Sunday, June 30, 2013

LBEB Warmup Series: Front Squats

Mobility and warming up seems to be something that is always just out of reach for some lifters. Whether it is due to laziness, a general lack of knowledge on warmup methods, or just a lifetime of being in bad positions, they just CAN'T seem to hit positions correctly. This week, we will spend the majority of our time breaking some of the major movements that the most people have trouble with, and look at 10 ways we can warm up and mobilize before hitting these movements, to ensure maximum gains take place.
Today we are breaking down the front squat: an exercise that is notorious for pointing out tightness when it comes to using the Olympic front squat grip. The following video should help you to hit better positions and hopefully get away from using cross-armed grip.

The video listed 10 movements you can use to help improve your warmup, let’s expand on them now.

#1: Dislocates

Hopefully everyone knows this one, its first on the list and extremely simple. I like to start with an extra wide grip and move my hands in about an 1/8th of an inch after every pass through. The last few should be thought to hit, but remember to keep arms straight the whole time. Andrew Bueno says "pretend you are next to a wall, and the PVC pipe is a crayon. You want to draw the biggest circle on the wall with your PVC that you can."

#2: Banded Pullovers

This is great for loosening up the upper back. The most important parts to remember are keeping the arm straight with your palm facing you. You don't want to use your bicep to pull it. If you feel like muscle is being ripped off your spine and shoulder, you're doing it right. Pull for 5 seconds, then release for 2. Each time, pull a little harder than before.

#3: Banded Pull (behind the back)

This is fantastic for loosening tight pectorals, as well as front delts. I like to bend my elbow and walk as far away from the bar that the band is on as I can. If you can't bend the elbow, just keep it straight but still behind your back. Pull for 5 seconds, then release for 2. Each time, pull a little harder than before.

#4: Banded Tricep Extension (behind the neck)

Besides mashing them on a barbell, this is probably my favorite tricep stretch. Simply stand on one of the band and pull it up until your tricep is extended up with your hand behind your back. Hold for about 30-45 seconds per side and you will be right as rain.

#5: Elbow Raise (bar behind back)

This is one of two stretches on this list that will make you want to question your existence. Position your feet under the back, just like on a squat, and grab the bar with both hands. Preferably keep your fingers wrapped around the bar, but if you are unable to, loosen them like on a front squat. The purpose of this is to stretch the rear deltoids and upper back, not the triceps. Pull up for 7 seconds, then release for 2. Each time, pull a little harder than before.

#6: Quad Foam Roll

This is pretty simple, we should own a foam roller. Simply lay on it and slowly work up and down the entire length of your quads. Some variations you can use are flexing your legs and then quickly relaxing them over particularly troublesome areas. Another variation is slowly twisting side to side to hit the VMO and IT area accordingly, like I am doing in the video.

#7: LAX Ball in Scapula + Arm Raise

This one is designed to hit some pretty tender and usually unattended spots. Simply find the most sensitive part of your scapula or shoulder area, then lay on the ball and put all your weight on it. Try not to cry. Spend a few minutes with your arm straight, bringing it up and down, and drawing slow circles in the air. I am in pain just thinking about it.

#8, 9, and 10: Rolling w/ Barbells

I personally like rolling out with barbells more than foam rollers because they have a smaller surface area and can more easily hit those nasty troublesome spots. Make sure to use the handle of the barbell and not the sleeve, you want as much direct pressure as possible. If you are feeling extra salty, you can apply some pressure on to the bar from your hand. The calf barbell roll is the other stretch that will make you hate life and hate lifting. I have seen some amazing lifters cry out for mama after a few seconds on this one, so be prepared.

What do you think of the list? Let us know on Facebook, we will be rolling these out all week!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Shove Your Knees Out!

 One of the most common mistakes you’ll witness in training is a lack of mobility to shove the knees out while performing a lift. I’d even go as far as saying, that to be a good (and healthy) athlete, getting the knees shoved out during a movement could be the difference of making the lift, or reconstructive surgery. Often times, this type of issue will be predominant in a beginning lifter, however it can happen to someone who takes too much weight on when they’re not prepared for it, too.

Shoving the knees out accomplishes a couple of things:

  • It creates external rotation in the hip, which allows a deeper squat due to the hip being allowed to “open” more. This allows more force to be generated from the hip, increasing the stability and strength of the joint.

  • It allows the foot to remain “unflattened”, increasing strength through the foot and ankle joint.

It doesn’t just stop at squatting, however. Shoving the knees out (into your elbows to increase hip torque and tightness) while deadlifting, box jumping, cleaning, snatching, and every other lift will do nothing but benefit you. Though, if you don’t have the ability of being able to shove the knees out, fret not. Through focused mobility and strength work, it will improve.

