropriate choice. Again, this builds capacity for them to accomplish more in their training session with you- McGill

It’s about the individual and the type of squat performed ass-hat, Yoda  didn’t teach you that this weekend at certified jackassery did he?

But hey, you got a certificate!

The whole “squats are bad for the knees” thing. I was hoping that was dead too. Simple answer:

They are not.

Your knees are meant to bend. People hurt their knees and backs, for that matter, when squatting because they don’t hinge the hips and lack hip/ ankle mobility as well as  thoracic spine mobility.

When you squat the load should be on the hips not the knees. If you’re not hinging the hips, sitting back, keeping tension through the posterior chain, chest up, bar tight etc, etc, etc, you’re not squatting….it’s that simple.

Squats don’t hurt the knees (for the vast majority of people) poor technique hurts your knees.

Stop blaming certain exercises for poor technique and bad coaching…..it’s not Ford motor company’s fault you got into those accidents, it’s YOUR’S….it’s not the tools it is the carpenter

place the blame where it belongs.

Non- Functional…I hate this term, “functional”, it’s become bastardized so much. It used to mean working out so you were better at real world tasks. Now it means all types of crap….

Here’s how functional squatting is….

Don't pop that squat...It's not functional!

That’s really why everyone learns to squat.

Yeah, it teaches good hip mechanics and how to distribute weight across the hip, knee, ankle and drive from the heels and keep the knees out and all that good stuff and more but mostly everyone learns it because everyone poops!
Think about how many times we sit down and get up in a day….Don’t you think it’s important to at least learn how to do it best? I do, so “fitness professional” who learned everything she knows from a weekend Yoda at a certification, I’m still teaching people to squat. I know Yoda wants you to stand up to take a crap but me and my clients ain’t doing that…..We’re gonna be all “non-functional” and clean and stuff and drop the deuce sitting down…..

Awesome article on how to be a Yoda from Bret Contreras- How to become a fitness guru in 25 easy steps.

FitnessTerms I Wish Would Die

February 14, 2012 Leave a comment

Every profession (and I’m using that term loosely in reference to my own) has terms, sayings, whatever, that make people in that profession cringe every time they hear them. These are mostly made up pseudo science terms that have a BS definition. Sometimes these are real scientific terms that are bastardized to mean something  other than what they actually mean, in the rest of the world.

Honorable Mention: Momentum

Momentum as used in “fitness”- think Planet Fitness, no more than a 50lbs dumbbells we don’t judge unless you unless you dead lift, grunt or try to do anything worthwhile, in which case you don’t fit our mold and we judge you to be a “Lunk”. Don’t believe me:

So yeah, they are “Judgment free” as long as you don’t do stereotypical “meat head” things…but totally judgement free for everyone else.

Any way one of the most frequent things you’ll hear from the patrons and staff from this type of establishment is some variation of the following, “You should lift the weights slowly so as not to use momentum“.

Could you define momentum? Do you even know what this means?

I can and do, because of this thing called…..Physics….: Momentum:  Mass X Velocity

So if I have an object , lets say, ohh….. I don’t know……. a barbell………that can be the mass

and I move the barbell so it has a speed of movement or velocity that kids is MOMENTUMMomentum is essentially mass in motion…

So Einstein, it’s pretty obvious that every time we move a weight we are using momentum…we don’t have a choice in the matter. We “use” momentum EVERYTIME we create any movement what-so ever….

First Runner Up: Intensity

Ever hear this before, “We work at a high intensity in boot camp” or “that was an intense workout”?…

I’m sure you have and we all know what it means…but it’s (usually) wrong…just flat out wrong.

Why?????

Because exercise intensity is a measure of  your maximum ability. It’s a numerical percentage, not a feeling.

If you go for a run at and your heart rate averages 150bpm (beats per minute) and your max heart rate is 200bpm your intensity was 75%

150/ 200= .75……75% 

If your maximum bench press is 315lbs and you bench press 225lbs for 1 rep you worked at an intensity of 71%

225/315= .71……71%

If you come back and bench 225 for 3 reps on the next set your intensity is?????

THE SAME

It’s the same damnit..it’s not more intense because it was harder. You performed the exercise at the SAME intensity, just did more work.

So called “high intensity training” programs where you do the “perfect rep” in a slow and controlled fashion often claim to be “more intense” (and they say that whole “we don’t use momentum to lift the weights jack-assery too)..but the godfather of powerlifting and one of the legitimate Yoda’s out there, Louie Simmons, dispelled this in his article Hit…or Miss

First let’s look at the concept of intensity.  Apparently H.I.T. views it as a feeling, like a pump, a term bodybuilders made popular.  Is it a scientific term?  No.- Louie Simmons

Intensity is about percentages, numbers, math….not feelings.

Runner Up: Tone

“I just want to Tone up” ……”This insert jack ass thing on a bosu ball will Tone your core”

Ohhhhhhhhh, reaaaaaaaaaally?

Tone, how it’s commonly used in this bizz is made up. You cannot lift  3 sets of 10 with 5lbs weights and “tone” up a muscle.

