Tuesday, May 29, 2012

How to Increase Your Squat With Your Warm-Up

Rob Schmidt

Article written for LIFTBIGEATBIG.com by Joe Chodaki IV

Now that I have your attention I want to turn to plyometrics and increase your squat. Not tomorrow or over time but right now, today, the next time you squat. So how am I going to increase your squat? I'm going to ask you to do 5 reps of an exercise. Now I really have your attention, don't I?

Actually I'm not going to increase your squat; your own body is going to, through Post Activation Pontentiation. That is a response to a heavy load allowing you to utilize the muscles excited state to lift big. Now many of you have seen Charles Poliquin's take on it using the 1-6 method of squatting or benching, but I'm not sure that fits the type of lifting many of us do. If you're looking for increasing your mass, it might be a good idea to Google him, but if your looking to just slam your squat max tomorrow I have a suggestion. Depth drops.

If you're not familiar with Depth drops or Shock drops as Russian trainer Yuri Verkhoshansky called them, they are simply stepping off a height and sticking the landing. A staple of the track and field world, depth drops are used to help develop explosive strength for jumpers and throwers. Now using this exercise in conjunction with squatting by itself might increase your squat, but the PAP effect it has can increase your squat tomorrow. The reason for this is in the theory of PAP, that a heavy load 5 to 10 minutes prior can leave the body in an excited state, and as stated in a recent article by Olympic triple jumper Kenta Bell, a drop from 10 inches exerts 1400 pounds plus in .4 seconds. This is seriously more than one might try to squat. 

So for practical information and as programming you might want to experiment as to what feels best to you, but the 2011 study used 30 cm boxes, a four minute wait and a 1 rep max in the squat. For some fatigue will offset any PAP at 4 minutes and they might need 5 or 6, so what doesn't work today might tomorrow.  In previous studies the effect wore off by the twelfth minutes so if you're not getting any results there could be a few issues. One is that your training level is not enough and the fatigue is offsetting the effect. Another could be that the stimulus is not enough for your training level. I'm pretty sure that Marshall and L-train might need a bigger box. The last one is that this works best with those who have higher amounts of fast twitch fibers. 

With that in mind, the next time you squat add this in after your last set of warm up squats and see if you can hit a new 1, 2, 3 or even 5 rep max. I'm not sure if in the aggregate this will lead to an overall increase or it's only a temporary effect but if the latter is the case then it's still a fun tool for the gym and a monster for the competition.

If you are interested in reading further, here's some links.

Postactivation Potentiation and Athletic Performance
Andy V. Khamoui, MS, CSCS, Edward Jo, MS, CSCS, and Lee E. Brown, EdD, CSCS,*D, FNSCA

Post-Activation Potentiation: Underlying Physiology and Implications for Motor Performance
Hodgson, Matt; Docherty, David; Robbins, Dan

Michael J. Duncan1, Lorayne A. Woodfield1


Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Deload Week

Most LBEB readers lift weights for two reasons: to get BIG & SKRONG. This happens with hurling heavy weights around the room, putting heavy weights on your back, and pushing sh*t overhead. Combine this with eating large servings of mastodon flesh and you have the makings of an Ajax or an Amazon. However, there is one factor missing from this equation that will keep you from reaching your full potential: The Deload.

The deload period of your training is one of the most important pieces of the puzzle. I am going to go out on a limb here and say that most Crossfitters have no concept of deloading, and if they do, they probably hate it. In fact, coaching a relatively relaxed Crossfit session this morning, I heard all sorts of grumbles and groans that the workout wasn't really worth waking up for since it wasn't that hard.

The attitude of "If I don't end up leaving a sweat angel on the floor, it's a pointless workout" really makes my left eye twitch. Most individuals who follow random workouts abhor the fact that there might be an easy week because they think it will negatively affect their training. It's not just the masses either, I talked to someone who is going to Regionals (you know who you are) and they expressed the same disdain for deloading.

