Thursday, January 26, 2012

Making The Transition From Cardio To Strength

Keeping you on your toes

Making the change from a cardio-centric lifestyle to the realm of MOAR SQUATZ can be a tough transition. The culture of both fitness worlds can be comparable to a religion, with members who like to preach about the superiority of their side.

It can be hard for a cardio disciple when their religion comes crashing down on them. When they realize that running for hours and hours on end is actually not beneficial to their body, and actually has a catabolic effect on the muscle tissue, leaving you with diminishing returns.

One of the biggest things I have seen from ex-cardio agents is the confusion they have when one of my programmed workouts is finished and they aren't in a pile of their own sweat. To quote a new trainee from last week "my muscles feel dead, but I'm not that sweaty. Thanks for the session, I am going to do cardio".

Lying in a pool of your own sweat is not the marker of a successful workout. Anybody can work up a sweat for an hour. Continuous Progressive Adaptation should be the goal of your training, not needing a closet full of old spice deodorant.

I won't get into the topic of differences in nutrition, that is a whole other post in itself. Instead, this photo should sum it up nicely:

Here at LiftBigEatBig, WE LIKEZ OUR MEATZ
We had an interesting debate on the fan page the other day regarding the importance of a heart rate monitor during workouts. tThe general consensus was that unless you have a serious heart problem or you turn into the Hulk after a certain BPM, a heart rate monitor is an unnecessary piece of  gym equipmen.

It can be hard to overcome this mentality of using a HRM to gauge your workouts. If you are running a 400m sprint or going for a 1RM back squat or snatch, the HRM isn't going to tell you how well you did: your score on the board is. Who cares if your heart rate is in "the optimal zone" if you can't squat the weight?

When transitioning to the religion of strength, you will realize that all of your previous fitness concerns and worries pale in comparison to a successful strength PR. Turned off by the cockiness that takes place in the strength world? As a fan pointed out, you won't meet a cockier person than a middle/upper class Caucasian individual who is a long distance runner or "yogi".

If you are having second thoughts about your cardio religion, give strength a shot. Once you go strong, you will never go wrong.

Oh and one more thing:

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Improving Your WarmUp

A proper warmup should be a staple in your programming, no matter what your level of experience is. The excuse for skipping a warmup usually consist of "I don't have time" or something of that nature. Using one of my favorite dad quotes "If you don't have time to do it right the first time, when will you have time to fix it later?"

Some athletes want to skip the warmup so they can get straight to the meat and potatoes of the workout. As delicious as meat and potatoes are, you still need some sides dishes, otherwise it isn't a complete meal. One of my athletes was reporting stiffness in the joints and a bit of a plateau. I found out that this athlete was severely neglecting his warmup, so I had him do extensive warmup drills every day. He PR'd 3 times in a single week and felt more mobility in his joints. This is one example of the benefits that a proper warmup will offer you.

USA Weightlifting states that “A thorough warm up will improve performance through the following mechanisms:
  • Increased rate and strength of muscle contraction
  • Increased muscle coordination through related movements
  • Increased metabolic rate
  • Increased efficiency of the neuromuscular system
  • Increased work capacity
  • Improve cardiovascular and respiratory efficiency, e.g., the adaptation of the heart to exercise stress is improved and likewise oxygen delivery to working muscles is a benefit.
  • Reducing the possibility of injury through increased muscle elasticity and improving the joint range of motion. This is particularly important for the development of skill efficiency in Weightlifting.
  • Psychological benefits”
These benefits are achieved by following a simple warmup pattern. The warmup pattern can be tailored to fit all fitness regimens.This article will identify and out the three components of every warmup.

General Warmup

When walking into the gym, it is good to consider the body as being in a "cold" state: The body must be warmed up to a level where it can safely perform the exercises it is about to endure. A good general warmup should involve the major muscle groups of the body under light or minimal load and does not mimic the specific movements of the workout.

