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Attention Faithful Blogreaders,

I’m switching from http://www.BretContreras.Wordpress.com to http://www.BretContreras.com. In about a week I’ll just automatically redirect traffic from the old site to the new site, but I thought I’d give people some time to update their bookmarks and the like.

On the new site, I’m offering a free 17-page report on the glutes, so definitely check it out! This report provides some good information as well as two pictures of the “Glute Girl of the Year.” Her name is Allie Daniels, she’s a Canadian Fitness Model, and her booty is quite the spectacle.

So head on over to www.BretContreras.com and check out the new site. It’s just a fancier version of the old site but I really like it.

-Bret

 

Allie Daniels: Glute Girl of the Year 2010

If you’re an intelligent strength coach, then chances are you can relate to this article. In training athletes over the past several years, I’ve been very surprised by some of the stupid things that coaches do with their athletes. I’m also constantly amazed at things that former strength coaches have done with some of the athletes I’ve trained. Here are ten stupid things that coaches and strength coaches do with their athletes:

1. Exercise as Punishment

Strength coaches and coaches are supposed to have their programs planned ahead of time. There are many effective ways to plan and periodize programs, and a good coach prescribes the optimal amount of volume and intensity to yield the specific training effect. If on any given day a coach decides to punish his or her athletes with copious amounts of push ups, up-downs, stadiums, or jogging, then that coach doesn’t know what in the hell he or she is doing. If the coach has these “punishments” strategically built into the session in advance, then that’s a little bit better than just “winging it,” but here are three reasons why this strategy is detrimental to the athlete: 

  1. You don’t want athletes fearing exercise. You want them to enjoy training. Punishing them in this manner is not helpful.
  2. Second, performing excessive volume on any particular movement pattern can invoke too much fatigue and initiate the overreaching/overtraining process, or lead to stagnation or injury. At the very least it will hamper the workouts planned on the following couple of days.
  3. Endurance work interferes with power (Hakkinen et al. 2002). There’s a fine line between optimal stamina/power endurance/work capacity and maximum power production.

I’ve heard of some coaches who say, “I will break my athletes.” Athletes aren’t horses. I prefer to build my athletes up so they don’t break! Plan out the appropriate amount of stimulus that will spark positive adaptation, and discipline athletes in ways that don’t involve bringing more fatigue to the plate.

2. Twice-a-Day Workouts to Kick-Off the Season

Over the summer or during off-seasons, many athletes get lazy and sit around playing video games. In fact, many athletes don’t train at all during this time. Their coordination degrades, their tissues decrease in strength, and their levels of power, strength, and endurance plummet. As long as you gradually build them back up, athletes will quickly adapt to previous levels of fitness and structural integrity. Think of it as rehabilitation – you gradually increase the stimuli over the course of a month or so and voila! Your athletes are all healthy, strong and fit.

Taking an athlete who hasn’t trained all summer long and starting them off with 2 (I’ve even heard of 3x/days) strenuous workouts per day is absolutely asinine! Doing this for a couple of weeks is a sure-fire way to initiate overreaching, promote soft-tissue injuries, and delay strength and power gains. Some coaches feel that soreness is a prerequisite for results, which is a load of bull. You can certainly have your athletes train two or three times per day, as long as you take a couple of weeks to build up to these levels. Think of Milo of Crotona and gradually progress.

 

I’ve heard coaches say, “I have to shock them into adaptation.” I’ve had very much success with athletes by never “shocking” their bodies too much at one setting, and rarely getting them sore.

When I introduce a new exercise, I’m very conservative and I don’t let them push it too hard. I see how their bodies react and adjust accordingly. This is especially important for exercises known to create a lot of soreness such as heavy lunges, Bulgarian squats, deadlifts, and ab wheel rollouts. My goal is to never get my athletes too sore so that every workout can be productive, and so they never get overly-tight and bound-up.

