I try to create a “Random Thoughts” blogpost each week. I get emails from people saying that these, along with my “Good Reads” blogposts are their favorite things to read each week. So here you go, fifteen random thoughts:
1. Perfect push up bullshit
This study shows that the perfect push up does not increase muscle activation over the standard push up as it purports to do. I’ve been saying that all along. Some people feel like the perfect push up allows for a smoother, more joint-friendly motion, but I prefer regular push ups. Now, if it caused more people do push ups because they felt compelled to exercise on account of the fact that they purchased the product, then I’m all for it. But I feel that a ton of people were duped.
2. 2010 International Spine Symposium
Props to my good friend Nick Tumminello for going to the 2010 International Spine Symposium and being the only fitness professional there out of 150+ attendees. Had I know about it, I would have attended. Nick and I had a brief conversation about his experience, but from what I can tell it was very insightful.
3. Symmetrical training
If you want to train for symmetry, then it’s not all about unilateral training; it’s about bilateral AND unilateral training. One without the other is inferior. People may think they’re using the same kinematics while lifting unilaterally but they probably utilize slightly different tactics with single limb training. If all you did was single limb training, you’d probably develop slight asymmetries over time. On the same hand, if all you ever did was bilateral training you’d probably develop slight asymmetries over time as well. Bottom line – do both to ensure symmetry.
4. T-Spine extension
If you want to be a strong squatter and especially a strong deadlifter, you better have super strong thoracic extensors. I’m pretty convinced that most lifter’s weak link in deadlifting strength is their t-spine extension strength. In other words, their hip and knee extensors are capable of doing more, but the ability of the t-spine to hold an arch limits what the hips can do. For t-spine extension strength, you can do thoracic extensions, front squat holds, front squats, and all types of deadlifts. Here’s an assistance exercise I do from time to time with a safety bar; it hammers the thoracic extensors!
5. Spinal exercises while driving
When driving to and from Las Vegas last weekend, which is a five hour drive, I’d perform spinal exercises every 20 minutes or so to help stave off tissue creep and get some blood flow into the area. I feel that my strategy worked very well as my back wasn’t sore or fatigued from the driving, which is rare for me! What’s hilarious is that the exercises I thought up were similar to what you’d see Shakira or Beyonce do in one of their videos.
In other words, this was me on my drive home (picture my 230 lb frame busting out these moves you see at the end of the video below while driving. Good stuff!)
6. The first step in trying to re-establish glute imbalance
Some times people have an imbalance in gluteal strength. One glute contracts much harder than the other side. When I encounter this situation, the first step is re-establishing a powerful glute contraction in a static prone position. I have them practice brief maximum isometric holds for the weaker side off and on for several minutes, then I move into the regular workout. I’ve been doing this with my client Karli and we are seeing terrific results.
Basically she had a left side hamstring injury and right side quadratus lumborum pain which is textbook synergystic dominance (compensating) for a weak left glute. She even noticed different kinematics from one side to the next when she runs. Through palpation I was able to confirm her suspicions; one glute contracted way harder than the other. So we stuck to the procedure above for around five workouts and the imbalance is dramatically diminished.
After demonstrating symmetrical contractions in static postures, it’s time to move to dynamic movements of progressing difficulty. I like to move from prone to quadruped to supine, and then finally to standing with side-lying mixed in all the way through.
I’ve found that you can blend a corrective protocol with a conditioning protocol and the two roads converge in time and lead to optimum results.
7. I didn’t know I was a celebrity trainer!
I didn’t realize that I train J-Lo, Kim Kardashian, and Jessica Biel! That’s certainly good to know! Check it out here.
8. Safety and form continuum
I think some coaches take things too far as far as form is concerned. On the other hand, I think that most coaches don’t care enough about form. If perfect form is a ten and horrendous form is a zero, you want nines in my book. If you are so strict that you require tens then your athletes won’t ever be able to move any weight and get stronger. If you aren’t strict at all your athletes will get injured. Tens on warm up sets and the initial reps of working sets, and nines or even eights on the last couple of reps of a top set is ideal in my book. But form should never break down more than 20% or you went too heavy or took the set too far in terms of reps.
9. Davis’s Law
Davis’s Law is one of the most important topics in biomechancis and physical therapy, but most people know nothing about it. As a matter of fact, many Biomechanics professors and Physical Therapists have never heard of the law. I didn’t know much about it until I decided to do a bunch of research on the topic.
Most people have heard of Wolff’s law of bone, which was named after Julius Wolff (1836-1902) and states that bones will adapt to the loads under which they are placed. For example, an athlete who squats heavy will have strong bones to resist axial loading.
Davis’s Law is similar to Wolff’s law except that it applies to soft-tissue and deals more with tissue length than tissue strength (but still deals with tissue strength as well). Soft-tissue such as tendons, ligaments, and fascia will adapt to the loads in which they are placed. If you sit all day long in a hunched position, you are stretching your back the entire time and all the soft-tissue that sits posterior to the center of the discs will be stretched and become lax over time. This is not a good thing. Similarly, the hip flexors will shorten as they are placed in a flexed position while sitting. This too is not a good thing, as it tends to inhibit the gluteals which throws everything out of whack.