Some examples of a general warm up include light calisthenics, running, rowing, jump rope or burpees (YAY!).

A general warmup is supposed to increased the core temperature of the body and induce perspiration, but not to a point of muscle fatigue. 

After the general warmup comes stretching.


It is best to begin stretches after the general warmup to increase the elasticity of the muscles and joints. My favorite type of stretching is SMR. Rolling out the muscles is the easiest way to get rids of tight fascia that may have become constricted from a day of sitting at a computer or sleeping in a less than optimal position the night before.

SMR can also help increase the mobility of new athletes to get into the proper position of the major lifts.

After stretching is completed, it is time to move on the the final aspect of the warmup.

Specific Warmup

After the first two portions of the warmup are completed, it's time to engage in the specific portion of the warmup. Like the name implies, the specific warmup contains movements that are specific to the movements of the workout.

Light barbell complexes are ideal for a specific warmup because they will target the movements of the lifts, and prepare the muscles for the loading that is about to take place. Progressing up to the working weight should not be part of the specific warm up, that should begin after the specific warm up has been completed.

This guide for warming up is about as simple of directions as I can make. Implementing this warmup into your daily training routine will help you to continue to yield positive results, and prevent injuries.

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Positive Side of An Injury

This photo may have been staged

World-class hellion Dana McMahan asked me to write an article on the mental aspects of a debilitating injury. I was also asked to leave the fluffy hello-kitty feel good messages, so I will do my best to adhere to these directions.

Let's not beat up any bushes: getting injured is just about the worst thing that can happen to you from a training standpoint. It's going to take you out of the game  for as little as a week and as much as a year or two. It can (and probably will) drag you down into a mental hell, wondering if you can ever squat again. A bout of depression is sure to accompany a debilitating injury as well.

But, there is a silver lining to this cloud that you will probably only see halfway through the injury.  Some may not agree with this, but an injury may be the best thing for you.

Stretching like a sunuvagun will help prevent injuries
It can take something as dramatic as an injury to make you take a step back and look at all of the things you were doing wrong.  I have talked with fellow coaches about this before: in some cases, it literally takes a debilitating injury for an athlete to see why training hard 6-7 days a week is not a good thing. Taking time off because of an injury will also give you plenty of time to analyze harmful patterns that may have been appeared in past training cycles. Were you stretching outside of the gym and thinking about good posture? Did you say "f*ck it" one time too many when it came to having a proper warm up? Were you worried more about impressing fellow lifters with a big jump in weight when you knew you couldn't do it?

Blood for dramatic effect
An injury will give you the time necessary to change your game plan for the future, and tweak your training to keep you from getting injured. 

Another difficult aspect that accompanies an injury is the possible fear of getting back into the movement that you were previously injured on. I used to be all about front squats, until I took an arrow in the knee. It took me a long time to want to do front squats again after my first injury. From an evolutionary point of view, this is natural: Your brain wants to avoid the action that harmed the body. Not everyone has this occur to them, but if it does, the only way to beat the fear is to get back under the bar.

You have to out-muscle your brain : don't back down from a fight with yourself.

As far as the worry of pushing yourself too hard post-injury, hopefully you aren't a complete idiot and taught yourself something during your down time. If injured, you will need to re-write your game plan. Go to the gym 20 minutes earlier so you can properly warm up. If you sit at a desk all day, get up every 30 minutes and do 15 air squats to keep your mobility up. Turn off Jersey Shore and go to sleep at a decent hour so you can recharge your engine.

I will say it again: a debilitating injury sucks, but sometimes its the only thing that will make an athlete put on the brakes and assess their training methods. You WILL squat again one day, perhaps sooner than originally thought. Until that time, go over past training mistakes you could have made and areas where you got sloppy. That way, when the time comes to squat again, you will be properly prepared so as to not get injured again.

