Sorry folks, I’m super busy this week! Trying to do a million things at once. I try to shy away from really long blogs these days (well, I try but I don’t always succeed :)) but it was very convenient for me to do another “random blog” this week. This week is packed with good stuff so I’m sure you’ll forgive me. I’ve got a good blend of practical stuff and research stuff in this one. Here are fourteen thoughts:
1. Vertical vs. Horizontal Forces in Sprinting
The interview I posted last week with Matt Brughelli created quite a stir in the strength & sprint communities. Many sprint guys and speed coaches are attempting to discredit the data. Some are saying that you can’t use a Woodway treadmill to make conclusions about overground running. I’d like to say two things about this. First, the study by McKenna et. al 2007 showed that torque treadmills were strikingly similar in kinematics to overground running; more so than motorized treamills. However, if you still don’t want to believe that, then consider this. Nummela et al. 2007 had the same findings as Brughelli, but they did overground running. They used several force plates in a row (i.e. a total of 9 meters of force plates!!!). Kuitunen et al. 2002 also used overground running (i.e. a total of 10 meters of force plates). They were both done in Finland at very prestigious institutes by some very intelligent researchers. I implore you to take this research seriously.
After reading about how much Mike Boyle likes the Airdyne, I picked one up for my garage. The other day one of my female clients said, “That crappy bicycle you got is actually the greatest piece of equipment you have in your gym.” Now, I’m a meat-head through-and-through, so I obviously don’t agree with her. But she loves it because it’s joint friendly and kicks her ass! It’s so effective because it works the upper body pulling and pushing musculature in addition to the lower body musculature all at the same time. You can get very creative with the intervals depending on the client. I might prescribe a beginner something like 4 rounds of 10 seconds on, 20 seconds off or 2 rounds of 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off. I might prescribe an intermediate 6 rounds of 20 seconds on, 20 seconds off or 3 rounds of 30 seconds on, 20 seconds off. I might prescribe an advanced exerciser 8 rounds of 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off, or 2 rounds of 60 seconds on, 30 seconds off. I try to mix it up to prevent boredom.
3. Eccentric Deadlift Strength
I’ve heard a lot of statistics regarding eccentric to concentric strength ratios. I’ve seen studies show that eccentric strength is 14% higher than concentric strength, another showing 20%, and yet another showing 33%. The point is that eccentric strength is supposed to be greater than that of concentric strength. Now, one could argue that one is fatigued following a concentric 1RM, but I believe that everyone should be able to lower a 1RM deadlift under control. I see many females who can lift a certain weight concentrically with great form yet fail to be able to lower the weight eccentrically with good form. After concentrating on the eccentric portion of the lift for a couple of weeks I’m usually able to restore the proper concentric : eccentric strength ratio which will reduce the likelihood of injury. Your eccentric form is important too and should mirror your concentric form. Don’t lose the low back arch.
4. Weak Glutes
I was training a guy the other day who was an active male (he ran and did circuit training several days per week) and I was quite amazed. This guy appeared to be physically fit but he trembled like a leaf at the top of his bodyweight glute bridges. I’m going to vigorously attack his glutes to bring them up to speed. In a month things will be very different for this guy. But if you’re a grown man there’s no reason why I should be able to hold 400-500 lbs at the top of a bridge for longer time than you can hold your own bodyweight. Sweet baby Jesus! Get some glute strength people!
5. Leaning Lunges
I once had some strength coaches come after me on a message board after I posted a video of one of my clients using a forward lean while they lunged. Their position was that lunges must be performed with an upright trunk. My position was that it’s okay to vary, especially when it leads to increased glute activity. Sometimes I have my clients perform lunges in a more upright manner, while other times I have them do them with more of a lean. In a study entitled Trunk position influences the kinematics, kinetics, and muscle activity of the lead lower extremity during the forward lunge exercise, researchers showed that performing a lunge with the trunk forward increased the hip extensor impulse and the recruitment of the hip extensors. In contrast, performing a forward lunge with the trunk extended did not alter joint impulse or activation of the lower extremity musculature.
If the client has tight hip flexors, then they’ll be forced to lean forward while lunging (which is not a good thing). In this case you need to either lengthen the hip flexors or reduce their hypertonicity (or simply get them accustomed to better stretch-tolerance) so they’re able to produce proper upright lunging mechanics. However, assuming the client’s hip flexors are functioning fine, then there’s no reason why you can’t lunge with forward lean in order to increase hip extensor (glute, hamstring) activation. As to how much you can lean? In this study it almost looks like a lunge/deadlift hybrid. Check out the pic below. I don’t have my clients lean this much, just a slight lean. Bottom line, there are lots of good lunge variations. You can toy around with bar placement (high bar, low bar, manta ray, front (racked), goblet, Zercher, neutral (db’s), etc.), stride length (shallow, medium, long), trunk lean (upright, moderate lean, severe lean), lunge-type (static, forward, reverse, walking, Valslide/slideboard, etc.), etc.
