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In the glute eBook I wrote over a year-and-a-half ago, I included a section that discussed exercise-naming. I find it intriguing that many lifts are named after people or countries. For example, the hack squat, Jefferson lift, Pallof press, Dimel deadlift, and Cook hip lift are named after people, and the Bulgarian split squat, Russian leg curl (aka Nordic hamstring curl), and Romanian deadlift are named after countries. I suppose that I could have named the barbell hip thrust the “Contreras Hip Thrust” (which ironically several coaches including Carl Valle and Mike T. Nelson have called it), but naming an exercise after one’s self is pretty vain (even for me).

Often exercises named after countries are improperly attributed to a country that didn’t invent or popularize an exercise. I opted against “The American Thrust” because it doesn’t give any clues as to how the exercise is performed. The hip thrust sounded good to me because you simply thrust your hips forward. I know that Mike Boyle doesn’t like this name because to him the term “thrusting” implies low back flexion and extension, so he refers to the exercise as the “shoulder elevated hip lift.” When I hear the term “thrust,” I think of hips, not the low back, but I digress.

Why am I talking about this? 

Last week, I posted a video by Timothy Ferris that shows how he does the hip thrust. Here it is below in case you missed it.

Another thing I talked about in my glute eBook is something I learned from Maxwell Maltz, a cosmetic surgeon turned self-help guru who wrote a book called Psycho Cybernetics in 1960. He talked about “experts” vs. “inperts.” Experts are those who are classically trained, up-to-date with current information, and think inside the box. Inperts are those who are trained in other areas, can view a new field with a unique lens, and think outside the box. Surprisingly many of the world’s great discoveries come from inperts.

What I like about a guy like Timothy Ferris, who just wrote a new book called The Four Hour Body, is that he is a very bright guy and he’s obviously no stranger to exercise. Since he wasn’t classically trained by a particular University, Professor, Coach, or Institution, he thinks outside the box.  He didn’t perform my hip thrust exercise the way I showed the public around fourteen months ago (see below).

Instead, he performed the exercise the way he felt them work his glutes the best, which was to hinge at a spot lower down on the back and move the fulcrum closer to the hips. When I saw this video, I was a bit skeptical. From my knowledge of Biomechanics, I figured that the lift would be a little bit easier than my version and allow for slightly larger loads to be used, but I wasn’t sure if it would increase gluteus maximus activation. I was also curious as to whether it was dangerous for the spine.

I reserved any judgment until I actually performed the exercise. I’ve now performed the exercise on two occasions; once on Friday and again today. I can tell with absolute certainty that Timothy’s method works the glutes harder than my version. Both times I performed the exercise my glutes were so pumped up that it altered the way I walked. No exercise has ever had this effect on me and I’ve been training hard for 19 years. Tim helped make an awesome exercise even better. Below is me performing the hip thrust – Timothy Ferriss style.

I was right; this style does make it a bit easier. I was able to get 12 reps with 405 lbs, whereas with the traditional hip thrust I can get 8 reps with 405 lbs. The padding on the bench protects the spine so there’s no need to worry about that. The new variation is a bit tricky, as you have to prop yourself up to get your torso higher up on the bench. Notice that the elbows are resting on the bench.

The American Hip Thrust

Here’s where the “American Hip Thrust” comes into play. I don’t know what to call this variation. We have the Contreras variation and the Ferriss variation, but from now on I’ll probably stick with the Ferris variation in my own training and the training of my clients. Since there’s no “Contreras Hip Thrust” there shouldn’t be a “Ferriss Hip Thrust.”

It is important to note that there is not a single exercise that is prefaced with the word “American.” There exists no “American bench press.” Although Romania gets their own deadlift and so does Russia (the Russian deadlift is another term for the good morning), there’s no “American deadlift.” Although plenty of exercisers worldwide have been bridging and doing “air thrusts” on Swiss balls for years, heavy barbell hip thrusts with the shoulders elevated onto a bench originated in America, out of a small notorious garage in Scottsdale, Arizona. Why don’t we show these other countries what America does best? We thrust! We thrust long, we thrust hard, and we thrust often! Our glutes know no bounds!

Okay, so according to this Pubmed article France edges out the U.S. in sexual intercourse (thrusting) frequency.  But we’re second at 138 times per year! And according to this article, Brazil outlasts the U.S. in sexual intercourse (thrusting) duration. But we’re  second at 28 minutes per bout! I’d like for all the countries of the world to fear our glutes! They should wake up gasping for air in the middle of the night due to nightmares involving our glutes chasing them down. When they think of American athletes, this is what should come to mind:

Okay, so neither of the athletes above are American, and considering that 2/3 of Americans are either overweight or obese I doubt that the world fears our glutes. But if more people attended gyms and got strong at the American Thrust, we’d see a huge improvement in glute strength, power, and aesthetics. Remember, what’s good for muscular size (cross-sectional area) is good for strength and power (rate of force development). As the late sprint coach Charlie Francis said, “Looks right, flies right.”

