So, water loading worked well again but was much tougher this time as I’ve gained a little weight since the UK’s. Got down to 85kg by the weekend before so then started loading with 2 gallons a day for 4 days, then 1 gallon on Thursday and none at all Friday – I was a little worried Friday as still weighing over 84kg so fasted as well to make sure I wasn’t over!
Woke up starving on Saturday and felt like crap as hadn’t slept well (too damn hungry), but I knew once I’d weighed in I could smash the food down 😉 Drove over to Swansea and weighed in at a comfortable 81.3kg (could’ve had breakfast!) and then started eating!! Spent the day hydrating and eating and resting up ready for the meet.
Got there Sunday and felt good, I think I’d done a better job rehydrating than last time and was ready to lift. I was in the second flight this time so had plenty of time to warm-up and mobilise and opened easily with 180kg, followed up with 200kg, and then went for 215kg for third attempt. I got a red light for depth on the final attempt from one of the judges, but the other two were white so got the lift 2-1. Happy with squats as only 10kg off the World’s with a walkout and a competition PB.
Bench went just as well, no problems with my shoulder and feeling strong so opened with any easy 140kg, then a 150kg, but just couldn’t lock out 160kg. Not too disappointed, I’ve hit it in the gym, but that’s without having done 3 big squats first! Still hoping to hit double bodyweight (165kg) at The British Championship in 9 weeks and maybe more at the Europeans.
Bench 160kg (fail)
Started warming up for deadlifts and despite struggling in training recently with Deadlifts I was feeling good, took a tally of my lifts and noticed I was at the same as I had been at the Worlds so I was going to have to hope to pull more than my current PB of 200kg in order to improve overall. Opened with 180kg, nice clean lift and then followed with 195kg. Decided to go for glory and attempt 205kg. Just about locked it out to get a PR, win my category and get a new competition best total of 570kg. Can’t really complain! Still aiming high and will be pushing hard to get my total into the 600’s for the Europeans 🙂
World Powerlifting Federation – World Championships 7th, 8th and 9th November 2014
Entrant: Steve Arnold in the Open 82.5kg Category for Team GB
We travelled down to Gatwick overnight Tuesday and flew out Wednesday. Got there in the early afternoon so went for a wander around the local town Voiron and just rested up ready for weigh-in in the morning. Wasn’t sure about weight so kept food to a minimum and drank very little to dehydrate slightly as I would have 24 hours to re-hydrate again anyway. Thurs morning picked up my GB T-Shirt and headed up to the venue and weighed in at 80.3kg 🙂 Great for my Wilks points!
A little more grand than last time! Had a quick nosy around and then as last meet, spent the rest of the day eating, drinking and generally re-hydrating and refueling for a long day. I knew it would take longer than the UK’s as there were 137 lifters entered and 3 flights on the first day (mine of course would be flight 3, but we went up first thing as one of the Pembrokeshire Powerlifters (Jacqueline) would be first flight and we go as a team from opening ceremony/warm-up to closing ceremony.
Got up Friday and had as much breakfast as possible and plenty to drink and headed off to the meet.
Arrived at the venue and headed to the platform to sort rack heights etc and then on to the warm-up room which was a little walk away to help the first flight before I started getting ready myself.
Warmed up with my squats up to a couple of singles at 160kg which was feeling easy, put on my squat suit and did an easy 180kg with loose knee wraps and opened with 190kg which felt easy! Jumped up to 210kg and again, went up a charm so coach put me down for a PB attempt at 225kg. Must be something in the water, happy with a PB on my squat and my closest rival only hit a questionable 210kg so I went 15kg into the lead.
Vids: Squat 190kg, Squat 210kg, Squat 225kg
On to Ze Bench Press… Started warming up and my shoulder was twinging a little so slapped some more ibuprofen gel (got through a lot over the weekend!), followed by Deep Heat and it felt a bit better as I did some mobility. Unfortunately there was a bit of a mix-up somewhere and we were told that there would only be two flights for the Bench so we needed to get moving and warm-up. Rushed my warm-up and failed a 140kg which smashed my confidence as I’ve hit 160kg on my own without a handout, but one of the lads came over and gave me some encouraging words and after a few minutes I pressed 140kg and decided to drop my opener from 150kg to 140kg just to be sure I didn’t bomb out! As we headed down to the platform I noticed my French
rival (the 210kg squatter) hadn’t started his warm-up and due to the fact he didn’t understand English, (or knew something I didn’t) wasn’t interested in coming down to the platform with the rest of us.