What exactly is a deload you ask? (from eliteFTS.com)

"A deload is a series of sessions where you focus on all of the following and reduce multiple factors of intensity:
SMR – soft-tissue work
Active recovery
Strength training form
Kinetic stability
Skill work"

Make sure to eat big when deloading

A deload is NOT simply a rest day or an "active rest" workout, it is a planned in your programming that is designed to allow muscles to recover from stresses put on them from previous weeks. I like the supercompensation model, as outlined in this previous article. When deloading, there are many factors which must be considered and ultimately decreased for the sake of proper recovery, including: sets, reps, weights, and rest periods between sets.

By regularly implementing deload weeks into your 4, 8, 12, or 16 week program, you can continuously hit the weights hard 2-3 days in a row with a rest day in between. The deload week also allows your CNS and brain to recollect itself after hard weeks of training, assuring that you will be able to jump back into the program with renewed vigor: something that Olympic and Powerlifters, as well as Strongman fully understand. Marshall and L-Train will take almost a full week off before their competitions.

The usual program design I use when writing programming consists of two loading weeks, one deload week, and one performance week (all based off percentages of 1RMs). This four week design is known as a "cycle", and a program can have two, three, or four cycles in it.

It is important to remember that while a deload is of the upmost importance, don't let the deload period extend for too long or you WILL begin to experience negative adaptations to your training. A week of proper SMR/lacrosse ball work, adequate rest and food intake, as well as analysis of form and technique will ensure that you are able to stick with a program for the long run, rather than bowing out early due to burnout or injuries.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Grip It & Rip It

Article written by Marshall White for LiftBigEatBig.com

Grip it and rip it!!!!  You hear this all the time in reference to deadlifting.  Never once have I heard “Lightly hold on to the bar and pull!” Why? Because having a strong grip is ESSENTIAL to being strong.  This doesn’t just apply to deadlift either, without a strong grip you are not as strong as you can be.

Remember when you were young and every time you shook your dad’s hand it felt like he was going to crush it?  Remember how it also seemed as though even though you were 15-18 years old and training like an animal in school your dad was always WAY stronger than you, could kick the crap outta you if he wanted to and he didn’t workout at all?  You think that was a coincidence?  Nope it wasn’t.  That’s called grown ass man strength and it all stems from that badass grip he got from turning a wrench, or fighting like a bull when he was younger, or just the years and years of gripping a bat on the church softball team. Can you imagine what would have happened if your dad had not only trained his grip but also trained the rest of his body?    

  As an athlete you are only as strong as your weakest link and if that link just so happens to be your grip then you are not reaching your full potential.  A strong grip will increase your bench press, your squat, your snatch and clean, your golf swing and believe it or not once your grip strength increases so will things like your speed and vertical jump as a by-product of all those other lifts increasing.  An athlete that is strong all the way around is a COMPLETE ATHLETE, there are no holes in his or her game.  So, how do we train grip?
 The first thing to know about grip is there are 2 major kinds, and I will break these down for you with ways to train them.

1. Crushing grip

This is the “closing the hand” grip, the grip used to shake a hand, or to grab to make a tackle.  This grip can be trained by using “grippers”, I’m sure you have all seen the guy in the airport with the metal contraption in his hand just closing it for hours.  My favorite crushing grip tools to use are the Captains of Crush that can be purchased at ironmind.com.  One thing to remember though is that crushing grip is very easily overtrained so keep the crushing to once a week or so and once you feel that sick burn happening in your forearms and hands shut it down for the day.