I don’t really expect people to call the exercise the “American Thrust,” I just thought it would be a fun post to write. In truth I just don’t know what to call the new variation. You can call it whatever you want, just make sure you do it!

Around eight years ago, my friends got together for a slow-pitch softball game. Although I hadn’t swung a bat in years, I managed to crank out five out-of-the-park homeruns that day. One of them cleared the fence by at least a hundred feet. I was pretty surprised…as were my friends. My hitting power sky-rocketed from just getting stronger in the gym. I didn’t do any form of “sport-specific training,” I just got strong at exercises such as squats, deadlifts, walking lunges, back extensions, bench press, weighted dips, military press, chin ups, bent over rows, and one arm rows. Times like these made me realize the importance of strength as it pertains to unleashing your maximal power potential.

Since this time I’ve trained a whole-lotta people, I’ve read a whole-lotta books and articles, and I’ve continued to train hard myself. And I still believe that just getting stronger at basic, compound movements is critical for power. However, power is directional specific, and while strong muscles will get you pretty far, you can get a little bit further if you engage in some specific forms of strength training. I believe that in order to achieve optimal rotary power, one must get strong at big, compound lifts, while also performing rotary strength exercises, rotary power exercises, and practicing specific sports skills.

Below are five excellent rotary exercises that will help maximize your explosive rotational power.

1. The Explosive Rotational Landmine

This is quite different than the normal landmine. Notice the footwork. This allows you to move around the bar and reposition yourself so you can get maximum explosiveness on each rep. Make sure you put the women and children to bed before attempting this exercise – it’s no joke!

2. Overhead Lateral/Rotational Press

This is an amazing core exercise that works the core as a lateral flexor and a rotator.

3. Band Hip Rotations

I’ll keep ranting and raving about this exercise ’til I’m blue in the face. It’s a very difficult exercise to master. You have to set up with your body angled inward a bit toward the line of pull of the band. This way you keep constant tension on the hip rotators as you twist. To reiterate, you don’t line up facing the band, your back foot is further away from the band than the front foot. This exercise activates the glutes like crazy, trains the glutes in their hip external rotation function, and “bridges the gap” between the weightroom and the field. It works the hip internal rotators on the front leg, hip external rotators on the back leg, internal obliques on one side, and external obliques on the other side. It’s the best core exercise that you’re not doing at the moment! If you don’t feel this working the glutes big-time then you’re doing it wrong. Keep working it until you get it right. Monster-mini jump stretch bands work best for this exercise.

4. Low-High Rotary Pull

Here’s an excellent core exercise that works the lower body, core, and upper body pulling musculature in one movement.

5. Low-High Rotary Press

Here’s an excellent core exercise that works the lower body, core, and upper body pressing musculature in one movement.

Hopefully this post has given you some ideas as to how you can go about increasing your rotational power through specific rotary strength training. Spend some time on these and you’ll be belting home runs out of the park like McGwire in no time!

Here are some good reads for the week! Tomorrow I’m going to try to put up a blog on rotary training for badasses. Hopefully I’ll have time. I filmed the videos, but I’ve been absolutely swamped working on a review paper. Can’t wait to be finished!

Chris Beardsley on flexibility. This is a great series by Chris. If you haven’t seen it yet check it out! I’m a big fan of Chris’ blog.

Matt Perryman talks about fitness. Matt needs to blog more often…he always comes out with great stuff.

Dan John shares the “Big Five” of getting big

 Regression and Simplicity - Keys to Progress in Strength & Conditioning – by Anthony Donskov (this is a paysite – StrengthCoach.com)

Ben Bruno gives us the videos of the week. Ben’s blog is already one of my favorites!

 Gadgets and Toys by Vern Gambetta – I liked this one – not what you think.

 Is Sprinting Frequency or Length Reliant? Mike Young shares a cool new study.

New study - The Science of Muscle Hypertrophy: Making Dietary Protein Count

New study – Maximizing Hypertrophy: Possible Contribution of Stretching in the Interset Rest Period

 Tom Martin breaks Ed Coan’s longstanding record and deadlifts 771 lbs at the 181.5 weight-class. That’s well over 4X his bodyweight. This guy is a strong SOB, and he’s also a sprinter!