Should have followed him! After sitting in my shirt for 30 mins and going cold, we found out it was 3 flights (Of course, why the hell wouldn’t it be?) I went back and did another couple of warm-up sets up to 130kg and felt shoulder twinging again, but by now it was way too late. Thankfully hit my opener of 140kg, but failed to hit 150kg on my next two attempts. See the vid on my last attempt, I think the centre ref had fallen asleep, I didn’t hear a press command for what felt like forever, until my coach started yelling but I just couldn’t get it – You can see Paul (Coach), look at him as if to say WTF? Typically Frenchy had a massive Bench, virtually no pause and hit a 180kg which put him ahead by a clear 25kg! – Had I got my gym PR he still would be ahead, but by only 5kg, but hey, it’s what you hit on the platform that counts
Vids: Bench 150kg (fail)
We had now been at the venue for over 6 hours and I was absolutely starving! Smashed a pre-workout and some sugary sweets and warmed up for my deads. Not sure if it was in my head, but bar was feeling really heavy and I was going to drop my opener to 180kg, but coach thankfully was there and he just said – ‘what’s on that bar?’ pointing at one on the floor and I said ‘180kg’, ‘pick it up then’ he said and I did! So then we headed down and I pulled an easy 190kg, then a 200kg equaling my best at the UK’s. I then looked over at Paul & Az and they were already filling in my 3rd attempt so I knew to trust them and just got ready to lift. ‘Bar is loaded for Steven Arnold at 215kg’. I thought, F%@k this, I’m having this and went for a 15kg PR. Just couldn’t lock it out, so finished with a 565kg total which is 45kg up from my UK result – PR on my Squat, Competition PB on my Bench and equal PR on my Deadlift. Can’t really argue with that!
Deadlift Pics: Vids: Deadlift 215kg (fail)
Julien pulled a huge 235kg deadlift and took the gold with a 625kg total so even if I’d hit very lift I would have still come second with a 600kg total. Still, silver isn’t bad for a first World competition, especially competing naturally in an untested federation so I’m happy with the overall result. Now my goal is to get to a 650kg or higher total in time for next year and bring the gold home for GB!
Huge thanks to my Sponsors Chilton Motors, Pembroke Thanks again guys, you were a great help
Nailing the overhead press originally published on T-Nation by Paul Carter
Here’s what you need to know…
• Using a thumbless grip on overhead pressing allows for a better path of the bar by bringing it in closer to the centerline of the body. It’s also easier on the shoulders and wrists.
• Start with a shoulder-width grip. As a visual cue, rotate your hands back towards your delts. If your thumb grazes the outside of them, you’ve got it right.
• Contract your glutes, abs, and quads when you press. The more tension you have throughout the body, the stronger you’ll be.
• Activate the biceps on the eccentric portion of the press. When you lower the bar, think about doing a sort of hammer curl towards your face/ears.
• Press with a purpose. That means press with violence and hate. Try to think about throwing it through the ceiling.
Lots of guys these days shit on any form of seated press, but I’m not sure why. The entire purpose of pressing overhead is simply to build bigger and stronger shoulders. Whether you’re seated or standing doesn’t really matter unless you’re a competitive strongman and … (read more here)
By Mark Rippetoe
Here’s what you need to know…
• Most university-level programs do not equip their graduates to function beyond the commercial gym pin-setter level.
• Barbell training, the most basic and effective method for improving strength and conditioning, is either not taught in most programs or so poorly taught that it leaves students unable to get real results with their clients and athletes.
• Many studies that make it into the hallowed “Literature” draw conclusions based on unrealistic, silly methodology and puny weights. It’s clear the “exercise scientists” conducting these studies do not use barbells beyond a novice level, if at all.
• To get a real education, study a “hard” science, plan for much self-education, compete in your field of interest, and coach lots of other people… for years on end.
Read more here …
Appropriate Conditioning by Johnny Pain, originally posted in Starting Strength and Strengthvillain.com
One of the most frequently asked questions that I receive both in the consulting end of my business and at the Starting Strength seminars, is when and how to add conditioning work to a strength training program. This is a valid question certainly, and a serious point of discussion for many. This article is designed to address the topic from my perspective, and convey my opinions on the matter.