Too many times you will see new clients and lifters get set up for something like a box jump, and it will appear as though their knees are magnetically attracted to each other. The shearing effect of this is bad enough before the jump, but if they land in this same magnetic-kneecap position? Fuggetahboutit. Coaches/trainers need to be on top of their clients for this mistake that seems to go unnoticed on almost everything but the squat, and even sometimes ON the squat.

The same thing can be said for your dip on a jerk or push press, wallballs and thrusters (if you are in to that sort of thing), if you actively shove your knees out in nearly every movement will bring you nothing but good tidings of great joy.

Below are some tips to help improve hip external rotation, including some examples via YouTube:

  • Foam Rolling/SMR (IT Bands, Glutes, etc.)
  • Clamshells
  • Hip Opener stretches (Kelly Starrett demonstrates this particular one)
  • Plate Drags (side to side)

If you frequently find yourself having issues warming up and getting your glutes firing, I suggest adding these to your warm-up (hopefully you have a warm-up you like to do). If you don’t have a warm-up, and instead often just get to it, start here and build around these.

Monday, June 17, 2013

10 Reasons Why Heavy Lifting Is Terrible For Women

Everyone knows that lifting makes women big, bulky, and less desirable. But, do they know the reasons why? I compiled my top ten reasons as to why women should NEVER EVER even think about touching a weight. Ever.

 1. You will find less and less that you are asked to go to the kitchen and make a sandwich. What will you do with all that free time?!?

2. Men on the Internet will tell you that you are too big. Can you handle no longer being the object of a stranger's fantasy?

3. Pants won't fit because your butt has gotten so big. Imagine actually filling out a pair of pants, the horror!!

4. Your children might see that a woman can be something more than a frail object meant to please a man. Challenging the status quo is never a good thing.

5. You can eat a much larger amount of delicious food and not gain a pound. Disgusting! Pass the tofu and skim milk please.

6.  Men will avoid you at the gym when you lift more than they do. How are you supposed to know how to lift without their constant coaching?

7. You will be able to open a pickle jar without a man or a knife. No one should possess that much raw power.

8. Your bones will maintain a thick density throughout your life. Do you really want to rob a surgeon of your money for osteoporosis treatment?

9. Heavy lifting can be as diverse as you want to make it. Your time would be much better spent on a treadmill every day watching CNN.

10. You will be shunned from old friends that want you to go clubbing every night. Those are the kinds of friends you just don't want to lose.

Get the official poster HERE.

What are some more reasons? Tell us on Facebook!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Am I Plateauing?

Do you even Matt Mills?

Beast mode, wheelhouse, cardio, core. These are words and phrases thrown around by almost everyone, and they are words that never fail to get my dander up. However, none of these words perturb me as much as the word "plateau" does. Much like "overtraining", this word seems to be used by newer athletes more than any other group when the PRs slow down or stop rolling in. This short post is going to discuss my personal feelings on plateauing and what I feel that the actual problem is: combining or jumping programs.

If you have have been on my site for any length of time, you know how how important I think it is that an athlete strictly adhere to a program's design. Call me a control freak, but I feel that when a program is designed, it is designed to be followed as written, not supplemented with other programs. I am beginning to lose track of how many times I have been told something along the lines of  "I took your Weightlifting program and combined it with some Westside Conjugate Method and added on some Crossfit, but I am not really seeing results. Why?" Well the answer is pretty simple: if you try to take three 4 week programs and try to follow all of them at the same time, you will probably see negligible results from all of them. 

Programs are designed for you to hit certain lifts on certain days, with rest days also being part of the design. When you take the program's rest days and use them to insert another program that is meant to be done by itself, what you are doing is diminishing the return you will get from both programs. Let's say you are a 150lb female who has been lifting for two years and you have been stuck at a 165lb back squat and a 200lb deadlift for 6 month. Your programming is Crossfit supplemented with 5/3/1 and some conjugate method, leaving you with 8-11 workouts a week. Do you honestly think that a 165lb squat that you have hit a plateau? Or, are you trying to accomplish everything at once, thus accomplishing nothing? It is comparable to going in for a deep tissue massage, but the masseuse tries to massage your whole body, spending about 1-2 minutes on each part of your body. Your time has been wasted and you don't really feel any better for it.

It can no longer be argued that there aren't strong Crossfitters out there, and the best Crossfitters follow a structured program with the occasional random or Hero WOD thrown in for gits and shiggles. Even when they are coming up on a competition, the program still has structure to prepare them for it. I think that anyone who has been training for less than 5-7 years should not even think about using the word "plateau" and instead work on addressing sleeping and eating issues, and weak parts of the body (upper back, knees, hips). A plateau means that all of your weaknesses have been addressed and you simply do not possess the raw strength to move the weight, even with years and years of training under your belt.