Tone comes from the actual (read used in science and has a universal understanding) Tonus. Which is essentially the electrophysiological state of a muscle. The continuous, involuntary, firing of neurons at a low-level to keep the muscle ready to do work. Tone, in a scientific sense is what keeps us upright and our hearts beating.

It has NOTHING to do with how the muscle appears.

Mark Rippetoe described this disconnect in Practical Programming:

The modern fitness industry’s concept of “toning” muscles is specious—it might sound cool, but it lacks any tangible and definable meaning. The term “muscle tone” or tonus describes an electrophysiological phenomenon, a measure of ionic flow across muscle cell membranes. It can be thought of as the muscle’s readiness to do anaerobic work. The more fit the muscle, the more electrophysiological activity it exhibits at rest. Lack of exercise leads to poor tone, aerobic exercise improves tone a little bit, low-intensity weight training improves tone more, and high-intensity training improves tone the fastest.

Lets use a visual comparison: Kim K. vs. Marissa Miller vs. Jessica Biel

 
 

OK, so first things first, this is not a “which is better” comparison. They all look really good in a bikini (probably because they get paid lots of cash to look that way, but I digress) we know this. Point is, what is “Tone“?

Kim obviously is a little softer than the other two, she has more body fat and  probably less muscle than Marisa, but definitely less than Jess.

Marisa is the skinniest of the group and probably has the lowest body fat and is second in muscle.

Jess obviously has the most muscle of the three and probably is in the middle in terms of body fat.

So what is “Tone“?

In physiological terms Jess, having the most muscle is probably also the strongest and has the best muscle tonuselectrophysiological activity across the muscle cell membranes. But is she the most “Toned” in fitness terms?

I’m guessing most would answer no, Marisa is.

Now, if Kim were to simply stay at her current body fat level and workout some her muscles would get harder because of increased TONUS– more activity across them. But would she look like Marisa?

Obviously not….Why?

Her body fat would be too high to uncover the harder muscles…..

So what does this little experiment tell us? TONE doesn’t mean jack….stuff is made up.

It’s not about who has the most muscle or fat or whatever…it’s about a combination of the two.

If you’re looking for fitness style “Tone” you must do some combination of gaining muscle and losing fat. It’s not a magical process that happens to your muscle just because you began to exercise.

Finally we make our way to the nights GRAND CHAMPION!

Grand Champion of Horrible fitness terminology: Muscle Confusion

Let’s just throw this out there, the term “muscle confusion” is totally “as seen on TV” made up bullshit…

where "muscle confusion" comes from

It is in NO WAY a scientific term. It was made up to sell a product, and now it’s in the lexicon. People, in this business even, use this and think they sound smart. Do some quick searches in Pubmed or  Google Scholar for “Muscle Confusion” you’ll find a whole lot of :

Nothing 

Ohh wait, here’s a nice…. ADVERTISEMENT! ………….Yea for truth!…

There is no SCIENCE behind it!...Just sales..

Here’s a clue muscles don’t get confused people.

They only know length and tension, they don’t have brains with intelligence and critical thinking skills to be confused. They don’t decide…only do.

When new physical tasks are difficult it’s not because you “confused” the muscle, it’s because the task was one of the following:

  • A new movement pattern, the BRAIN must learn to coordinate these new muscle actions.
  • An overload pattern: more tension, time under tension, speed of movement, energy system, etc.

Not because the muscle was somehow “confused”. You may have been, your muscles were not.

If you work in the bizz of training people, please either STOP using these terms or use them correctly…and if you hear your local, I went to a two-day certification this week so now I’m an expert trainer at the local Globo gym say these…stay away, very far away.

Geezers, Get up and lift a damn weight..

February 7, 2012 Leave a comment

During my undergraduate education the dogma of the day regarding exercise and aging went something like this, “When you get old you will lose all your muscle and die”.

Well not quite. maybe it was more like, “When you get old you should do “weight bearing” exercise to maintain muscle mass, but you’ll lose all our muscle eventually anyway, become a invalid and die small and weak, as a gelatinous mound of carbon/ protein based goop”.

Well guess what 1980 exercise we like aerobics class, cause 10lbs dumbbell curls do something Yoda’s…You are dead wrong…again….

Yoda. You should really do some "weight bearing" exercise. Like gardening!

I covered why you geezers should be lifting heavy weights before: Geezers are (Strong) People too. So I’m not going to belabor the point but, hat tip Sweat Science, look at these images…FYI the white in the image is non muscle- bone, fat. The dark areas are muscle tissue.

 The leg of a chronically (continuously) trained 70 year  old triathlete looks almost identical to the upper leg of a 40 year old chronically trained triathlete. 

The full paper: Chronic Exercise Preserves Lean Muscle Mass in Masters Athletes

Here are the best excerpts:

It is commonly believed that with aging comes an inevitable decline from vitality to frailty….These declines may have more to do with lifestyle choices, including sedentary living and poor nutrition, that the absolute potential of musculoskeletal aging.