When asked about conditioning, I typically reply with a simple question of my own: “Why do you want to do conditioning work?” This isn’t asked from a condescending, “who wants to do that sort of thing?” point of view, but rather out of a genuine interest to determine why conditioning may or may not be important in that person’s program. Answers range from the need to pass physical fitness tests at a person’s place of employment to the desire to be “well rounded” and able to take on any task that comes one’s way. The most common answer, although the one that often has to be extracted out of a somewhat uncooperative individual, is the perceived need to include conditioning work out of the erroneous belief that body composition is dependent on one’s exposure to that type of training – the irony being that diet is 99% of body composition. All of these reasons can be legitimate concerns in their own right depending on the situation. In most cases, however, a bit of education is required in order to help the inquisitor understand the best method of addressing the issue.
Before we get into the specifics, let’s take a look at the term “conditioning”. What does it mean? For our purposes we will define it as one’s ability to perform a given task. Terms like “General Physical Preparedness (GPP)” and “Work Capacity” have become buzzwords these days, particularly among people who do not compete in an activity that requires a specific conditioning adaptation. There is a widespread belief that one must train for any possible contingency, “the unknown and the unknowable.” It is my contention that becoming as strong as possible will have the most significant effect on one’s overall ability to perform a variety of tasks, and therefore represents the most intelligent use of training time for the purpose of conditioning, within certain limits.
Let’s talk about this a bit. <— Follow link for remainder of article..
Originally posted by Paul Carter in his blog Lift-Run-Bang.com
“He touched the bar!” And it’s your fault.
Everyone has had this happen.
You ask for a spot from someone in the gym. He obliges and you take the next few minutes out to get your bearings to prepare for the set.
It might be for a max, or a rep PR, but inevitably we all eventually have “that guy” that grabs the bar even though we know the attempt would have been good.
This is one of the most frustrating things to happen during a set or attempt you’ve worked yourself up for. Now, in our mind, it really doesn’t count. Good for it or not, when the spotter puts his hands on the bar, it’s not “all you”. No matter how much some “bro” screams that it is.
Luckily, I have three guys in the gym that have spotted me for quite some time that all understand how I lift, and what my sets and reps look like. The other part of that is I’ve taken time out with each of those guys to explain what I need for them to do.
For bench, no lift off. Don’t hover. Don’t touch the bar unless I say so.
On incline, I do get a lift off, but no touching of the bar unless I signal it.
On press behind the neck, I get a lift off, and no touching of the bar unless I signal it.
All of these guys know this. So I always feel very confident when they spot me.
Well today, I had to ask a guy in the gym for a lift off on press behind the neck that had never spotted me. He gave me a lift off at 275 and 315. Both of which I blew up easily for triples. So I figured I would go ahead and take a shot at a double at 365.
He gives me the lift off … continue reading
To be truly Hench, you need an impressive back. Nothing states strength more or makes for a better looking physique than a big strong back. Whilst having a well developed chest and arms are important, without a good back alongside you will look weak and/or incomplete often with poor posture. This is why these are often called ‘mirror muscles’ – You look great to yourself when you look in the mirror, but you are never seen in everyday life like that! How often do we face someone directly face on? Your physique needs to be Hench from any angle and a well developed back is key and, dare I say, more important than chest or arms in the way you look. Not to mention the fact it is the most crucial muscle group for functional strength in tasks ranging from everyday life to athletics/sports or competitions.
Bodybuilders have a saying in competitions that ‘the contest is won from the back’, and the majority of winners have had the best back development. This alone should spur you on – A competition based solely on aesthetics considers the back as almost the most important bodypart, yet still the newbies and ego-lifters focus on those mirror muscles with all their effort and only half-ass their back and/or leg workouts despite claiming they are ‘bodybuilding’ or just want to ‘get big’.
A good back is measured on two main things .. Thickness – Which will pull your shoulders back, maintaining good posture and emphasizing your chest and ‘V’ Shape – Causing your waist to appear smaller and shoulders wider. What I would also add for a ‘Hench’ look is a third measure which is a good set of traps. Take Bane from ‘The Dark Knight Rises’, or even the same actor Tom Hardy in ‘Warrior’ do you look at him and question if he’s powerful looking? Nope .. Definitely Hench!