Here’s a video of a 300 lb’er busting out bodyweight exercises like it ain’t no thang. Crazy!

Cool new study – side dominance doesn’t affect the symmetry of bilateral barbell lifts

 Tony Gentilcore turns 34 years old and therefore shares his 34 favorite things

 Ben Bruno offers some stuff worth checking out

Tracy Fober posts an awesome video – Olga rules!

Cool exercise I stumbled upon – The Bueler

Ten Tips for Good Trainers by Smitty from the Diesel Crew

David Lasnier on Single Leg Progressions

Fantastic Hamstring Movements by Bret Contreras and Ben Bruno – TNation article

Timothy Ferris Does the Hip Thrust – I’ve never tried it hinging this low on the back. I’m intrigued and will test this out tomorrow.

Greek Pole Vaulter Erika Prezerakou! Aye Caramba! Some Serious Booty!

That’s all folks!

More Random Thoughts

I’ve got a bunch of these ready to go so I’ll just keep cranking them out several at a time.

1. Vitamin D

As a former math teacher, I like to break things down mathematically. According to most authorities on Vitamin D, you’ll get around 10,000 iu’s of Vitamin D production in around 10 minutes of summer sun exposure if you’re wearing a bathing suit. This breaks down to around 17 iu’s/second, or 1,000 iu’s/minute.

The Food and Nutrition Board at the Institute of Medicine of The National Academies has established the following adequate intake levels of Vitamin D.

  • Birth to 50 years, 5 µg (200 IU)
  • 51–70 years, 10 µg (400 IU)
  • 71+ years, 15 µg (600 IU)

Most nutrition experts believe these levels to be far below the optimal level and recommend around 1,000 to 2,000 iu’s per day. Bottom line, get some sun from time to time! If you’re never in the sun then take some Vitamin D supplements! Vitamin D is extremely important!

2. Don’t Forget About Insulin

Hypocaloric diets are great for fat loss, but taking insulin dynamics into account and manipulating carbohydrate intake accordingly will yield better results according to this study.  Many people are severely insulin resistant because they consume too many carbohydrates or they have poor genetics. We saw from the “Twinkie Diet” that just reducing calories led to considerable weight loss and surprisingly favorable effects on cholesterol. But for optimal health you need to consider things like insulin sensitivity, protein, essential fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, and polyphenols, in addition to caloric intake.  

3. Loadless Training (Flexing)

When I was a teenager, I used to stand in front of the mirror and practice “posing.” I would take my shirt off and flex my muscles in the mirror. I remember finding it very hard to contract certain muscles such as my lats and hamstrings. I probably flexed my muscles in the mirror for around five minutes several days per week. Within a few months I was able to contract all of my major muscle groups really well.

When I get new clients, I’ll often ask them to contract a certain muscle or muscle group and I find that they don’t know how to contract it. Bodybuilders talk about forming an intense “mind-muscle connection.” Strength coaches and physical therapists talk about “activating” dormant muscles. In Supertraining, Mel Siff defined flexing or posing as a viable training method called “loadless training” and postulated that it had certain benefits. I’ll tell you one thing; if more people practiced flexing their muscles we wouldn’t have all of these dormant muscles and we wouldn’t have to coin certain terms such as “gluteal amnesia.”

Bottom line – don’t be afraid to practice flexing your muscles. I still try to do it a few times per week in the mirror for around 60 seconds or so. I’ll roll through several different poses and make sure that I maximally contract all the major muscle groups – the calves, hamstrings, quads, glutes, abs, lats, pecs, delts, bi’s, and tri’s.

4. Text Message from My Client Kellie Davis

A couple of weeks ago I received a text message from one of my online clients. This is what she said:

“I was screwing around (I shouldn’t be) and tried the whole stack on the glute press. Did 170 lbs each side for 6 reps ;)”

Leave it to one of my clients to have stronger glutes than most males! How could I be mad at her for not “sticking with the program?”

5. Chalk One Up for Eccentrics!

Here’s a cool study I stumbled upon that shows the benefits of eccentric training:

Short-term strength training and the expression of myostatin and IGF-I isoforms in rat muscle and tendon: differential effects of specific contraction types

Here’s a quote from the authors:

“In conclusion, we have demonstrated that short-term training increases tendon levels of both IGF-IEa and MGF mRNA, indicating a possible role for these growth factors in the adaptation of tendon to training. Furthermore, we found that eccentric training was more effective in downregulating myostatin expression than other loading types, and in combination with the effect of eccentric loading on IGF-IEa and MGF expression, this may well explain the strong contributions of eccentric actions in resistance training-induced muscle hypertrophy.”

