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Warm-Up Warriors: Overboard or on Target?

“It’s cool to pee your pants”- Billy Madison (Adam Sandler)


Obviously that’s a load of B.S., it’s not cool to pee your pants, it’s probably the exact opposite of cool, it’s anything but cool, it’s totally uncool……

and that’s how I feel about warm-ups….

Seriously, they suck, they are UN-COOL. No matter how many articles I read about how awesome the foam roller is or this stretch is or that mobility drill is they all suck as far as I’m concerned. They are boring as hell and detract from time that can be spent being awesome (smashing weight, eating meat, being a costumed crime fighter)

Darth Vader + Batman + Light Saber duel= Awesome stuff which warm-ups detract from

But here’s the deal: YOU GOTTA DO THEM…ALL THE TIME, EVERYTIME, WITH A PURPOSE (you should take that last line very seriously because it was written in all caps and bold  which implies that I’m either
A. saying it quite forcefully to convey they importance
B. I’m yelling it
….and you know what, all things being equal more is probably better….I know, THAT SUCKS….

Sometimes things that are good for us suck…a lot.

Deal with it.

Waaaay too many people either skip warm-ups or do something that is half -assed and nonsensical.  Too many guys jump on the bench put 135 on the bar and press away. That’s incredibly stupid….

Yeah, it may suck but take the time and prepare your body to lift, run, jump, deliver elbows from the top rope..To parahrase weight training Yoda Jim Wendler, “I’d rather spend 30 minutes getting ready to train and have a few good lifts than jumping right in and having a shitty day”…Truth

But lately I’ve noticed there’s been a disturbance in the force. I think too many people have taken the whole “corrective exercise”, dynamic warmup, foam rolling is the cure for what ails you thing too far…

I’ve noticed more and more people  competing for the undisputed World Champion of  Warm-ups belt and not spending any meaningful time or effort actually training…. remember, that thing you warm-up for in the first place.

There are a handful of guys and girls who come into the gym and literally everytime I see them they are doing some type of warmup/ mobility/ corrective exercise….these people are in a virtual love affair with the damn foam roller.

They’re warming up to warm-up…it’s freaking disgusting.

Mind you, these are healthy capable people who sometimes actually do lift and are capable of approaching awesomeness but for some reason I think they read one too many articles by some internet Yoda and didn’t think about things for themselves. For a healthy 20 something to have a 30- 45 minute warm-up and then train like my grandmother is a serious misplacement of priorities 99% of the time…Especially when YOU CAN ACTUALLY TRAIN! i.e. SFW (Smash F*cking Weight)

Now one of my clients is going to read this and be all like, “You make me warm-up for a long time” 

My response: “Yeppers, cause you’re 50, just sat at work for the last 8 hours had knee surgery 2 years ago and only get physical activity when you see me two times a week. So ummmm, yeah your ass is gonna have a 30 minute warm-up and I’m  good with that, you should be too”…..

My personal warm-up guide goes like this (in general, every person is different):

Age:                                                 Time:
15-25                                               10 minutes
25-35                                              15 minutes
35-40                                              20 minutes
40-50                                              25 minutes
50+                                                  30 minutes

Perfect? NO

Does it seem to work pretty well? YES!

Why? Older clients tend to need more of everything in terms of tissue work (foam roller), mobility (stretches, movement drills)  and activation (band stuff, iso holds). They’ve spent a lot of their life either:

A. Being sedentary and getting locked up, tight and weak with a host of “turned off” muscles
or
B. Being a weekend warrior accumulating nagging chronic injuries, getting locked up and forming really faulty movement patterns to compensate not to mention all the F-ed up things they’ve done at the gym…think BOSU balls, Yoga backbends, group exercise in general…

So just being able to get them into a state where they can achieve the correct positions to train safely takes a couple minutes of rolling, loosening things up, moving  and turning things on. A nice side effect to these long warm-ups with older clients is they start to feel better as they loosen up and they think you’re ( I’m) a genius.

Side Note: (this is totally stolen from Mike Boyle) if a (older) client want’s to spend more time on the foam roller, warming up etc. – LET THEM…seriously, will it hurt anything? They like it because it makes them feel better…

Point being: Warm-ups are a tool, they are necessary, keep you safe and allow your training to be more awesome. Believe me, I used to be one of those just use your first lift to warm-up cause that’s all you need ass-hats and that my friends was class A jackassery.

 Get prepared to train but don’t be King of the Warm-ups at some point you have to actually lift some weights, run and jump. Let’s face it, you’re coming to the gym because you want to “correct” something be it weight, strength, body comp etc. and the fact is you’re not going to correct any of those by winning the war of the warm-ups…..

Stuff From the Web

March 21, 2012 1 comment

This post is basically a rip off of the “Good Reads” format that Ben Bruno and Tony Gentilcore do every week. I went through the interwebs this morning and found a plethora of really good articles and blog posts…

Carl Valle at EliteTrack.com discusses Peyton Manning and how posture can play a HUGE role in athletic performance.
NFL Dead Pool- Mannings Neck Watch 4

Carl’s blog over there is consistently really good, short, concise and always making a very strong, really smart point.

4 Pillars of Good Health by  Adam Bornstein.

For many people, the physical aspect is what’s lacking. We convince ourselves that being social, working, and spending time with the family supersedes the need to exercise or make smart dietary choices; but if you don’t have a healthy body, you are limiting the life you can have. It’s that simple. Everything starts with your body—but that’s not where it ends. If you spend all your time focusing on your body, you miss out on all the other aspects of life that make your time worthwhile.