Just who in the hell is Davis?
It took me around five hours of searching around but I believe I’ve found the answer. Now, you won’t find this on Wikipedia, nor will you find this in any textbook. Here is a link to a book written in 1867 called “Conservative Surgery” written by Henry Gassett Davis. Look at pages 138 – 139 and you’ll see the beginnings of Davis’ law.
Here is a link to another book, this one written in 1915, and you’ll see on page 157 it contains “Davis’s Law,” the same wording used 38 years earlier by Henry Gassett Davis. I was pretty proud of this discovery!
10. Massage table
My friend Keats Snideman knew I was looking for a massage table so he alerted me when a buddy of his was selling one for only $100! I got a steal on the table and now it’s one of my favorite tools. I’m an assessing machine lately; utilizing things I’ve learned from Keats and Patrick Ward, things I learned off of Bill Hartman, Mike Robertson, and Eric Cressey’s Assess and Correct, and some methods I’ve developed on my own or picked up along the way.
Here’s me modeling the new table! Move over Vanna White!
11. Phone conversations
I’m very lucky to have some great friends in the fitness industry. As a matter of fact, one way I can tell if someone is “for real” and in this industry for the right reasons is if they still like to “talk shop” and discuss various topics in strength training. No one even comes close to knowing it all…not the best professors, researchers, therapists, doctors, trainers, or coaches. Knowledge is so broad that we must specialize which leaves a ton of room for learning from other experts. I am very lucky; in the past week I’ve been privileged to speak to Nick Tumminello, Mark Young, Keats Snideman, Shon Grosse, and Ben Bruno. Each week is different but I try to speak to a couple of coaches each week. I like to speak to like-minded individuals and not-so-like-minded individuals as it’s good to try to learn from people who don’t agree with you about everything.
12. Core stabilization
When people think of “core stabilization,” they think of planks, side planks, Pallof presses, etc. Not many people think of racking weights and performing big lifts as core stabilization but it is. I get a ton of core stability work from carrying two plates at a time when I re-rack plates, racking heavy dumbbells back onto the rack after doing a set, etc. I also get tons of core stability work from chin ups, push ups, squats, deadlifts, military press, and even barbell curls. Think about it! We’re keeping a neutral spine (straight line form shoulders to knees) while moving limbs dynamically.
13. Chalk on chicks
I don’t know why, but I find it very sexy when a pretty girl has chalk all over their bodies from hardcore lifting. Just saying!
14. Glutes – a crazy muscle
Earlier in the blog I discussed a client of mine who had one glute that contracts harder than the other. Well I also have a client who can activate her glutes very well while squatting, lunging, deadlifting, doing good mornings, and hip thrusting.
However, in prone straight leg positions with anteroposterior vectors that have a core stabilization component such as back extensions, push ups, planks, and ab wheel rollouts she cannot fire her glutes at all. This is someone who has great glute development, but she can’t fire them or posteriorly rotate her pelvis in that position. I can regress her to a quadruped position or completely prone position and she does fine, but it will take a few weeks to get her firing all cylinders from this position.
Many clients can activate the glutes well in one position and not another. You have to practice, practice, practice until the client gets it right. You also have to know how to regress or progress a movement. The gluteus maximus is indeed a crazy muscle!
15. The unwritten laws of training like a man
I always enjoy teaching my clients and workout partners gym etiquette and “man laws of training.”
Some of these laws include the following:
I. You have to put plates on a barbell with the smooth edges on the outside and the indented edges facing inward. I tell clients that this “Keeps the Power in.” Lyle McDonald wrote an excellent article about this and it’s something that must be passed on from generation to generation. This alone tells you if a lifter is experienced or not.
II. Clips need to face the proper direction too. I’m always amazed when people can’t figure this out.
III. There’s even a special technique to placing or peeling 45 lb plates onto the bar while it’s on the ground when deadlifting. Idiots try to push the plates in at an angle and can’t figure out why the plates won’t glide over the barbell. This always amazes me too. I am very detailed in that I’ll show proper plate loading technique!
IV. A good lifter should know that a standard barbell can hold three 45-lb plates on one side even when there’s no weight on the other side. Newbies freak the hell out when you take plates off one side of the bar while there’s an uneven number of plates on the other side. They think the bar will tip but it won’t (unless the bar is shifted toward the loaded side in the rack but that’s another story).
V. A good lifter needs to have all the load-schemes committed to memory. A plate on each side is 135 lbs, two plates on each side is 225, then you have 315, 405, 495, and 585. With 25 lb plates in the mix, you have 95, 185, 275, 365, 455, and 545. Male lifters need to know these loads and I’m always grilling newbies so they memorize the combinations.
I could go on and on with these but I’ll end it here. Hope you enjoyed the blogpost!!!