That’s all folks!

A Few Random Thoughts

I’ve got fifty random thoughts lined up…been so busy I haven’t been able to post them. I figure I’ll just post a few at a time so I don’t overwhelm people.

1. Here’s a hilarious quote from Dr. Stuart McGill

 As you know, you’re taller when you wake up in the morning than when you go to bed at night. This is because the discs are hydrophilic, that means they suck up water while you sleep and when there are no stresses present.

After rising, hydrostatic stresses of just walking around and using the muscles during the day compress your spine and the fluid is squeezed out, decreasing the anular tensions in the disc. So, when you wake up the extra height in the discs are analogous to a full water balloon ready to burst and if you bend, you build up much higher stresses in the disc. In fact, the stresses are three times higher than when you perform the same bend two or three hours later.

Now I’m not talking about getting up and going for a walk or perhaps a boxer going for a jog first thing in the morning. I’m talking about heavy bending exercises, like for example the good-morning exercise or doing sit-ups. Somehow people thought that this would be a good thing to do in the morning. It’s the worst possible thing you could do for the back first thing in the morning. I personally have a more favorite morning exercise, it’s what I like to call a “great-morning,” but I don’t think my wife would appreciate me talking about it! Full spine bending first thing in the morning is a great way to damage your back—an unwise thing to do.

2. Here’s a thought-provoking quote by Justin Harris

Steak generally has generally higher calories. It has saturated fat which gets converted to cholesterol, which gets converted to androstenediol, which gets converted to testosterone. For some competitors, natural competitors, that’s very important. But the other thing with steak… steak has a slightly lower bioavailability than chicken but the protein ratio is better for raising iron levels. If you can increase the iron level , it increases your hematocrit (the amount of red blood cells in your blood, which) you can increase your blood volume, which can give you a fuller look. You look at your bicep and only about 30% of your bicep is actual contractile tissue, actual actin and myosin. If you dehydrated it out… look at beef jerky. That’s the actual amount of actual tissue in the area. The rest of it is water, glycogen. If you can double the amount of blood vessels and double the amount of blood going through those blood vessels in your bicep, that’s going to add size to your bicep, and that’s something [a benefit] of the iron from steak.

3.  Sitting Does Not Raise Intradiscal Pressure (IDP) Moreso than Standing???

Sitting versus standing: does the intradiscal pressure cause disc degeneration or low back pain?

4. It is Indeed Possible to Isolate the Upper Abdominals from the Lower Abdominals

A study conducted by several researchers including Dr. Stuart McGill on belly-dancers showed that they could isolate one over the other during low-load precise movements. This study provides some pretty conclusive evidence and should silence the naysayers. Not that it really matters…if you want six-pack abs diet down and get lean!

Neuromuscular independence of abdominal wall muscles as demonstrated by middle-eastern style dancers

5. A Better Way to do GHR’s

I know I’ve talked about this before but here’s a good visual. Take a look at how the hamstrings relax at the top of the motion in this video (go to the 2:40 mark):

A better way is to elevated the back side of the glute-ham developer so you keep constant tension on the hammies at the end-range of the movement.

That’s all folks!

Here are some good reads for the week. Tomorrow or Friday I’ll be back with a Random Thoughts blog and I’m also going to try to put up a blog on Spinal Stability.

1. Article of the Week: Robert Dos Remedios Gives Some Great Advice on How to Become a Big Name Trainer or Coach

2. Eric Cressey – 11 Ways to Make an Exercise Harder

3. Patrick Ward – Hypertonic vs. Tight Muscles

4. Valerie Waters Interviews Yours Truly – How to Get Your Best Butt Ever

5. Gray Cook Provides an Intro and a Bunch of Videos from Ed Thomas

6. Chris Beardsley Lists the Top Ten Bret Contreras Articles

7. Carlos Buzzichelli on Periodization

8. Nick Tumminello on Functional Training

9. Ben Bruno Does an Airdyne Tabata Interval

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PCl9Z2Q_cvs

10. Smitty and the Diesel Crew Show Us the Dragon Flag

11. Mike Scott – One Question, Many Answers

12. Mike Reinhold – 3 Keys to Shoulder Impingement

13. Leigh Peele – 55 Gift Ideas

14. Mike Robertson – Random Thoughts

15. Tony Gentilcore on Deadlifting

That’s All for This Week! Happy Thanksgiving Everybody. I’ll Leave You With Something for Which I’m Very Thankful:

Dear BC,

Is it possible to isolate my upper or lower abs with different ab exercises?