3. Strength Training in the Early Morning

During sleep, compressive loading on the intervertebral discs is reduced, which allows the discs to absorb more fluid and increase in volume (Urban and McMullin 1988). During the day, this extra water is expelled as normal daily spinal loading and movement ensues. In the early morning, intradiscal pressure is 240% higher than prior to going to bed (Wilke et al. 1999). Furthermore, bending stresses are increased at the discs by 300% and at the ligaments of the neural arch by 80% due to  hydration and absence of creep (Adams et al. 1987).

As the day goes on, discs bulge more, become stiffer in compression, become more flexible in bending, becomes more elastic, have a higher affinity for water, and the likelihood of prolapse becomes more difficult (Adams et al. 1990).

Many strength coaches have their athletes training at 6:00 a.m, doing back squats, deadlifts, and sit ups. This is probably one hour after they athletes have risen from bed. The chances of sudden spinal disc or ligament injury or even subtle disc damage is greatly increased under this hyper-hydrated state. Either train later in the day, or create “low-back friendly routines” to decrease the risk of injury. If you can’t find a way to train at least 2-3 hours after the athletes have awakened, then here are some ways to decrease the likelihood of spinal injury during early-morning training:

  • prolonged warm-ups – spinal muscular contractions cause the majority of compressive loading, and the longer you can prolong heavy lifting while moving around, the more water will be pumped out of the discs so safer levels of hydration are reached
  •  front squats over back squats – although the compressive load is probably similar between the two lifts, as front squats involve higher anterior core contractions while back squats involve heavier loads and higher posterior core contractions, back squats involve greater forward trunk lean and encourage more forward bending which imposes higher shear and bending moments on the spine 
  • speed deadlifts or power cleans over deadlifts – although compressive loading may be similar in these movements due to similar core muscular contractions and higher speeds of execution, deadlifts encourage more forward bending which imposes higher shear and bending moments on the spine 
  • ditch the heavy bilateral lower body lifts – instead opt for Bulgarian split squats, reverse lunges, high step ups, and single leg RDL’s rather than heavy squats and deadlifts – you probably get 75% of the spinal loading due to less erector spinae contraction and lighter external loads
  • ditch the core training, or at least train the core at the end of the workout – compression, torsion, shear, and bending stresses are highly dangerous when the discs are hyper-hydrated, and even a presumably safe core exercise is not safe under these conditions

4. No Concern for Strength

I’ve heard many coaches say, “I don’t care about strength.” How many articles in support of the positive impact of strength in relation to power production need to be published before some of these idiotic coaches realize the importance of strength as it pertains to athletic performance? There is a huge relationship between strength, muscle cross-sectional area (CSA), myosin heavy chain (MHC) isoform composition, and rate of force development (RFD)(Tipton 2006).

If you are a coach and you don’t acknowledge the role of strength in improved athletic performance, then shame on you! Your athletes deserve much better.

5. Over-Focus on Strength

Many coaches are at the opposite end of the spectrum. Strength is all they care about, to the point where they stop doing “athletic things” in training and focus solely on heavy, slow lifts. If all you ever do is slow training your body will adapt by getting better at producing force over a prolonged interval. You want to be able to produce tremendous force over rapid or prolonged intervals, and there’s an optimal way to achieve this.

Strength training works best when trained concurrently along with sprints, plyometrics, ballistics, and agility work. Combined training is superior for the production of power in comparison to resistance training alone (Kostzamanidis et al. 2005).

6. No Auto-Regulation

Auto-regulatory training is vital to maximum performance. Recently it has been shown to be more effective than linear periodization (Mann et al. 2010). It can be used within any type of periodization system, and it simply involves paying attention to biofeedback, listening to what the body is saying, and adjusting accordingly. While I don’t like “cookie-cutter programs,” I am in support of flexible templates.

A good coach can create a great plan on paper, but the best coaches know how to stray from the plan when necessary. If the athlete is overly-sore, back off and train hard the following day. If the athlete didn’t sleep well or has a lot of stress in his or her life, take it easy. If the athlete is feeling great and is all jacked up, smoking the heaviest lift you planned for the day like it was cupcakes, then go heavier and try to set a new PR. Align the stimulus with their physiologic state and watch your athletes adapt more proficiently.