2. Supportive Grip

This is the grip that helps you hold onto things once the hand is already closed, think bench press, farmers walk, or swinging a bat.  This grip in my opinion is the most important type of grip and if your supportive grip is strong your crushing grip will get stronger by default because there is a certain element of crushing that comes into play as your supportive grip begins to tire (you have to “crush” your hand in order to keep holding on).  My favorite way to train my supportive grip is farmers walks and double overhand straight grip deadlifts(no hook grip).  Again, keep in mind that grip as a whole is very easy to overtrain.  This is why you see strongmen using straps on deadlifts so much.  After doing a 380 per hand farmers walk and an axle clean and press event the grip will be too smoked to hold on to a big 800+ deadlift.  This applies to training as well.  If you are going to farmers walk that week, on all your warm-ups for deadlift pull double overhand straight grip, then strap up when it comes to working sets so the rest of your body still gets work by handling big weight.  If you deadlift or oly lift without straps or a hook grip that week don’t add farmers walk in.  Simple as that.

Give these grip tips a shot and notice that all your lifts will go up.  Also notice that when you shake people’s hands their face will show that they think you are a badass that could crush their skull with a good squeeze if you wanted to. 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Do You Really Need 48-72hrs Between Workouts?

Lately there has been a large influx of new followers on the Facebook page, and with that inevitably comes questions regarding frequency of training. More than a few people asked me and the athletes why we say to squat every day, stating that they heard "muscles need at least 48-72 hours to recover."

Not sure where this tidbit of information originated, but it seems to be a blanket statement that does not apply to all the different facets of strength training protocols. I have divided recovery into what I consider to be three important aspects that I will touch upon in this article:

1. The quality of recovery time is more important than the quantity.

 Coach Mike Burgener once said "There is no such thing as overtraining, just under-recovery." This statement holds true for all of us. Sure, you can bust your butt during training and take 48 hours off in between workouts, and still have joint pains, poor performance, and minimal gains. Why?

Your recovery time may be wasted. Simply taking time off does not ensure proper recovery. If you spending your recovery time eating processed crap, sitting at the computer(with forward head posture)  and not spending any time working on SMR, getting proper sleep,  or keeping your joints happy, then you are not truly recovering. Personally for me, if I have papers and posts to write over a weekend when I take two days off, I will feel worse on Monday after those two days than if I were to take one day off, due to sitting in a compromised position.

If your recovery is on point, you can easily work a 4-5 day split every week, following proper periodization protocols, which will be explained below. Start treating your recovery as another part of your training, because it is.

2. The amount of volume, load, and frequency play an important part in recovery time.

It's fairly common knowledge that the amount of muscle and CNS stimulus has a direct effect on progress made: Too much stimulus and injuries/burnouts can occur, too little stimulus and no progress will be made.

When we say that we squat every day, we aren't squatting 90-100% of our max every day, it varies based on the program, and the protocol for reps is as follows:  as the volume (# of reps) decrease, the load (weight) increases. Following this protocol will allow lifters to train 4-5 days a week with proper recovery and program design. Arguably the most effective training protocol  for a drug-free lifter is "supercompensation." Coach Mike Conroy once told me that supercompensation will give a drug-free lifter about 90% of the results of a lifter who uses drugs, the caveat being that it will take 3-4 years longer to reach the same goal.

Supercompensation follows a simple protocol:
% = % of maxes

Week 1: 65%
Week 2: 70%
Week 3: 60%
Week 4:75%

This type of program can be used in a 4, 8 or 12 week program, following the outline of 2 preparatory weeks, 1 deload week, and 1 performance week. The percentages will increase as the months progress, usually with an end goal in mind, such as a meet. As the percentage increases, the volume decreases, allowing for proper recovery time between workouts. This example applies particularly to Olympic Weightlifting, but can be slightly altered for other sports as well, which brings us to our last topic.

3. Different goals require different lengths of recovery time.

The notion that 48-72 hours is required most likely came from the realm of bodybuilding, where allowing time for muscle growth is of the upmost importance. Thibadeau states that different muscles take different lengths of time to recover, depending on the size of the muscle,  I would add to that the set and rep scheme when calculating recovery time.