Thanks!

I hear this debate all of the time. Many say that it’s not possible to contract one part of the rectus abdominis over another, while others claim that you can.

Part of this is semantics…you can’t “isolate” one part or another. In other words, you cannot contract one portion while keeping the other completely dormant. However, I believe that you can “target” one part, or steer more activation toward one portion or another. When you look at the nerve supply for the abdominal muscles you will find that they are innervated by multiple nerves (i.e. the ventral rami of T7-T11, T12 (subcostal nerve), and L1 (iliohypogastric, ilioinguinal). This is nothing new; you can also target portions of the the gluteus maximus, deltoids, pecs, etc.

I’m not particularly passionate about this topic because 1) Getting 6-pack abs is 90% about reaching low bodyfat levels and 10% about having muscular abs, and 2) The differences in activation between upper and lower rectus abdominis (RA) activity aren’t so drastic that they’ll lead to huge differences in functional strength adaptations.

Around a year ago I was a bit curious about this topic so I conducted a bunch of comprehensive EMG analyses on the abdominals. While one of my core studies can be found on a TNation article here, I didn’t measure upper vs. lower RA activity in that experiment. I conducted two experiments where I measured upper vs. lower abdominal activity, the tables for which can be found in my glute eBook. I performed tons of the best and most challenging abdominal exercises, and I found that you can indeed target the upper or lower abdominals. “Shoulder to hips” flexion, or abdominal exercises that have you bringing your shoulders toward your hips such as crunches, activate higher levels of upper RA than lower RA. “Hips to shoulder” flexion, or abdominal exercises that have you bringing your hips toward your shoulders such as reverse crunches, activate higher levels of lower RA than upper RA. In regards to my EMG experiments and other EMG experiments, the hip flexors are too far away to interfere with the readings of the lower abdominals – the amplitude is proportional to the inverse square of the distance from the source. So I don’t believe that that is an issue. And my EMG data was normalized, so that’s not an issue either.

If we go by “the feel test,” I’ve performed various abdominal/core exercises for many years and I believe that I can feel my lower abdominals working harder when I do exercises like reverse crunches in comparison to exercises like crunches. And as I’m sitting here typing, I believe that I can segmentally contract the different portions of the abdominals to different degrees. I find it easy to alternate between flexing the lower abs pretty hard while keeping the upper abs slightly more relaxed, and tensing the upper abs pretty hard while keeping the lower abs slightly more relaxed – but I’m not sure how much this has to do with turning on other core muscles such as the transverse abdominis or diaphragm to create this effect. Maybe if I study Shakira hard enough the answer will come to me….

In addition, I’m taking a Graduate level Biomechanics course right now, I’ve read the literature on the topic, I’ve discussed the matter with professors and Biomechanists, and I’ve studied the anatomy. So I believe that I’m pretty qualified to address this matter.

Here are six different studies that indicate that you can preferentially activate one portion over the other:

Relative activity of abdominal muscles during commonly prescribed strengthening exercises.

Electromyographic analysis of upper body, lower body, and abdominal muscles during advanced Swiss ball exercises.

Core muscle activation during Swiss ball and traditional abdominal exercises.

Electromyographic analysis of traditional and nontraditional abdominal exercises: implications for rehabilitation and training.

Muscle activity in upper and lower rectus abdominus during abdominal exercises.

Electromyographic analysis of abdominal muscle activity using portable abdominal exercise devices and a traditional crunch.

There are some studies in the literature that fail to demonstrate the same pattern and therefore contain different conclusions, but most studies do show differences in upper and lower RA activity. I know that Dr. Stuart McGill feels otherwise and believes that these readings are incorrect due to issues with normalization, but I know some professors who are adamant that he’s incorrect on the matter. Furthermore, if you read McGill’s full paper on the topic you’ll see that hips to shoulder spinal flexion still gets you slightly higher lower than upper RA activity, and when you do shoulder to hip spinal flexion you get slightly higher upper than lower RA activity – it’s just not significant in his study – though I’d argue that he may have seen different results had he tested other exercises.

I don’t believe that this is that big of a deal in terms of selecting the best exercises – in addition to EMG, I look at other things like joint safety, specificity, tension in stretch position, ability to produce a pump, ability to produce hypertrophy, ability to transfer to another lift, ability to transfer to an athletic endeavor, joint ROM, ability to increase joint mobility or stability, how the exercise “feels,” etc. When choosing core exercises, I like to stabilize in all directional vectors, and I like to perform exercises that strengthen the hip flexors from time to time – a muscle group that should be strengthened in advanced athletes.

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