7. No Assessment/Screening/Evaluation

Many coaches have never learned how to assess joint range of motion or fundamental movement patterns. This is very sad, as many times all you have to do is improve flexibility in a particular direction in the hips, spine, ankles, or shoulders and it completely changes an athlete’s form on big lifts and cleans up poor movement patterns when running, jumping, throwing, and/or swinging.

Good form involves proper mobility, stability, and motor control. Any dysfunction in these three areas will reveal itself in movement. The quicker you can pinpoint this dysfunction and eliminate it, the faster your athletes will progress.

There are many ways to assess and screen athletes, but at the very least you should know what normal ranges of motion are in the ankles, hips, spine, shoulders, and neck. You should know what good form looks like in an overhead squat pattern, an active straight leg raise pattern, a push up, static lunge, glute bridge, standing knee raise, db overhead press, and bird dog.

Good coaches evaluate performance measures regularly. They know whether their athletes have gained or lost range of motion, coordination, strength, power, speed, and endurance. Testing can be worked its way into the program without interfering with the schedule. Evaluation is often what separates great coaches from good coaches.

Depending on the sport, you may want to test your athletes': 

  • breathing patterns
  • posture
  • joint ROM’s
  • fundamental movement patterns
  • core stability endurance from all directions
  • vertical jump
  • broad jump
  • 10-meter sprint
  • 40-yard dash
  • backward medball toss
  • t-test
  • medball shotput
  • max bench
  • max squat
  • max deadlift, and
  • max chin up

One question I often ask trainers and coaches is, “How do you know your athletes are getting better?” Think about it. 

8. No Knowledge of Directional Load Vectors 

In sports we move in predictable directions. We jump, sprint, cut, backpedal, and rotate. These same directions need to be trained in the weightroom. Many times I’ll look at a coach’s program and all I’ll see is heavy sagittal plane lifts involving axial, anteroposterior, and posteroanterior vectors. 

The best coaches know how to get their athletes strong, powerful, and fast in all directions, which requires a good blend of strength, power, and reactive training from the various vectors. Axial, anteroposterior, posteroanterior, mediolateral, lateromedial, and torsional vectors should be trained in order to maximize athletic performance.

 

9. Poor Instincts About Form

There are three types of strength coaches: 

  1. Those who allow way too sloppy of form and expose their athletes to way too much risk at the expense of “going heavier”
  2. Those who are way too conservative and think that every repetition should look like a robot is performing the lift
  3. Those who know the perfect balance

The best strength coaches get their athletes very strong while using good form. I’d guess that 60% of coaches are too sloppy, 20% of coaches are too strict, and 20% have “the eye” for great form while simultaneously producing strong specimens. 

10. No Specialization and Individualization 

Your job as a coach is also to analyze the individual’s strengths and weaknesses in order to bring up their weak link, and to analyze their sport and position in order to create specific exercises and methods according to their needs. 

Routines shouldn’t be the same across the board. Every aspect of the routine should differ from one individual to the next. Each player should have their own warm-up consisting of individualized SMR, stretches, and mobility/activation drills. Each player should have their own power program consisting of sprints, plyos/ballistics, agility drills, and explosive lifts. Each player should have their own strength program consisting of heavy lifts from the various movement patterns and accessory movements for structural balance. 

No two athletes are the same in terms of anatomy, physiology, anthropometry, and psychology. Some players need extra mobility or stability work in a certain joint. Some players distribute stress evenly during lifting and can train heavy more frequently. Some just don’t recover fast and need more time between heavy or explosive bouts. 

Your role as a coach is to ask the athletes questions and learn about their responses to various acute training variables such as exercise selection, frequency, volume, and intensity. In time a good coach will adjust these variables depending on verbal and non-verbal feedback and performance indicators. 

If the coach is training a large volume of athletes and doesn’t have many assistants, then a general system can work well if considerable thought and detail is put into it, but it’s still not optimal. A general system may work best for the given situation, but a program could always be better if more individualization was developed and more assistance was provided from other specialists.    