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Butt Test

The butt test is a simple method for measuring the size of the Gluteus Maximus muscles on an individual. In layman's terms, its measures how big your butt is. First, have your test subject lie on the ground, face down, preferably with their hands above their head. Load a barbell with either iron 45's, or standard size bumper plates. If the barbell rolls over their glutes without touching, that athlete is in serious trouble and needs MOAR SQUATZ immediately. If the barbell touches the glutes, that athlete will earn an acceptable score (could still use some more squats though). If the athletes glutes completely stop the barbell from rolling forward, that athlete has earned a gold star and should probably celebrate by doing some squats.

Code Brown, Streaky, and Jersey

I was inspired to conduct this test after hearing about it from another gym and asked some of my athletes to perform the test. After all, if you want to represent Lift Big Eat Big, you better have a backside worth dropping a jaw over.

Streaky, along with some of her fellow athletes from Cast Iron Crossfit sent in some photos and video of themselves performing the test, with results that even Sir Mix-A-Lot would approve of:

The gluteal muscles are considered to be some of the strongest in the whole body, and they are what give humans their unique bipedal advantages. They are also the best looking muscle group on the body. That is why I want all readers of Lift Big Eat Big to test themselves with the Lift Big Eat Big Butt Test and photograph/videotape their results.

The most impressive male and female results will win a t-shirt of their choosing.

You all have 5 days to finish The Butt Test and either email me your results or upload them to the Facebook page. Get to it!
Joe C. setting a good example for the men

Assistance Exercises For The Powerful Athlete

During a cycle or even just a single training session, a question that often get's asked is "What else should I be doing"? This question can come up when an athlete notices they have a sticking point in their squat, a weakness in their snatch, or a technical error on their deadlift.

This is where supplementation with assistance exercises can be beneficial to athletes. Assistance exercises are critical in training because of their ability to target the weak links in the chain of your successful lift.

There will come a point in your training when your initial progress plateaus, whether it takes months or years depends on the athlete. Implementing assistance exercises into your training will help to keep these plateaus from occurring.

Let's take a look at eight assistance exercises to help improve your lifts.

1. Romanian Deadlift

The Romanian Deadlift (RDL) is one of the best exercises to increase glute and hamstring strength, as well as flexibility. The girl in the video is performing it slightly quicker than I would like to see, but is good practice for increasing speed on the 2nd pull of the snatch. She is using snatch grip instead of standard clean grip. It can be done both ways, the snatch grip will have a larger ROM than the clean grip.

To perform the RDL, inflate the chest and set the back. Slightly unlock the knees and move only the hips with no change in the knee angle. Then, lower the barbell to approximately mid-shin, or until you feel a near-max pull on the hamstrings. Distribute the body weight on the heels and keep the back tight and flat for the entire rep.  Don't breathe until each rep is completed.

2-3 sets of 10 reps after speed lifts have been completed should be sufficient for the RDL. Start with a moderate weight until you find a weight that can be completed for 10 reps with a fair degree of pull on the hamstrings.

2. Curtis P's

The Curtis P's sounds simple enough on paper: 1 power clean, 1 stationary lunge with each leg, 1 push jerk. I assure you it is anything but simple in execution.

The Curtis P is an excellent tool for increasing the strength of your front rack position because of the difficulty of keeping the elbows up while one leg is in the forward lunge position. The strength of the split jerk position will also benefit from Curtis P's because of the similar postural position of the legs.

After main lifts have been completed in the workout, load the bar up with as much weight as you can do for 5 sets of 3 reps (1 rep = 1 power clean, 1 stationary lunge each leg, 1 push jerk). The bar must be returned to the ground after each rep.

Expect great difficulty in climbing stairs the day after Curtis P's.

3. JM Press

I don't need to say too much for this one, Dave Tate outlines it pretty well. One IMPORTANT thing to remember: keep your thumbs wrapped around the bar, unlike Dave in the video. 90% chance you are nowhere near his skill level, and and I have had 2 people drop the bar on their face/neck from not having thumbs around the bar, luckily one walked away only losing 14 of his teeth.