Followed up with:

we are capable of preserving both muscle mass and strength with lifelong physical activity.

So basically it’s YOUR  FAULT if you become a little old geezer, don’t want others to take care of you physically when you hit retirement and beyond? …Get up and do something…EVERYDAY….

It doesn’t have to happen unless YOU ALLOW IT TO HAPPEN…..

Groundhog Day Training. Think Bill Murray, or doing the same damn thing all the time.

February 2, 2012 Leave a comment
 

Groundhog day, the Bill Murray movie, not the actual “holiday” that centers around Punxsutawney Phil, describes most gym goers workouts…… metaphorically speaking that is.

 

Many people do, the same thing day after day. Basically they heard something, somewhere, and decided that X,Y,Z was the ticket and eventually, if they bang their head into the wall hard enough, a magical switch will take place and they’ll be in great shape all of a sudden.

Never mind that Albert Einstein guy:

Think about it, how many people get on the treadmill everyday and run their ass off, at the same pace, in hopes of a better body but never get anywhere? Or worse that damn elliptical prancing along like a pony?

Trust me on this one, it’s a lot.

Usually here is the scenario. They hear (on TV or in a magazine) they should add some “weight training” and that’s the magic secret. So people start doing some easy (see ridiculously light and ineffective read: useless) exercises (tricep kickbacks, sumo squats with a dumbbell, squats with a physioball ball on the wall or some other jack-assery) convinced that those are what they are looking for and they have found the Willy Wonka Golden ticket.

So they do the same exercises in the same order with the same weight for the same 3 sets of 10 ….and they keep it up until the next insert fitness meme of the moment BIG thing that convinces them otherwise and things don’t change.

This is why so many newbie personal trainers talk about “periodization“…which I covered towards the end of this post, Wired or Tired. The only problem is they follow-up the term periodization with the phrase, “Change it up”…which makes me cry, (and shows you that they have no idea what they are talking about, because just “changing things up” is not the purpose of a periodized program in the first place). But at least they realize that the body adapts to the stress on it and improvement stops.

Think about your program for a minute. When was the last time it changed? How did it change?…Exercises? Reps, Sets, Weight on the bar, Frequency? What changed? Did you work harder in any way? Improve in any way?

Not everything has to change for a new stress to be placed on the body. Look at programs like the Starting Strength, or Bill Starr 5×5. They don’t even change the damn exercises…EVER. But if you do them you get hell-a strong because they do change the weight on the bar and reps completed in a workout with that weight as you progress. These programs essentially self-periodize, as you complete a new level of performance you earn the right to progress to the next…they sure as hell just don’t randomly “change it up” because random programming leads to random results…every time.

Bill Starr, originator of the 5x5

So if you are akin to Bill Murray and can’t seem to get Andie MacDowell to fall in love with you in one day, or for the less initiated among us get in shape, you should pick out some BIG exercises. Things like Squats, Lunges, Deadlifts, Pushups, Pullups, Bench presses etc..Exercises that take lots of muscles working together to complete, and make those the foundation of your program. These are your BIG ROCKS…the most important exercises. Things like bicep curls, triceps extensions, leg extensions (which suck BIG TIME by the way) should be your little rocks, not really that important but you can do them if you want. I totally stole the Big Rocks, Little Rocks thing from Mike Boyle. Focus on the BIG rocks and progressing and things will fall into place.   

Here’s a good beginner progression:

1a) Squat: Stick with same weight until 3 sets of 5 are completed, then add 5 pounds and start again
1b) Pushups: as many as possible per set

2a) Inverted Rows: as many as possible per set
2b) Bulgarian Split Squat: add 2 reps per session until 12 per set are completed. Then change exercise to something similar like a lunge or reverse lunge or add weight and start over at sets of 6 reps.

Planned out it looks like this:

Day 1:
1a) Squat: 3×5 @ 135 (actual 2×5, 1×3)
1b) Pushups: 2x AMAP

2a) Inverted Row: 2x AMAP
2b) BSS: 2×6

Day 2:
1a) Squat: 3×5 @135 (actual 2×5, 1×4)
1b) Pushups: 2x AMAP

2a) Inverted Row: 2x AMAP
2b) BSS: 2×8

Day 3:
1a) Squat: 3×5 @135 (actual 2×5, 1×4)
1b) Pushups: 2x AMAP

2a) Inverted Row: 2x AMAP
2b) BSS: 2×10

Day 4:
1a) Squat: 3×5 @135 (actual 3×5 add 5lbs next time)
1b) Pushups: 2x AMAP

2a) Inverted Row: 2x AMAP
2b) BSS: 2×12

Phase 2:
Day 1:
1a) Squat: 3×5 @140 (actual 1×5, 2×3) LOOK I CHANGED THE WEIGHT!!
1b) Pushups: 2x AMAP

2a) Inverted Row: 2x AMAP
2b) Reverse Lunge: 2×6 LOOK I CHANGED THE EXERCISE!!

Get the picture? Stagnation is bad, change is good, but you don’t need Extreme Makeover every month, just need to get the hell out of Punxsutawney PA.