Some of those who think they are plateauing are the same people who spend 2-3 weeks on a program, don't notice immediate results, and switch to another program. By doing this, they are almost guaranteeing that they will be sitting at the kid's table for the remainder of their lifting journey. Don't get me wrong, there are certain ways that programs can be integrated together when it is a planned event by the program designers. For example, I am working with a few Crossfit athletes that are using my Strongman programming along with their gymnastic Crossfit Wods. By planning ahead of time, and taking out the barbell work from their metcons, we have been able to see fat loss, strength gains, and cardiovascular endurance all improve because the separate programs have been altered to be integrated with each other. We did not take two full programs and simply mash them together, that is the mistake I think some athletes make.

If you want to become talented in a large field of events, you need to either accomplish them one at a time or work on properly integrating programs into each other, instead of just copying and pasting them together. I will bet $100 that you aren't plateauing, you are just playing hot potato with your programming.

 What are your thoughts? Let us know.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

3 Ways To Improve Your Grip Strength

In previous LBEB articles, we have detailed how to build stronger upper backs, bigger glutes, and more powerful legs. One question we routinely receive, however, is how to increase grip strength. Common questions usually resemble "my grip is the first thing to give out on deadlifts, how do i get it stronger?" Well fear not, master Baggins: LBEB is here to help you step up your grip game.
Grip strength is one of those interesting facets of lifting, because it is such a small part of your body that will either assist or inhibit almost all of your lifting endeavors. It is one of the most simple and straight forward muscle groups to train, but often overlooked or simply not understood in the average training arsenal. Lets look at three of my favorite ways to train for grip strength and forearm improvement.

 1. Stone loading

 When you tell someone that you train in a Strongman style, the thing they usually ask "like those guys on ESPN2 that load the big rocks?". Common folk usually remember stone loading over other events because it it probably the most badass test of strength in existence. It is a full body movement that combines a deadlift, a squat, and an explosive triple extension in order to load a stone to a platform or over a bar. Before a stone can be loaded, however, it must be picked up. People sometimes ask "What is a good substitute for stones?". Well if your grip is weak, that stone isn't going to budge off the ground, plain and simple.

 Because of this, the best way to get better at stones is to to simply get better at stones, they don't exactly have a substitute. You can practice stone loading to platform, over a bar, lapping a stone or even stone holds (pick up a stone and lock legs out while holding stone for 10-15 seconds). Stone loading also increases the thickness of tendons of muscles around the elbow and brachial head in the forearms when done in a programmed manner (READ: don't load stones every day). The nice thing about stone work is that you will notice an increase in back and bicep strength as well.

Farmer Walks/ Carry Events

What do you know, another Strongman event makes the list! These walking events make up about 70% of my grip work, and these are my strong point. My barbell lifts aren't spectacular, but if you give me a heavy odd object, i am going to sink my grip into it and not let go and carry it until I fall over. I like to use thick farmer handles for my farmer walks because I feel stronger with things like an axle bar or fat handle versus a thinner bar like a conventional barbell. Marshall says "Unlike other some other strength sports that involve picking up objects and putting them down, Strongman involve picking up objects and putting them down OVER THERE." BY training these walking events, your grip strength will explode in a very short period of time.

Carrying objects like Husafel stones or heavy sandbags will also increase the thickness of your forearms and biceps, since there is much involved in squeezing the forearms together. these objects typically need to be picked up more like a straight leg deadlift than a squat, as you will see in some of our videos. Walk these objects for 3-5 sets of 100ft and I promise that your grip strength will go up dramatically, just keep it hot, heavy, and fast.

Unless you are a very light and small person, standard kettlebells or dumbbells are not a great substitute for carrying events simply because they are not heavy enough. Even if you have 100lb dumbbells or three-pood kettlebells, your grip strength will quickly surpass the strength requirements of these objects. Invest in a 2-300lb sandbag or some farmer handles as quickly as you can.

3.Hammer Strikes

This is something we use for conditioning more than anything, but it will still smoke your grip for days on end. I like to use these Special Thor Hammers, pictured below:

Ryan from made these for me, he is not compensating me for posting this, I am simply a huge believer in his products. Take a hammer in each hand and find a tire to beat the living daylights out of for 3-5 sets of 60 seconds each, alternating the hand you strike with each time. This can be done about once per week, most advisable after your pressing or medley work is completed.
Implement some of these grip training methods to your programming in the appropriate places in order to help you increase your grip strength. Even adding some Captain of Crush exercises or phone book ripping will help you, along with one-arm bar hangs and hook-grip deadlifts. 10lb wrist curls aren't going to get you there, because like so many other things in lifting: Heavy weights and a powerful grip is what moves you from the kids table to the grown up table.