JM press will target weak triceps, which can fix weak or sticking points on the bench press. Find a weight that you can barely finish for 3 sets of 10 reps after main bench press movements have been completed.

4. Good Morning

If you look at the positioning of the Good Morning, it is nearly identical to the position of the RDL as discussed earlier. The main difference being that the bar is across the neck or back, while the RDL is held in a deadlift position. This difference adds the benefit of keeping the chest up with a heavy weight across the back, mimicking a weak point on the squat.

Use a lighter weight than with RDL's for 3-4 sets of 10 reps, after main lifts have been completed.

5. Turkish Get-up

The Turkish Get-up is one of the oldest strength building movements in our current arsenal. You may have seen this performed with a kettlebell, but performing the movement with a barbell will give you the most benefit. The strength it takes to keep the loaded barbell from twisting in your hands is no small feat, and will carry over into all lifts that require a strong grip. This link will give you a quick rundown of how to perform the movement.

After all lifts are completed, perform 10 Turkish Get-Ups with each arm, progressively moving up in weight with each rep.

These 5 examples are just a small piece of a much larger pie of assistance exercises.  By implementing these movements, along with things like Glute-Ham Developers, Glute Bridges, 1 1/4 squats, split squats, etc... you will see the benefits carry over to your main lifts and see your PR's increase.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Social Acceptance of Mediocrity

I have a list of sayings that make my blood curdle, and "hey now, at least they're up and moving" is close to the top of that list. We've all heard it before and probably have said it ourselves, but if you think about it, it's depressing to see how that saying has become a norm nowadays.

We now live in a society where doing the bare minimum required to keep your heart beating is supposed to earn you a pat on the back and a sugar-free cupcake (don't worry, its only 100 calories...guilt free!). Since when did getting off the couch and moving around become an acceptable form of exercise? You may say, "Hey, at least they are moving around", and yes, you're right, that is the least they can do--but the problem is that they shouldn't be stopping there.  Getting off your ass should be the thing you do when you wake up, not the physical highlight of your day.

90% of the time, I hear this saying when discussing those who walk as their main form of exercise. Sorry, but walking 15 minutes is NOT a workout; it's a warmup for your warmup. Just for comparison, Alexander's army marched over 5000 miles from Thessaloniki to the Indus river. That isn't even counting the stops at tourist attractions or the journey home.

How long would this take you at 15 minutes a day?

Seriously, what happened to the grit that people used to have? My grandpa would call those people "the old breed". When he lived in Africa, he would run 9 miles to school and 9 miles home everyday, with no shoes. See if you can get one of your fellow Americans to do something remotely intense for even 9 minutes before crapping out, but not before they congratulate themselves for at least "getting off the couch".

Folks, you shouldn't be fine with doing the least amount of work. Putting in the least amount of effort will get you the least amount of results. It shouldn't be enough to simply walk around, you should be challenging your limits almost daily. I understand if you have a debilitating injury that limits your mobility, but most people don't have debilitating injuries, they are just bloated and lazy.

Directions on walking, in case you forgot.

Walking isn't the only "workout" that is the main form of exercise for many people, another popular one is yoga. While claimed to be an ancient practice, it is anything but. It's 60-90 minutes of stretching and breathing, and that's supposed to be a workout? People claim that yoga makes you skinny. False, I see it as another activity for wealthy white women. It may be great for stretching and finding your inner chai tea, but it is no replacement for actual weightlifting.

My impression of yoga is that it is a practice which teaches you that your body is a vessel of sickness and toxins that must constantly be purged. They also tell you to put your body in very unsafe positions and that tingling, pain, nausea and blacking out means you are doing it correctly (they actually said that blacking out is normal during our yoga class).