Conclusion

I hope that coaches learned a thing or two from this article. While I’m proud of all the coaches, strength coaches, and personal trainers out there who care about and believe in their athletes enough to push them hard day in and day out, we should always strive to inject scientific principles into our programming and train in an optimal manner so our athletes achieve the best results possible.

Youtube Videos

I was just going through my Youtube videos and I thought it would be a good time to bring some of them back for review.

Here are nine different instructional videos:

Hip Thrust

Squat

Deadlift

Band Hip Rotation

Back Extension

Glute Ham Raise

Box Squat

Rack Pull

Bodyweight Hip Thrust Variations

50 Exercises With JC Bands – Here’s a video of me showing 50 different exercises you can do with the JC Bands. This is a damn good product and probably one of the best portable pieces of equipment for providing a great full body workout. Also, I’m an innovative son-of-a-bitch!

How I Do My EMG Research

Maximum Power Production –

Home Butt Workout – ladies should do this workout several days a week for a healthy butt!

Load Vectors – I filmed this one around 16 months ago! Crazy how time flies.

Well peeps, it’s been a while since I’ve had time to do one of these, and I don’t really have free time right now but I’ll post anyway. Here we go:

1. Muchas Gracias!

Thank you everyone for the kind words regarding my decision to leave to New Zealand in early-February. I received a bunch of Facebook and blog comments and really appreciate it. What’s strange is that I just purchased my ticket and realized that I’d lose a day in the process – leaving Tuesday the 8th and arriving in NZ on Thursday the 10th. They’re 19 hours ahead of Arizona!

2. Bret’s Blog

When I’m in New Zealand, I will definitely continue with my blog. I’ve still managed to write blogs during the past two months and I’ve never been busier, so I don’t see anything changing. Right now I’m working on:

  • Finishing up my journal article with Brad Schoenfeld on lumbar flexion and disc degeneration. I’ve easily put over 100 hours into this review paper and believe it will a very popular article once it gets published. I feel like a creep – I’m fascinated by the human intervertebral discs so I stay up until I start feeling nauseous or start falling asleep at my computer every night, sometimes until the wee hours of the morning. I’ve gained so much knowledge during the past two months of intensive-studying that I need to do a presentation. It would blow people away. I know that I’m currently the self-proclaimed “Glute Guy,” but I think I’m now the “Ab Guy” too. When you study the core, you have to study the spine. One could easily study the spine for the rest of his or her life and still not have it all figured out.
  • Acquiring some new EMG data on the glutes. I just rented the Myotrace from Noraxon and have it for the rest of the week. If I can finish this darn paper I may even try to test ten of my friends or so and publish my findings.
  • Writing a new eBook on the glutes. I’ve received so many emails asking me for a more basic glute book. I believe that now is the time for a new one. This eBook will provide different programs and simple explanations and analogies for many of the questions people have pertaining to the glutes. This eBook will also include new information that I’ve gleaned since last eBook. I suspect that people are going to love it.

If I can find time to update my blog while working on all of this other stuff, in addition to doing all my other daily stuff – training myself, training my clients, writing programs for online clients, writing articles, reading, chatting with other coaches, writing a thesis proposal, and selling my house, then I think it’s safe to say that I’ll always have some time to work on my blog. So don’t worry about that!

3. Bye-Bye to Good Reads

I don’t think I’ll be doing the “Good Reads” blogs anymore. But don’t you worry! I’m not going to leave you hanging. I’m handing over the reigns to my buddy Ben Bruno. He’ll be providing you with weekly good-reads blogs so be sure to check his blog out regularly. He may not bust out 100-post links like me, but consider that a good thing!

4. Female Strength Levels

Yesterday I posted a blog about female strength levels and I was intrigued by the response. I received emails, facebook comments, and blog comments from men (mostly fellow strength coaches who train plenty of women) who really liked the chart. However the chart seemed to ruffle some women’s feathers. Some felt that I was too lax and that “elite” should involve much more strength. I’d like to say two quick things about that:

First, I felt that the upper end of the “elite” column is very challenging. Look at the second-set of numbers in the far-right column. Those are pretty impressive!