 Obviously a bodybuilder, whose goal is to create as much micro-tears in the muscle tissue (4x12) is going to be different than a powerlifter whose concern is to see  strength/power gains by focusing on less reps and heavier weight (5x2). The powerlifter's rep scheme will create more stress on the CNS than the actual muscles themselves, which will allow for a faster recovery time. Although, a smart powerlifter will be doing assistance exercises to create more muscle tissue as well.

I agree with Chaos&Pain (NSFW, unless you work for me) that I think too many athletes are overly concerned with recovery and are afraid of putting in a lot of hard work. It doesn't take steroids to be an exceptional athlete, you may not end up like Klokov, but with what we know about chemistry, neuroscience, and recovery abilities, you can get pretty damn close to the level of a moderate steroid user if you do your research on optimal recovery practices that are legal.


However, to all you Crossfitters: please take MORE rest days. Most gyms post workouts that are made for an athlete who is 100% recharged and ready to go, not someone who has done 6 WODS in a row and hasn't slept more than 4 hours a night all week. I see too many people get injured simply because they don't take enough rest days from Crossfit, the stress on the CNS from back to back WODs is unbelievable. Eating peanut butter and drinking Progenex will not turn you into Froning, so please take a damn rest day. 

If programming is something you need help with, LBEB does offer programming that can be tailed to your needs. Check out the Consultation page.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Body Image

Lately on the Facebook page, we've introduced a new campaign by LIFT BIG EAT BIG to showcase varying body types in the same outfit. Photos are sent in by heavy-lifting participants which are then contrasted with the standard model body type, wearing the same articles of clothing.

While most have received this campaign with open arms and dropped jaws, there has inevitably been some negativity from certain members of this community, who feel that comparing body types is wrong, and that all body types are acceptable.

To quote one of my athletes : This is LIFT BIG EAT BIG, not "go jogging and eat twigs & berries."

There seems to be a misconception that LBEB is diametrically opposed to skinny people. This couldn't be further from the truth. For example, here are a few skinny individuals that I coach on a personal basis or are contributors to the site:

Bok Choi, my 108lb athlete

Erika Wilson, 114lbs with a 305lb deadlift

Dana Mcmahon, a 100lb ex-powerlifter who wrote this for LBEB
The difference with these woman is that while they are skinny, they are a healthy skinny. There is an immense difference between being a naturally skinny person who is still very strong or fit, and a person who goes to unhealthy lengths in order to maintain a job in the modeling industry. Sorry, but anyone who believes all fashion or runway models are healthy, are misguided. It's no secret that many designers expect models to be walking hangers--which in turn leads to models developing dangerous habits to satisfy that goal. Obviously there are exceptions and some models are healthy, but that is rare. 

To quote Karl Lagerfeld of Chanel: "No one wants to see curvy women. You've got fat mothers with their bags of chips sitting in front of the television and saying thin models are ugly. Fashion is about dreams and illusions."  
~Source: Focus magazine

I believe that quote sums up what LBEB is opposed to quite nicely. The issue is that people look at photos of models who are not only dangerously skinny (a 23 inch waist on a woman of 5' 10"?) but also heavily photoshopped, further adding to the unattainable body image that so many strive for.

To say that "maybe most models are naturally this skinny and they probably do exercise" would be playing the part of the fool. Both my wife and I have worked with the modeling industry and we have seen these unhealthy habits firsthand. Have you ever heard of dipping cotton balls in orange juice and swallowing them so you feel full, but aren't actually getting nutrients? Then you should read this. While this is only one example, many other examples show up when you search for supermodel diet plans. Another popular one is the Victoria's Secret Diet where models like Adriana Lima and Alessandra Ambrosio take on a liquid diet, while  doing two-a-days at the gym. And let's not forget that Alessandra was 2 months pregnant at the time of the fashion show. 

Some have praised the efforts of a a select few agencies that demand that models maintain a certain weight, but these agencies are rare and are anything but the norm. In fact, there is STILL no minimum BMI guideline for models.

The average model used to weigh 8% less than the average woman in the 1970's, now the average model weighs 23% less than the average woman. Most models qualify for anorexia, and not surprisingly, a size 6 is considered a plus size in the industry.