Here at Lift Big Eat Big, we don't believe in mediocrity, and if you are a reader then you shouldn't either. Strive to reach your potential in everything you do, especially in your workouts. You will be sitting or laying down for more than 18 hours a day, why not give your training 100% for one hour a day? And when you hear others say "at least they're moving" in regards to a mediocre workout, don't stand for it. Instead, encourage these people to do more. The least work produces the least results and when it comes to your body and your health, you shouldn't strive for mediocrity.

That is all. Go forth, Lift Big and spread the good word.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

8 Scientific Facts I Learned In Hot Yoga

Like I said last week, I tried hot yoga with my wife yesterday to try and improve the flexibility of my hips for MOAR SKWATZ.  It was hotter than I thought it would be, and smelled like an old can of hobbit feet.  It did what it promised to do though: I sweated an obscene amount and improved my flexibility.

However, during the 90 minutes I heard some ridiculously outrageous medical facts about the body that I stored away in my brain for later writing purposes. Here is the list of 10 of the most outrageous facts I heard during my session of hot yoga.

#1."Pulling My Knees To My Chest Stimulates And Stretches My Colon, Allowing My Body To Digest Meat"
Interesting, all this time I thought it was Protease that was doing that task for me.

#2. Pushing My Forehead Down To My Ankles Stimulates My Reproductive Organs"
If by "stimulated", you mean smashed between my thunder muscle thighs, then yes they are very stimulated.

#3. "Lying On my Back Stimulates My Elimination Systems"

Elimination system? I must have missed that one in all of my human chemical composition classes.

#4. "93% Of All Of My Brain Cells Reside In My Dead Muscle Tissue"

I am going to go ahead and assume they are talking about neurotransmitters, which live in the gut.

#5. Wait, I am Carrying Around Dead Muscle Tissue?
That must explain why I do things like this for fun.

#6. "These Poses Are Shredding Your Bodyfat While Toning And Tightening Your Muscles"

Funny, all along I thought yoga was making people soft like Gwyneth Paltrow.....who knew?

#7. I Got to Stare At My Wife's Butt During a Few Poses

Not really scientific, but still deserves one of these.

#8. "After Leaving Here, You Won't Be Hungry And You Will Have A Sense Of Calm"

False. Immediately upon leaving I went straight to Qdoba and ordered 3,000 calories worth of burrito meat.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Head Position On The Back Squat

Over the weekend I received a few interesting comments on some of my posts. The first one told me how bad my squats were because my knees are supposed to stay over my shins at all times. Good luck with that on an Olympic squat.

The second comment was regarding optimal head position on the back squat. While there are some obvious NO's for certain positions, there are also varying degrees of thought on which position is the most optimal for back squat. Let's take a look at a few of the positions.

#1 Incorrect Head Position: Eyes To The Sky

This one can be called "The High School Weight Room Method". Somewhere along the way, coaches felt that your eyes need to be on the ceiling above you since that is the direction you want to be traveling. Incorrect. Looking up with a cranked neck causes the spinal erectors to slack, compromising the position on the posterior chain, and hyper-extending the cervical spine can lead to disc injuries.
#2 Incorrect Head Position: Staring At Your Twinkletoes

This is the #2 head position that will ruin your squat form: staring straight down, usually looking at the space between your feet.  This is probably from taking the Rippetoe cue to "look down" to the extreme. The body will follow the head,  and if you are bending your neck to look down  then both your upper AND lower back will will also bend. This also increase the chance of spinal disc injuries, as well as a caving chest and knees that shoot forward.

It should go without saying that you should not be squatting in front of a mirror, or looking sideways at yourself in the mirror. Unless you want to be a chump forever.

#1 Correct Head Position: The Rippetoe Head Position

According to Rippetoe, when the head is in a neutral position, the body is also in its most optimal position (neutral position = head in line with the rest of the spine).  Rippetoe states that this position will give you optimal neck safety and maximal hip power. If the neck is cranked too far up or down, the spine will be out of alignment and risk of injury increases. Driving the chin back while staring at a spot on the ground 6-7 feet in front of you is the easiest way to achieve this head position.

