Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Best Exercises You've Never Tried Vol. 1

A new Men's Health article I contributed to titled "The Best Exercises You've never Tried Volume 1" is up on their site today.

They wanted a brutal exercise that one doesn't see often. I chose this because 1. It's a phenomenal movement 2. My clients hate it, which is why you don't see it done often.

The upper-body annihilator
The plank walk, by Chris Bathke

"This is an exercises you rarely see, and once you try it you'll know why," says Bathke. "It will wreck you." Much like it wrecked this chap.

Assume a press-up position with your feet on a powerwheel, Ab Dolly, or even a towel (it must be a smooth floor). Hold a strict plank position and using your hands, walk forward. You can go for time or distance, but make sure form is perfect.

Your entire anterior core, arms, and shoulders all get a wringing from this exercise, which also requires scapular stabilisation. "Pretty much your entire upper body is working together, as it should, in order to do the plank walk correctly," says Bathke

Once you've mastered it...
Progression I: Try to go backwards. For example, walk 10 metres forward, then immediately go backwards to the starting point. Repeat twice.
Progression II: Add a press-up in between each “step” with your hands. You won't cover much ground before having to stop. Consider your upper body and core work done.
Progression III: Bring your knees to your elbows in a tuck position between each step.

The guy in the video below getting worked is pro MMA fighter Diego Sanchez. Steve Maxwell, the first American to win a world championship in Brazilian Jiujitsu, is the guy coaching him.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Do Work at COC Son!

Last weekend it was time to do work up at Robert Dos Remedios' Cougar Strength & Conditioning Clinic. And though the cast of Sex in the City weren't there in person to do battling ropes, they were in our thoughts.

This was Dos's 11th year putting on his clinic, which raises money to buy equipment for the sports programs of College of the Canyons, and he always gets a great turnout. This year might have been the biggest yet. Sadly it might be the last, for budgetary and political reasons - why we love beaurocracy.

This year's lineup of speakers included Mike Wunsch of Alwyn & Rachel Cosgrove's Results Fitness Mike talked about the hows and whys of their programming strategy for their clients. And since Results is consistently noted as one of the top gyms in America, like EF Hutton smart people listen.

Their philosophy comes down to doing a great assessment on each client, then addressing corrective work first, then hard strength training to get results. *note* NO cardio, unless their goal is to compete in an endurance event.

Next up was Sean Skahan, strength & conditioning coach of the Anaheim Ducks. Sean detailed the in-season gym training of this NHL players, which boils down to some no nonsense, low volume heavy work in the gym to keep them strong on the ice and to reduce injury rates.

What I found fascinating was the Sean's training wasn't all that different in a larger sense from the 45 year old soccer mom that Mike trains at Results. The intensity and volume differ, but the movement patterns tend to be very similar. No hopping around on bosu balls and wobble boards and all that silly crap. Something to think about.

Next up was Pete Koch and Jim Kovich MD.

Both Pete and Jim are former NFL players now working in the health field. Jim is a geneticist working on issues involving the connections between genetic variation and incidence of injury. In other words, they are developing tests to individualize training, so that if a person has some genetic predisposition to weak ACL, then that can be identified early and addressed in training.

Needless to say it was fascinating to get a glimpse at the future of training science.

Pete talked about how one might take that research and apply it to young athletes.

Pete, a rather large gentlemen, is also best known for his role as Swede in the classic Clintwood film Heartbreak Ridge.

Swede, say something charming to the man.

Finally it was time to get in the gym and get work done.
Dos set up a variety of timed density circuits of the variety he has his athletes do. Everything from 5 seconds work with 25 seconds rest, 15:15, 30:30 40:20, up to 10 or more minutes of continuous work.

And believe me, everyone got worked.
These are some of Dos's volleyball girls doing some density work. No ellipticals or treadmills for these athletes.

Thanks again Dos for the fantastic information, and of course the post-seminar beers!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Advice for Older Lifters...and Pretty Much Everyone Else too.

Just thought I'd pass along to streams of great information that came my way this week. As most of you reading this know those aches and pains start becoming more frequent once you hit 40. Or if you played sports and lifted from a young age then expect it by 30.

I have trained guys that had some serious joint pains in their late 20's, and it seems like the higher the level they competed at the worse the injury. Just goes with the territory.

By the time I hit 30 I had to stop doing jiujitsu and being as aggressive in other sports as I wanted to simply because of two many piggybacking injuries. It hit me that being able to walk suddenly seemed more important.

Some of those injuries I attribute to lifting with poor form and a bodybuilder approach for too many years. I see guys in my gym that are in their early 20s that already have frequent joint pain and injury from using bodypart split bodybuilding style training.

If only I had some of the following advice back then I'd be much better off now.

First up is a Dan John interview. Dan is one of the truly good guys in the fitness industry. He's walked the walk and doesn't try to sell you any bullshit about getting jacked. Just good common sense and advice informed by decades of experience.