My buddy Nick Tumminello is a big proponent of what he calls the “anterior reach lunge” which is a knee-friendly hybrid lunge/dl. Check it out.
6. Joe Kenn
Joe Kenn stopped by on Saturday and visited my garage. We ended up talking shop for 4 1/2 hours! Joe is extremely passionate about strength training and is about as nice of a guy as you’ll ever meet. I love speaking to such experienced strength coaches as you can pick up a lot of quality information and ideas just by asking them questions and letting them speak. I was very glad to see that Joe and I saw eye-to-eye on numerous topics (all the big rocks). I’m now a huge Joe Kenn fan. Thanks for the visit “House”!!!
7. Garage Gym
Having a garage gym fucking rules! I’m writing this blog in between sets of heavy singles of low box squats with a 3 second pause on the box. Talk about “active recovery!” Actually the best part about having a garage gym is my deadlift lever and chalk bin from Elitefts. No missed deadlifts due to a slick bar and/or slippery hands, and no more peeling 45 lb plates off the bar when it’s on the ground.
9. The Box Squat Effect
I tell all my clients that as they become more proficient in the box squat they’ll start getting up from their chairs at work with perfect box squat form. It never fails, after around a month of training people they all tell me that they have fallen pray to “the box squat effect.”
10. Mind-Muscle Connection in the Gluteus Maximus
New clients fall into three categories: those who already have great glute activation, those who have decent glute activation, and those who have no glute activation. Most “athletic” clients feel their glutes working very well the very first time they come to my gym. Some clients feel their glutes working during some exercises but not during others. And some clients can’t feel their glutes working no matter what they try. You can palpate their glutes and they don’t have much mass there in the first place, so of course their synergists (hamstrings, erectors, adductor magnus, etc.) are going to be picking up the slack for the weak glutes.
Without fail, within six weeks even the clients who couldn’t feel their glutes doing anything develop unbelievable mind-muscle connections with their gluteus maximus. Literally every client I have remarks about how they feel their glutes working very well during every lower body movement. It just takes focus, consistency, and patience (and a good trainer).
11. Fat Gripz Holds
If you have fat gripz from Elitefts, try fat grip holds! They’re badass! They work the hand musculature much more than regular holds, plus you don’t have to strap extra weight around your waist via a dip belt. Bodyweight works just fine.
12. Front Squat Holds
This might be the toughest core exercise I do! It works the hell out of my upper back and core musculature. I believe it transfers over to the deadlift very well and helps you stay more upright via increased thoracic extensor strength. The trick is to avoid leaning backward. Stay in neutral and make it hard! When I do full front squats I can only work my way up to 275 lbs. With the holds I’m able to use 405+ lbs.
13. Glute Reeducation: Score One for the Glute Activation Pioneers
Admit it! When you first saw Eric Cressey, Mike Robertson, Mike Boyle, and Mark Verstegen talking about glute activation you thought they’d “turned sissy,” didn’t you? Well I’ll admit it, I was pretty skeptical. I got down on the floor, got my “Jane Fonda” on, and tried to decide whether these low-load drills were worth my time. I liked the movement patterns and felt my glutes working very hard but the meat-head in me wanted extra ROM and loading (hence the hip thrusts and pendulum quadruped hip extensions).
A case report in this year’s February edition of The Journal of Orthopaedic Sports Physical Therapy (JOSPT) entitled Strengthening and Neuromuscular
Reeducation of the Gluteus Maximus in a Triathlete With Exercise-Associated Cramping of the Hamstrings describes a situation where a triathlete who suffered from hamstring cramping during running was able to “reeducate” his glutes and decrease the relative contribution of the hamstrings while running, thereby eliminating his hamstring cramping. The athlete followed a three-phase program that progressed from low load glute activation, to low-velocity glute integration, to dynamic integration. The quantitiative outcome measures were pretty remarkable for this case study so I definitely recommend taking a closer look if you get a chance. Although this was just a case study, to me this research is huge as it lends support to Shirley Sahrmann’s synergistic dominance theory and alerts researchers to conduct more research in this area. Hopefully we’ll see more studies on this topic on the future.
14. Women Need More Glute and Hamstring Strength!
Well, most men do too, but numerous studies show that women need increased glute strength to prevent Valgus collapse. Some studies indicate a need for increased glute medius strength, some studies indicate a need for increased glute maximus activation, and some studies show a need for increased hip abductor and adductor coactivation. Furthermore, studies show that women’s H:Q ratio (concentric hamstring to concentric quadricep strength) is lower than that of men at angular velocities that approach speeds seen in sports. Women don’t seem to increase their hamstring contribution as speed increases. Whatever the case, it’s quite obvious that increased single leg stability and posterior chain strength is exactly what’s needed to help “bulletproof” females and prevent them from experiencing knee pain and injury.
That’s all for this week folks! Hope you enjoyed the content.