#2 Correct Head Position: Looking Straight Ahead

You can call this one the "Powerlifter Position", since it is the head position that is seen most in powerlifters. The mentality behind this position is that by looking straight ahead and driving the traps into the bar, the chest is forced to stay upright,  and as long as you aren't looking any higher than horizontal, the cervical spine should stay in its normal anatomical position.

What Is My Preference?

I prefer looking straight ahead. It is where I am the most powerful, and it keeps my chest up better than the Rippetoe position. Rippetoe himself has stated that his forte is teaching beginners (hence STARTING Strength) and is most concerned with safety. He also states that there is no anatomical problem with looking straight ahead, as long as the cervical spine stays normal.  I agree with most of the things Rip teaches, excluding his theory on the head position, and the elbows flaring out on his bench press.

Lot's of practice, weight, and volume will help you find your optimal position. For the new recruit who spends all of his time looking at his knees, worrying about the neck, thinking about the lower back etc... will suffer from paralysis from analysis. Get a good coach and find the most comfortable, optimal position for yourself. You won't be lead astray.

On another note: Make sure to get your Donny Shankle shirt, I am donating all of the proceeds to Donny Shankle's training fund to help him as he attempts to represent the US at the 2012 Olympics.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Static vs. Dynamic Stretching

Dynamic stretching
Every day I see the same thing with one client or another. After a long day at work, they will walk in and immediately start doing a static stretch: propping their leg up on something and holding it there. Putting an elbow behind their head and pushing down for 20 or 30 seconds. Every day I tell them they same thing: stop doing the static stretches before workouts and start doing dynamic stretches.

What are the differences between static and dynamic stretches, and which is more beneficial before a workout?

Let's get started.

Static Stretching

A common static stretch.
Static stretching is a slow and constant stretch that is held at an end position for up to 30 seconds.  The benefits of static stretching  involve an increase in flexibility. A lack of flexibility seems to play a role in the development of chronic injuries such as patella femoral syndrome (knee pain), low back pain and shoulder pain. Many people report an alleviation of ailments and pain after a rigorous static stretching regimen has been implemented.  Since performance can be inhibited by inflexibility, static stretching done at the right time may help increase performance levels.

Dynamic Stretching

 Dutch Lowy going through some dynamic stretches.

Dynamic stretching uses momentum, speed of movement, and active muscular effort to bring about a stretch. Unlike static stretching, the end position is not held. Dynamic stretching is similar to ballistic stretching except that it avoids bouncing motions and tends to incorporate more sports-specific movements. Dynamic stretching is useful due to its effects of reducing muscle tightness, which is a factor associated with an increased occurrence of musculotendinous tears.

Which Is Superior Before A Workout?

Pretty much beginning in grade school, people are taught the static stretches as part of a warm up before sporting events, training sessions, and weightlifting training. The problem with that is, static stretching is much less beneficial that dynamic stretching as part of a warm up.

Multiple studies have been conducted on this subject since the 1980's on the benefits of dynamic stretching during warm up. Studies have shown that the dynamic range of motion (DROM) is significantly increased for the angular displacement of the hip joint, especially compared to static stretching.

In a study testing the “effect of dynamic versus static stretching in the warm-up on hamstring flexibility”, twelve participants were randomly assigned to three interventions of 225 second stretch treatment on separate days:
  1. No stretching
  2. Static stretching
  3. Dynamic stretching
This is what they found:
“The intervention study comparing the effects of static and dynamic stretching routines in the warm-up on hamstring flexibility demonstrated that dynamic stretching enhanced static as well as dynamic flexibility. Static stretching on the other hand did not have an impact on dynamic flexibility.  Static stretches may be useful in the cooling down period of training for long term gains in flexibility.”