 
The weather has been ridiculously nice lately so people are getting out and playing recreational sports again and wiht the spring high school sports  season hear I’m hearing about more and more clients and their kids with hamstring pulls. These are a real bitch to treat, so why not prevent them?
 
 
 
Tony’s blog might be my favorite blog on the webz and this is another example why, straight up truth. If you’re not putting your hands on your clients, you probably are not very good….just saying. People pay us because they usually are not very good at this whole training thing, and when they are pretty good they want to get better. If people like Mike Boyle, Alwyn Cosgrove, Dave Tate, and Dan John all agree that everyone, NO MATTER HOW GOOD THEY ARE, can get BETTER from hiring a good coach I’m guessing there’s value in that.
 
Point being, it’s very hard to simply get people to do what you want through verbal cues alone and everyone can get better. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said “chest up” and I get head up……but if I put my hands in someones thoracic spine and say “get tall” it works almost instantly.

Want someone to arch hard? Put your hand in their lower back.

Want them to do a lower body movement without driving the shin forward? Use your hand as a barrier.
 
 
Look at how many times Rippetoe touches this guy to get him in the right positions.
 
 
Great overview of postural problems, the why’s and how to’s to get them fixed. Go through each one, you probably need the work…help.
 
The study did not determine how common it is for women to experience exercise-induced orgasm or exercise-induced sexual pleasure. But the authors note that it took only five weeks to recruit the 370 women who experienced the phenomenon, suggesting it is not rare.
 
I’m just gonna leave it at that….

Book Review: Advances in Functional Training

Damn you Kindle your portability and way cheaper books! Damn You…..

Actually, it’s really awesome. After I finished Never let Go by Dan John, review (which was picked up and put out on Dan John’s email blast) here, I picked up Mike Boyle’s latest book Advance in Functional Training. It’s the third book Mike Boyle has put out and it is BY FAR the best.

The first book Functional Training for Sports was one of the very first books on training I ever bought and at the time a seminal “pick up and apply” book in the field. You could buy the book read it in a couple of days, understand or at least apply the concepts and you would be better off than most of the people out there. For the average guy coaching his kids team or even most high school coaches this book was probably a godsend and resulted in some kids getting a pretty good training response. But there were two problems with this book….

One: The Cover

Even coach Boyle himself has said that he wished they didn’t put that (the guy on the wobble board) on the cover because it gives a misconception of what “functional training” is actually about.

Two: The people who bought it. (It’s the one of the three most meant for the consumer market)

This book has a lot of good info in the first part of the book, warmups, exercise selections, progressions, how to set up a program etc. Actually, that’s most of the book. But in the last little part there are actual EXAMPLE programs.

There in lies the problem, parents and coaches. I helped out with some area hockey teams a few years ago and literally in both situations I was given what they were currently doing for a training program it was straight out of the back of the book. Literally, exercise for exercise, rep for rep, set for set…exactly the same only with a different team name at the top.

How could two organizations with different levels and ages of players use exactly the same protocol? Seems strange to me too. Fact was, no one ever read the book, they went straight to the back and pulled an EXAMPLE workout. Never mind assessment or progression….

Book two, Designing Strength Training Programs and Facilities was not geared toward the average person. It’s really good information (although a little old now) especially on the design end.

The book I just finished Advances in Functional Training is the newest and best of the three. This book is a comprehensive overview of what they do at MBSC (Mike Boyle Strength and Conditioning). It goes over every aspect of the training process from assessments, warmups, progressions, to entire program templates.

The best part of this book is the rationalization that coach Boyle provides for everything. I can’t think of any part of the programming that is not thought out. It’s obvious that the programming is different from what he was doing when Functional Training or Designing Programs was printed.In many cases throughout the book Boyle explains why they have changed the programming. Typically it goes something like this, “we changed because Gray Cook, Stuart McGill, Shirley Sahrmann did research and said this was better, I thought about it and it made sense, we tried it and it worked”…..

As far as I’m concerned that’s pretty good reasoning.

Basically this book comes down to this:

To me, function is essentially purpose. Functional training can therefore be described as purposeful training……..What functional training really comes down to is the application of functional anatomy to training. It is taking what we know and using that information to select exercises to reduce the incidence of injury and improve performance.

This book has a wealth of information in it from start till finish…in fact I think it may be the best Strength and Conditioning book I’ve bought in the last 2-3 years. The chapters on injuries, the core and the hips are PACKED with information which would cover the cost of the book by themselves. It’s far too expansive to cover every aspect here but take my word, if you design programs and train people you’ll pick up lots of useful strategies and progressions as well as seriously question some of your current exercise selections and program designs.

Things like:

Why brace vs. draw in
brace (mostly)

Why single leg exercises.
Less back compression. works the intrinsic musculature more (injury prevention)

What are the common dysfunctions and causes of injuries.
Tight hips, under active glutes, locked up thoracic spine = bad back 

How to group training means (exercise selection) and plan out a training week.
Hip vs. Knee dominant, pulling and pressing, CNS intensive training 

What to assess and more importantly what that assessment means for training.
FMS, where to start athletes with poor scores quadruped, tall kneeling etc..

Equipment choices: best bang for the buck.
Trx, slideboards, sleds etc.. 

It’s $10 for the Kindle @ Amazon. Go buy it.

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…..