Had to put Big Marshall in here

So, to say that LBEB is in the wrong for comparing two body types is ridiculous.  What is ridiculous is to shove these images of extremely thin models down the throats of men and women everywhere, when these models are not designed to look like people, they are designed to look like mannequins to hang clothes on. We feel that it is much better to promote a healthy, attainable body type, and it is most effective when contrasted with the standard image of beauty that can be seen in online and print ads all across the globe.

One simply has to go on Pinterest or Tumblr to see images of "Thinspiration" feeds, where individuals post images of horribly anorexic "fitness models" with taglines such as "inspiration!!" and "OMG need this body for Summer." Our goal is to steer women (and men) away from the need to aim for too thin, and have them instead aim for healthy. By posting these comparison photos, what we're trying to do is show an alternative for the Thinspiration photos found everywhere. Again, thin is NOT bad if you're healthy--however this is not the case with many models and the Thinspo photos.

We realize, that yes, these models are real people and need to be treated with compassion. However, this does not mean that we must emulate their unhealthy lifestyle, especially in an age of such oppressive advertising campaigns. LIFT BIG EAT BIG will continue to challenge the conventional norm of the healthy body image for men and women, and encourage ALL individuals to engage in heavy strength training. 

If you are unable to accept this, then LIFT BIG EAT BIG is not the community for you.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Stop Looking in the Mirror

Malek Chamoun: Blind (photo from daily telegraph)

Besides quarter-squats, one of my biggest pet peeves is the amount of time people spend looking at themselves in the mirror while lifting. Say anything to them about it, and their first response is "but I need to make sure my form looks right!"

Bullshit. You don't need to stare at yourself to know if the lift is correct, that's why God (or Carl Sagan) gave us a few things called proprioception & kinesthetic awareness. Feeling the movement is one of the most important parts of lifting, and the desire to stare in the mirror while doing it will leave at a severe disadvantage when competition time comes. An example I like to use is this: When you were young, you probably stood on one leg and stared at a moving object, trying to keep your balance. Did you fall over? Probably. Now, instead of standing on one leg while watching a moving object, stand in front of a mirror and practice your snatch or clean: the degree of difficulty has been amplified exponentially.

When I am with new trainees at the Seattle U gym, the first thing I do is teach them to flip around, walk the bar out of the rack facing the opposite direction, facing away from the mirror. I usually get a few complaints and they try to turn to like at the side mirror to check their form out of habit, but with a little coaching they kick the habit fairly quickly.

If you train in a gym with mirrors everywhere you look, it is important to break this habit as quickly as possible. Staring at your sexy thighs in the mirror can prevent you from feeling the lift and using your proprioception to focus on errors you may have. If necessary, videotape your lifts and watch them between sets.

That's more than most non-blind people can lift

Last weekend I watch blind, mentally impaired teenagers at a powerlifting meet. They had to be led up to the bars and the bench for their lifts, as they couldn't see or walk on their own. As soon as they put their hands on the bar, they flattened out their rounded backs and got into position. They had form like you wouldn't believe, and after a battle cry, they gripped the bar and ripped the shit out of it, squatting and deadlifting 300-450lbs. It was amazing to watch.

Let's face, you are staring in the mirror for three reasons:

1. You lack the confidence to perform the  lifts without the mirror. This can be easily remedied with some coaching.

2. You just really like staring at yourself. This is not so easy to remedy.

3. You like staring at other people in the gym. There is no hope for you.

Here are some great examples of completely blind or legally-blind lifts:

Don't see him looking at himself to check his form for a 639lb squat


Blah blah steroids. Steroids don't help you see through a bandana.