In fact, I’ve never in my life seen a woman do many of those feats. For example, when I say “back squat” I mean to say “full squat.” I’ve never seen a woman full squat 225 for 10 reps – in person – and I’ve trained at dozens of commercial gyms and trained plenty of athletic women. There are women who can in fact do this, for example here’s Cara Heads busting out 321 lbs for 10 reps.

But this kind of strength is very rare! For my second point, which I alluded to in my original post, many of the women who claim to be at the “elite level” may or may not belong in that category. I’ve trained plenty of strong women and the first thing I have to do with them is cut down the weight and focus on technique. With push ups many let their hips sag, or their hands are too far out in front of them, or they don’t go down all the way. With squats many women use too much anterior weight shift, or they “good morning” the weight up, or their knees collapse inward. With deadlifts many round their low backs, or they create slack in their limbs and “jerk” the initial portion of the lift, or they pull with too much back. With chin ups they don’t go down all they way, they don’t go up all the way, or they jerk the initial portion, or they shrug their shoulders too much up top. The list goes on and on. Many say that they can lift a certain amount, but under my scrutiny it’s not what I call a good lift – which brings me to my next random thought.

5. If it Doesn’t Look Athletic, it’s Probably Not Athletic

I stole this from Mike Boyle and it’s one of my favorite lines. Always keep this in mind when you’re training. The goal is to look fluid, remain stable, and look effortless. Well, maybe not effortless but at least under control. Lifting heavy is safe as long as you have the mobility, stability, and motor control to move properly and prevent energy leaks. It takes time to build up this kind of movement efficiency, but you should always strive to optimize your movement quality. Take a look at how fluid these guys look:

No jerking, buckling, or shifting! That’s how it’s done, son.

6.  Karli  Sumo Deads 225 x 5

Karli’s getting strong!

7.  Steve Hammond Hip Thrusts 495 x 8

Steve is a pitcher (baseball) that I started training around five weeks ago. He’s getting real strong, real fast. I’m no longer the strongest hip thruster at BCSC (aka Bret’s Garage).

With Steve and I both thrusting so heavy, we destroyed my Hampton thick bar pad. This one lasted me several years but I had to trade her in for a new one. The bar was slipping through the cracks so the load would end up on our pelvises mid-set, which was not cool!

8. Box Squat Instructional Video

9. Rack Pull Instructional Video

By the way here are some examples of piss-poor rack pulls. I don’t care if you’re doing 1,000 lbs – it’s not going to transfer much to real deadlifting!

10. Ab Wheel Rollouts – Take it Slow!

Ab wheel rollouts are an amazing ab exercise. The problem with any great exercise is that they sometimes work too well. The ab wheel can create some serious DOMS – probably more than that of any other exercise I’m aware of. I’ve experienced it myself on several occasions – I pushed it too hard on rollouts and had crippled abs the following day. I’ve received emails from several individuals saying that they strained their rectus abdominis by performing these. They can lead to hernias too if not gradually progressed upon.

My advice: Take it slow on ab wheel rollouts. When you start doing them, just do one set. See how you feel the next day. If you feel okay, do two sets on the following workout. Build up slowly and allow your abs to adapt to the loading. I hadn’t done them in a couple of months and I did just one set of ten reps from a kneeling position – which is very easy for me – as I think I can do around twenty kneeling rollouts, and I was still sore the following day! I stopped ten reps shy of failure and only performed one set and was still sore. Thank God I didn’t do a set of twenty, or do 2-3 sets of 10 reps. Take it slow and build up over time and avoid having pointless crippled-abs. Here are some inspiring ab wheel videos:

No music – just a man and his ab wheel

This 71-year old man would whoop your ass! Over 100 kneeling ab wheel rollouts!

That’s all peeps!