Dynamic stretching will improve your performance by increasing flexion in the joints and increasing body temperature. Much like how the time of day can determine your body temperature, dynamic stretching will increase your body temperature, causing blood to flow more easily to muscles. The warmer the muscle, the less chance there is of injury. Static stretching decreases the ability to exhibit maximum power or strength for up to 30 minutes after stretching.

Too much static stretching can cause the length of the resting muscle to be too long, and one can encounter the problem of the stretch-shorten reflex to not work as well. Excessive flexibility such as the splits, can be counterproductive for sports that don't require it because it will decrease your ability in power or strength movements.

For example:
The stretch-shorten cycle is also used for energy conservation such as “bouncing” out of the bottom of the squat with the hammies (Oly lifting, weightlifting, etc.) as they lengthen under tension, or in the plyometric moment on the calves/hamstrings during sprinting.

Dynamic stretches

The bottom line is this:

Dynamic stretches are most beneficial before exercise because they warm up the muscles and send blood to them. They also mimic the movements that will be taking place during the exercise.

Static stretches have their place and their place is not before stretching. They should only be done after a workout is finished. You won't be holding a locked arm behind your head during a workout, so why would you do that for a warm up?

Above all else, don't be one of those people that thinks they don't need to warm up. Because those people are stupid.

1) National Strength & Conditioning Association. Essentials of strength training & conditioning. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics. 2000

2) Witvrouw, E., Danneels, L., Asselman, P., D'Have, T., Cambier, D. Muscle flexibility as a risk factor for developing muscle injuries in male professional soccer players. A prospective study. Am. J. Sports Med. Jan-Feb;31(1):41-6. 2003

3) Krivickas, L.S., Feinberg, J.H. Lower extremity injuries in college athletes: relation between ligamentous laxity and lower extremity muscle tightness. Arch. Phys. Med. Rehabil. Nov;77(11):1139-43. 1996

4) Yamaguchi, T., Ishii, K. Effects of static stretching for 30 seconds and dynamic stretching on leg extension power. J. Strength Cond. Res. Aug;19(3):677-83. 2005

5) Cramer, J.T., Housh, T.J., Weir, J.P., Johnson, G.O., Coburn, J.W., Beck, T.W. The acute effects of static stretching on peak torque, mean power output, electromyography, and mechanomyography. Eur. J. Appl. Physiol. Mar;93(5-6):530-9. 2005. Epub 2004 Dec 15.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Squatting Below Parallel

When it comes to squatting, there seems to be only 2 mindsets.

1. "Squats are bad for the knees and back."


Chance are if you are on this site, you already have mindset #2. Many people have a fear of squats that is caused by inexperience and incorrect advice from uneducated individuals. They have been told that squatting (especially squatting with the hip crease below parallel) puts a tremendous amount of force on the knees and lower back, which will inevitably lead to serious injuries.

All followers of Lift Big Eat Big know that this is simply not the case, and is in direct opposition of the truth. According to my wife, besides "protein", "squat" is the word I repeat the most throughout the day. This is because I have to repeat myself daily to remind individuals that when performed correctly, squats are the best exercise you can do for your body.

The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) released a statement regarding their position on the safety and effectiveness of the squat. Below is a snapshot of the 9 bulletpoints of their position:

According to author Rob Faign, "there is a perverse situation prevailing in gyms across America: People are doing the right exercise (squats) the wrong way (half-way down) for the right reason (to protect their knees)."  Half squats are also popular with bodybuilders who are seeking to develop large quadriceps instead of a strong posterior chain.

By halting the squat half or quarter of the way down, the knees are forced to absorb the movement midway through. By squatting to full depth, the movement reaches its natural finishing point, and the knees are assisted out of the bottom by the hamstrings and glutes. Not only are deep squats not bad for the knees, but without deep squats your knees will be left in a very weakened state. 

Deep squats will strengthen hamstrings, hips, glutes, and every other muscle you possess, whereas half squats focus primarily on the quadriceps (which, as we all know, is a glamour muscle). 