TM: Any closing advice for lifters on the wrong side of 40?
DJ: Once you get past 40, only two things matter: joint mobility and hypertrophy.
It's not flexibility. Flexibility is like a party trick for the muscles. I can instantly be more flexible. It's joint mobility, keeping the body able to move correctly in a given plane that's vital to long term training.
The other thing is, once you get past 32 or 33 you start losing lean body mass at a stunning rate. So you need to do some bodybuilding or hypertrophy work to slow this down. I focus on variations of the military press because I believe that the deltoids, triceps, traps, rhomboids, and probably the butt are the keys to youth. So the more time squatting, doing farmer's walks, and military presses, the younger you stay.
I also believe that it's a real mistake as you get older to keep bench pressing. Between the damage it does to the shoulder joint and the tighter it makes the pecs and delts, I say forget it. Those problems just get harder and harder to deal with as you get older.
I like to say that everyone can have one more injury, but do you have it in you for one more recovery? If you go rollerblading and break your wrist at 50, and it takes you 18 months to get back to lifting, where are you going to be in 18 months? Does the calendar say that you can afford an injury of that magnitude? That question gets tougher to answer as you get older.
So joint mobility, hypertrophy, and don't mess yourself up. Don't get that stupid injury you can't get back from.

The second link is to an online discussion with well known Olympic lifting coach Glenn Pendlay. In it he shares his experience coaching people who in their teens up to women in their 60's. This information is pure gold for anyone that is looking to stay fit and healthy and is in their 30's on up.

A couple of common threads between Dan and Glenn's wisdom are apparent.

1. They advise people to train full body. No working arms one day, back another etc... Make every day "body day."

2. Focus on using perfect form on every movement. If someone can't do it then regress to a simpler version and work on joint mobility, or whatever the issue is. You'll be much better off in the long run.
What's the hurry anyway? Think about all the progress you can make in 20 years.

Let me go ahead and just give you a real world example of an older lifter, one, by the way, that I am trying to get to come to your Bash with me, Mary McGregor.

Mary started training at age 55, having never done anything athletic in her life. She did general training for a few months, but was watching the younger OLers all the time and thought it looked fun. She asked if she could do it, I thought so, so she began to train for OL. It was a bit of a struggle, and having never coached anyone in her particular position (a beginner at that age) I had to fail as a coach to her a number of times before I learned what worked. I will spare you the details of all the things that didnt work, and just go straight to what did. 2 times per week, sometimes 3 for a couple of weeks right before a meet, Mary will go up to about as much as she can comfortably do on both the snatch and clean and jerk. This means what can be done with good crisp form and very little chance of a miss. We try to get 4-5 good snatches in the "working range", which for Mary is about 38kg to 42kg. Her best in competition is 44kg at 61 years old. Then we try to get 2-3 clean and jerks in the "working range", which for her is 55kg to 60kg. Her best clean and jerk is 63kg, done at 61 years old. 
This is it, this is her total amount of work in the Olympic lifts. She adds to this 2-3 general fitness workouts per week, sometimes on her own in her garage with kettlebells, sometimes with a personal trainer (friend of mine and also an Olympid lifter) or simply doing the machine circuit they have set up at the YMCA. She usually does no squatting, none at all.
Now, at previous times, she had squatted, and worked fairly hard at it... But I eventually learned that it took more out of her than it gave her, and since her lifts werent held back by leg strength, it wasnt helping anything to subject her nearly 60 year old body to squats. At previous times, we did more volume on the Olympic lifts, but, it just made her tired and created aches and pains. I could go on and on but you get the picture.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Fat Nation

I'm back from a week vacationing with family up in the Sonoma area of Northern California, and man what a beautiful place. I could spend years exploring the roads and mountains via bike and foot. And though I saw quite a few people biking around those stunningly gorgeous valleys I honestly thought there would be more out enjoying the sights. But judging by the amount of overweight people driving up to the wineries and in the mineral pools, alot of those people aren't doing much exercise ever. I honestly think it would be hard to be overweight in such an environment, but that's not reality.

That brings me to an article in the latest issue of the Atlantic Journal called "Fat Nation" by Mark Ambinder. It's a fairly long article, but very well written, so please click the link and go read it.

Ambinder's approach is interesting in that he takes a macro view of the obesity issue, tying it not only to fast food, increased caloric intake, and the dubious corporate food industry, but also to how it is now more accepted than ever to be fat., and how this affects us.

At once encouraging (the author lost some 90 pounds) and dark: "At the current rate of increase it will take less than 30 years for all black women to become overweight or obese."

Wrap your mind around that for a minute.

Ambinder does a great job at digging into problems involved high up in the corporate and political stratosphere. Basically the food industry discovered that it could make mountains of cash by making Americans want to eat more and more crap. It's a hard nut to crack, as we are constantly bombarded by commercials and displays in grocery stores encouraging unhealthy choices. But it can be overcome.

Personally, my wife and I don't shop at Ralphs or any other store full of processed junk. We buy most of our food at Trader Joe's and farmer's markets. And even though Trader Joe's does sell some unhealthy items, by and large it's easier to buy food of better quality.

Neither do we eat at any fast food places, nor Applebees, Pizza Hut etc... I'd much rather eat someplace that I know takes pride in the quality of their food, not just the profit in serving up frozen processed junk. And we certainly don't miss any of those foods at all.

Lest you think I'm a paleo or vegan nazi, I'll readily throw down some carbs, grains, and milk. My parents, their parents, and their parents did just fine eating bread and drinking milk.

And besides, most people are not going to be able to stick to a restrictive diet. Why not just use common sense in choosing the freshest possible food?