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, especially the “Good Reads” blogposts, then you know that I often post articles written by Charlie Weingroff. Here’s what I love about Charlie:

  1. He’s a DPT (physical therapist), AT (athletic trainer), and CSCS (strength coach), so he’s very well-rounded
  2. He’s the former head strength coach for the Philadelphia 76’ers, which adds to his credibility considerably
  3. He’s a powerlifter who reached elite status with an 800 lb squat, 510 lb bench, and 605 lb deadlift, so he walks the walk
  4. He travels around visiting other coaches, trainers, therapists, chiropractors, and researchers. He wants to know what they know
  5. He’s stated on several occasions that he aspires to be the best damn therapist in the world
  6. He is not afraid to speak his mind, which I appreciate because it takes juevos to put yourself out there and go against the grain

I had the pleasure of meeting with Charlie last year, and we talked shop for a couple of hours. I’ve also interacted with Charlie on the StrengthCoach.com forums and have enjoyed hearing his views on all types of training-related topics. Charlie gets me to think about things I’d never consider on my own, and he forces me to get out of my comfort zone which is very rare.

Charlie has been in the game for over a decade and now has decided to create a product that portrays his brilliance. It’s a twelve-hour, 6 disc set entitled Training = Rehab, Rehab = Training that bridges the gap between physical therapy and strength training. Put simply, strength coaches and trainers could stand to learn more about physical therapy and physical therapists could stand to learn a little more about strength. If you want to learn more about Charlie’s views on the Functional Movement Screen, the joint-by-joint approach, the workings of the inner core, and what he has coined, “The Core Pendulum Theory,” then purchase this DVD set immediately and save $50 off the full price.

Right now he’s charging $147 for the entire package which includes 6 DVD’s lasting 12 hours, as well as bonus PDF’s by Dr. Perry Nickelson (trigger points), Mike Robertson (Self-Myofascial Release), and yours truly (best glute exercises).

Click on this link to save $50 – you have four days til it goes up to $197.

Female Strength Levels

We see a lot of Youtube videos these days involving people performing astounding feats of strength. It’s important to not get discouraged or biased when watching these videos. For example, I can full squat around 365 lbs right now, but there are Olympic weightlifters who can bust out 900 lbs. I can deadlift around 565 right now, which is one of my best lifts. But the world record is over 1,000 lbs! If I compared myself to these individuals I’d feel like a sissy!

It’s important to be inspired by these freaks of nature, but it’s also important to always keep things in perspective. When I used to train at commercial gyms, people were very impressed with my workouts. For commercial gym standards, I’m pretty strong. It’s not everyday you see some guy squatting with over three plates per side while going rock bottom, pulling over five plates per side in the deadlift, or hip thrusting with over four plates per side, nor is it common to see a guy performing chin ups with two plates strapped around his waist. I’m very proud of these feats as it’s taken me many years to reach these levels, and when you’re 6’4″ tall some lifts just don’t come easy.

Perspective

Think about it. Approximately 2/3 or 67% of people in the United States are either overweight or obese. It is quite rare for an overweight or obese individual to be able to perform a proper repetition in the squat, lunge, push up, or chin up.

As for the remaining 1/3 or 33% of the female population who is of normal weight, probably only a 1/3 of them perform proper resistance training. This means around 10% of women are “competing” with you for strength. As a matter of fact, I’d venture to guess that if you are a woman and you can perform a chin up, you’re in the 95th-pecentile in terms of upper body pulling strength. To reiterate, if you took a random sample of 100 women I doubt that more than five could bust out a full range chin up.

While many women are biased because they base their perception of female-strength off of what they see advanced women doing in the gym or what they’ve seen on Youtube videos, I’m here to give you the real-life breakdown in terms of female-strength. I can speak about this with confidence as there aren’t many trainers out there who have trained more women than me in the past decade. At one point several years ago I had over 30 female clients and I managed to train them all by myself week in, week out.

Below is a chart that I created based on my experiences in training hundreds of women over the past decade.