Proper lumbar curve on left, "butt wink" on right.
One of the issues that can arise with new recruits is the infamous "butt wink", or the posterior tilt of the pelvis at the bottom of a squat. This by itself doesn't present any real dangers to the spine, but it can be an indicator of improper form.  A few ways to fix this issue is driving the knees out, keeping the chest up and open, and making to sure not over-extend the lumbar, which can put it in a weakened position.

In closing, there are just a few things to remember, which I have outlined in a chart that is easy to remember:

Here is a video of Marshall going from 245-700 in less than 45 seconds


Monday, January 2, 2012

8 Of The Laziest Attempts At Diet & Exercise

Humans are amazing creatures, capable of ingenious methods and inventions. What is more impressive  is our innate desire to put in the least amount of work possible while still trying to reap the same benefits as if we worked hard. One of the easiest place to spot this trait is in the health and fitness industry. People will do whatever it takes to lose weight and be healthy: as long as it doesn't require any effort, diet, or exercise.

Let's take a look at some of the laziest attempts at diet and exercise available.

1. Drinking The Urine of Pregnant Women For Weight Loss

Maybe you have heard of the hCG diet? It's derived from the piss of pregnant women. Well this diet cuts out the middleman and goes straight for the source: literally drinking the urine of pregnant women. The author of this diet book also wrote other books on how to cure AIDS, alzheimers, multiple sclerosis, and diabetes. This way, you know you are reading a reputable source.

2. Fitness Discs aka Cool Whip Lids

If this product looks like the top of a Tupperware lid, that's because it's identical to one. Now you can get fit while simultaneously falling on your face and breaking a tooth.

3. Weight Loss Sunglasses

According to the website, blue is the least appetizing color. So naturally it makes sense to wear blue sunglasses so everything looks unappetizing. In a very clear English translation, here is the product description from the website:

"It stimulates the physiological circulation of the human that it is appetite the effect of red approaches the brain among non consciousness, would like to eat generally, that it increases. It is said that the appetite it calms the excitation of the brain above that would like to eat blue color conversely, is held down. Those where the color physiology is applied are these sunglasses. “You drink continuously” if and so on poor even with the person where “it moves”, this because just you apply with easily is, it is easy to continue without being chased in stress, probably will be."

Well that's that.

4. Flavor Spray

Previously sold on a now defunct website, flavor spray promised to make boring foods taste like the exciting foods on the labels of the bottle. The only problem is even if you spray chocolate fudge in a rice cake, your brain will understand that its eating a rice cake with chocolate chemicals on it and be unsatisfied. Doesn't quite have the same effect as cake, does it?

 5. Oxygen 4 Energy

These bottles contain "95% oxygen enriched air" and claim to cure everything from hangovers to the effects of aging. Here is the short list of things that this can of air will have an effect on:
  • Power and Explosiveness
  • Endurance
  • Lactic Acid Muscle Burn
  • Training Intensity
  • Training Capacity
  • Recovery
  • Mental Clarity and Focus
6. The FIRM Fanny Lifter

To the untrained eye, the FIRM may appear to actually be 2 small stools, but they are so much more! Because unlike stools, you can step on and off of these.....oh wait.

Note the team of master professionals here to teach you more about the FIRM.

7. 6 Second Abs

If 8 minutes is just TOO much time to spend on an ab workout, not to worry. 6 second abs is the solution to all of your problems. It's the perfect tool to take with you on a date, or when you go to church.

8. The Tapeworm Diet

Beginning some time in the early 1900's, the tapeworm diet is now only legal in Mexico. Using tapeworms from cows, it promises to help you lose from 1-2 pounds per week, for only $1500 dollars. What a deal!

Keep your eye peeled for more ridiculous items such as these as you continue your fitness journey, and just remember that the basics work the best, that is why they are the basics. Nothing can be a substitute for simple, hard work (except maybe that fitness disc).