Chris Vaughn is an award-winning, legally blind strongman

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Your First Meet

Travis M. squatting 570lbs. 17 years old

Article written by Jay Stadtfeld for LIFTBIGEATBIG.com

Your first meet can be a crazy experience. Emotions overwhelming you to the extent you can't sleep the night before, sometimes you might not even be able to eat. However, what can you do to assure yourself that you have a good meet going in? There are a ton of factors you need to consider going forward; such as the amount of food you consume before and during the meet, how to keep your emotions in check and not become a serial killer on your openers, and hydration. The latter is especially important if you've cut weight to make a weight class. Author's Note: If you're not close and it's your first meet, I'd suggest just ignoring it and competing at what weight you are.

I have taken the liberty of making a checklist of items to take and actions to do before and during your meet below.

The Night Before:

·         Some federations/meets will allow you to weigh in the night before. I personally would suggest this. Especially if you're concerned about your weight. That way you can refuel and rehydrate overnight and in the morning without having to worry. This is important for my state of mind pre-meet. Some of you may be different.

·         Make sure you know your openers. You'll need to tell the selection table what they are and it's easier just to have them on hand.

·         You may want to scope out where the meet location is, so as to not be in a rush trying to locate where you are to go in the morning. Again, just a personal preference, but often a necessity if you're traveling out of state for the meet.

                     Have your training bag packed the night before. Items to include are:
                     Oly Shoes
                     Wrist/knee wraps/sleeves
                     Chalk (just in case)
                     High socks for deadlifts
                     Gym Shorts (because nobody wants to look at you in your singlet more than they have to.)
                     Foam roller

·         Do mobility work, eat, drink, and rest plentifully. This should be self-explanatory as to why. Don't be a dumbass.

Morning of the Meet: You did it! It's finally the morning of your first meet. You find you slept great without really having to worry about what you would have to get around in the morning since you took care of it the night before. Awesome. So, now what do you do?

·         Eat a good breakfast. Not something that will make you want to vomit (that'd make no sense), but something that sustains you for a while. I would also suggest caffeine and keep hydrating with water. Remember, you weighed in the night before (at least in this instance), there's nothing to worry about now.

·         Do some SMR and light mobility work. May as well if you have the time, right?

·         Shower/bathe/wash your unmentionables, etc.

·         On your way to the location of the meet, I usually swing by a convenience store and pick up a bunch of protein bars/anything that'll give you energy and is “light”, water, and a Monster. Some meets can go on for 8 damn hours (yes, it's happened), so you're going to want to be prepared for anything.
Chris Janek

During the Meet: You've made it to the main event! Chances are you're listening to the rules briefing with a billion thoughts racing through your mind. Allow me to squash those: QUIT WORRYING. Seriously. The moment you take your mind off of your worries, the better off you'll be. Instead, find a way to channel everything you need towards the attempts you have picked. You do have attempts picked out, right? At this point, there's only a few things to do...

·         SMR and mobility. I stress this as likely one of the most important things you'll do. I even put it in here three times just to emphasize my point. You're not going to do well if you can't squat/bench/or deadlift.

·         Find out what heat you're in. This will determine when you'll start warming up. If you're in the second or third, I'd wait until the former (if you're third, this will be second heat) has started. This just depends on the size of the heat. Don't warm up too quickly, but certainly don't wait and find yourself in a haze of confusion. This isn't a race. It's a marathon of awesomeitude and strengthification. Two words I've made up to describe this event.

·         With your attempts, especially if this is your first meet, you're going to want to stay conservative. Openers are something you can hit for a triple in training, to stay basic. The rest is up to you. I will say that I would always want a first time competitor to go 9/9 and set a couple PR's in the process. Set a total and build from there. You want confidence going into your next meet; not a, “Woe is I,” attitude.

·         In between attempts, stay fueled and satiated. You don't really know how long a meet can go due to unforeseen circumstances. So just make sure you're feeling well.

·         From here, you're pretty much on your own. Remember, 9/9 and set a total. Maybe even a few PR's along the way. Either way, enjoy your experience. Very few can lift what you can, so take enjoyment in the fact you're stronger than many of the general population.