I thought about including front squats, sumo deadlifts, barbell glute bridges, Bulgarian split squats, glute ham raises, close grip bench press, lat pulldowns, chest supported rows, seated rows, inverted rows, and dumbbell curls, but I opted to keep it simple.

Assumptions

  •  No anabolic steroids (this changes everything)
  • Typical anthropometry (height, weight, body segment length ratios)
  • Of normal age range (16-50 years old)
  • Proper form (full range of motion – no partial reps)

Women taking steroids are in a league of their own as they are manipulating their physiology to function more like a man. Actually some of them are exceeding normal male testosterone levels as our juevos only create around 10 mgs of testosterone per day. These women should not be taken into consideration when determining female strength levels.

Anthropometry plays a huge role in the display of strength. It is not uncommon for a tall women to front squat just the barbell but deadlift with over 135 lbs. Women with a tiny upper body with shapely legs may never be able to do a chin up no matter how lean she gets. Bodyweight reverse hypers are an excellent exercise for this type of client as their ratio of lower body weight to upper body weight makes it quite challenging. Conversely, this type of client can bust out bodyweight 45 degree hypers like it ain’t no thang and needs to hold onto dumbbells to make it challenging.

It’s quite impressive for an elderly women (60+) to be able to squat and lunge with her own bodyweight and deadlift and press with a barbell.

Last, exercises need to be taken through a full range of motion to be considered legit. I’ve seen women who can partial squat 95 lbs for ten reps but can’t do a single rep to parallel or deeper with the same weight. I’ve seen women bust out three partial range chin ups who can’t do a single rep when attempting to start from a dead hang and stopping at their sternum. I’ve seen women claim to dumbbell military press a ton of weight, but when forced to use a complete range of motion by starting at shoulder level and progressing to lockout while keeping a tall spine, it’s whole different story.

Beginners

Typical, untrained women don’t show up at my doorstep being able to bust out barbell full squats. Beginners need to start off with their own bodyweight, ensure proper levels of mobility, stability, and motor control, and use basic progressions. They need to build a foundation by gaining flexibility, getting their glutes to activate properly, learning how to stabilize their core, and building up some scapular muscles so they can perform exercises with proper form. They need to progress optimally in range with range of motion, reptitions, resistance, and exercise variation. For example, goblet squats are a good intermediate exercise that bridges the gap between bodyweight and barbell squats. Barbell glute bridges come before barbell hip thrusts, and rack pulls come before deadlifts. Dumbbells for upper body are often necessary to bridge the gap between bodyweight and barbells. Bands can be used for assistance on chin ups. The angle on inverted rows and push ups can be elevated to make them easier.

Be the Best “You”

I used to envy others and try to compete with my friends in terms of strength. While being competitive is certainly fine, it’s important to realize that some people will naturally have an advantage with certain exercises and rep ranges. One individual may be horrible at squatting but excellent at deadlifting or vice versa. One individual may not be good at maxing out but excels at performing higher repetitions. One individual may suck at upper body pressing but rock the house with upper body pulling. Just be the best “you” possible and try to set personal records consistently when training.

If you’re at the “advanced” or “elite” stage in any of the exercises listed above, be damn proud of yourself, as that means you’ve trained hard and consistently. Hopefully this chart will help many women keep their strength in proper perspective.

I wanted to post a couple of quick announcements for my readers.

1. BC to NZ

It’s funny how things work out. On a Friday night in mid-August I stumbled upon a study by Matt Brughelli on the biomechanics of sprinting. I was supposed to meet up with friends that night but instead I found myself reading the full paper twice, then composing an email to two of the authors. One of the authors was John Cronin. To make a long story short, I spoke to John on Skype, we hit it off, and now I’m going to be leaving in less than two months to go to New Zealand to get my PhD.

I’ll be attending Auckland University of Technology (AUT), which is in my opinion the best college in the world for strength training and biomechanics when you consider the academic rigor, the professors, the vision, culture, and environment. I leave in the beginning of February and my program will be full-time for three years.

On the one hand, I’m ecstatic since I’ll be surrounded by some of the world’s most intelligent folks in regards to strength and sport training. I’m excited to make friends and engage in discussions with other professors and PhD students from other parts of the world. I’m excited to formulate my plan and get started on my thesis. And I can’t wait to soak up knowledge so I can become a better researcher. There is no other individual who I’d rather serve as my mentor than John Cronin.

On the other hand, I’m scared out of my mind to leave my family and friends. I’ve never ventured far from home, and I’m a bit of a momma’s boy. I have the greatest family anyone could ask for. My favorite day of the week is Sunday because me, my twin brother, my sister, and my niece usually visit my mother in the afternoon and my father in the evening. We watch tv, pig out, go swimming or hit up the jacuzzi, and go see movies. I also have a group of friends who I love to death. When I’m around my friends, it’s non-stop ripping on eachother, which I’ll really miss.

But I’m trying to focus on my future and the fact that Skype makes it very easy to stay in contact with loved ones even if you’re half-way across the world. And the fact that I’ll be in New-Freakin’ Zealand!

2. Review Paper on Spinal Flexion

My graduate-level Biomechanics class is coming to an end and I have to submit my review paper. I’ve been working for the last several weeks like crazy on a review paper on spinal flexion exercises. Actually I collaborated with a colleague of mine (Brad Schoenfeld) who is a research-machine and we’re going to get it published. I think I’ve read around 200 full papers in the past few weeks and I realize that I thoroughly enjoy researching. But I’m ready to be done with this paper! I now know more about disc degeneration than I ever thought possible! Anyway it takes a long time for an article to be published so you’ll have to sit tight. But this is a very good paper which I’m sure will be a popular journal article when the time comes.

3. What Makes a Great Trainer?

I’ve spent all this time talking about research, which begs the question: What makes a trainer great? Should personal trainers be devouring research?

The most important thing is your personality and attitude. Clients won’t like you if they can tell you don’t care about them. Clients also won’t like you if you don’t motivate them or inspire them to be better. The next most important thing is your ability to deliver results. Clients won’t want to leave you if they know that no other trainer can get them looking better than you!

These two things are the most important facets of being a good trainer. Here are some other important considerations. You need to work out. How will you know if a new exercise works if you aren’t in good shape to test it out? How will you evolve as a trainer if you can’t test out new pieces of equipment, new programs, and new methods? A side effect of training hard is that you’ll look good, which shows that you “walk the walk.” This is important to many clients.

You also need to read. In my earlier years as a trainer I focused solely on reading sites like TNation and Elitefts as well as books/manuals from guys like Eric Cressey, Kelly Baggett, etc. I also read dozens of “classics” such as Supertraining, The Charlie Francis Training System, The Science and Practice of Strength Training, Brawn, Dinosaur Training, etc. Now I read mostly journal research but I always take the time to read the articles and blogs of my favorite coaches. There are good coaches with years of experience who take the time to write articles and books, film DVD’s, speak at seminars, etc. You gain insight from these coaches experiences which would otherwise take you years to glean on your own.

Finally, you need to train a lot of people. You get good at training and delivering results from training! No matter how busy I’ve been in my life, I always train other clients for at least a couple hours per day. There were times when I trained others for ten hours per day, but that doesn’t allow you to read and learn from outside sources (since you’re also so busy writing so many programs). There’s an optimal balance that should be reached if you want to maximize your effectiveness as a trainer.

As for the researchers; some of them couldn’t coach their way out of a wet paper bag. This applies to many physical therapists too. But this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t listen to them. Their input is invaluable. They force us to grow and evolve. They’re the ones who make huge impacts on our training methodology. As you evolve as a trainer you’ll likely find yourself reading more and more research. But you shouldn’t start there – you wouldn’t understand any of it and it would be a waste of time. I have trouble understanding a lot of the research I read and I’m a 4.0 graduate student!

We’re all part of a big family – the sport coaches, personal trainers, strength coaches, athletic trainers, manual therapists, physical therapists, researchers, professors, biomechanists, and exercise physiologists. And we all need each other! I’m excited to take on multiple roles as a trainer and researcher.

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