Part 2 to follow …
Are You Making These Mistakes In The Gym? By Jon Bruney – Original Article published on DragonDoor.com in August 2013
Most Hard Training Individuals – Even The Experienced Ones – Are Making A Handful Of Easily Correctable Mistakes That Are Preventing Them From Achieving Their True Physical Potential…
So If You Want More Strength, Muscle, Speed, Power, Athleticism And Conditioning – Read On Carefully And Make Sure You Aren’t Making Any Of These MISTAKES…
My name is Jon Bruney and I want to share some very common MISTAKES with you that many hard training athletes make in the gym.
In case you’re wondering why you should listen to me, let me start by quickly telling you a little bit about myself…
I’m a professional performing strongman, world class trainer, coach, motivational speaker and author. I have been featured in Ripley’s Believe it or Not and appeared nationwide on NBC’s The Today Show. And thousands of people have personally experienced my “Pressing the Limits” motivational strength programs.
My work with competitive athletes includes Olympians and NFL players.
I am the author of Foundations, a training series featured in MILO, widely considered the world’s most prestigious strength training journal.
And as co-owner of Submit Strength Equipment, I have been responsible for the design of numerous pieces of cutting-edge training equipment now in use around the world.
5 Mistakes In The Gym That Are Holding You Back From Being As Strong, Muscular, Fast, Explosive and Well-Conditioned As You Could Be…
1. Choosing The Wrong Exercises
Not all exercises deliver the best results for the effort you put in.
I witnessed this personally when I was a trainer for a Cable TV show that was focused on helping individuals make rapid changes in body composition. Some of these people had been working very hard trying to make changes in their physiques.
But one of the key problems – and reasons why they weren’t progressing towards their ideal physique as fast as they’d like – was exercise selection. Once we changed the exercises, the results came RAPIDLY.
The sad truth is that many people put in GREAT effort, only to get MEDIOCRE results.
If they only knew how to incorporate the right exercises into the right program, they would smash through genetic barriers and see powerful changes in their physiques.
One example is the guy who busts his ass for an hour training his arms with a myriad of machines exercises. Sure – he is training with a lot of EFFORT, but does he possess the powerful ‘guns’ he desires?
The answer is almost always, “NO”.
On the other hand, consider the guy who trains his arms using just a handful of big, compound exercises…
Chin-Ups and Barbell Curls for the biceps.
Close Grip Bench Presses and Dips for the triceps.
And he does this week in, week out.
This guy trains equally as hard as the other guy – but his results are 10 times as good!
What’s the difference?
Simple… Exercise selection.
2. Choosing A Program That Develops ‘Show Muscle’ Instead Of ‘Smart Muscle’
Many training programs only focus on one approach to create hypertrophy. This results in muscle that underperforms. Smart Muscle, on the other hand, PERFORMS as well as it LOOKS.
Allow me to explain…
Smart muscle is muscle that can multi-task and handle any challenge thrown it’s way.
To truly create a bigger and better body a strength program must use multiple stressors. This will teach the nervous system to recruit more muscle fibers and allow the body to adapt to multiple forms of resistance. The goal should not only be to increase muscle size, but also strength and athleticism.
All of my hypertrophy programs do this… they help you to increase muscle size, strength and athleticism.
To focus only on building muscle is a mistake – especially if you compete in sports and are using your resistance training to not only help you to look better, but also to become a better athlete.
3. Spending Too Much Time At The Gym
Many trainees spend too much time in the gym and have little to show for it.
You see, the truth is that long routines plus long cardio sessions are not very effective because long training sessions cause you to miss out on key hormonal factors that could build muscle.
Secondly, people should have a life outside of the gym.
By the time you drive to the gym, change, set up your workout, have a post workout shake, shower, and drive home…you could easily spend two hours or more.
There is little free time left over to develop relationships, pursue other hobbies and interests, and to feed your mind.
I have personally helped individuals to get amazing results in their own homes using minimal or no equipment in 4 hours a week or less!
The key is understanding how the right exercises can be combined to create a synergistic effect of increased neuromuscular efficiency and maximum muscular hypertrophy in minimum time.
This combination unleashes powerful muscle building hormones throughout the body.
4. Lack Of Focus And Mental Preparation
There are days when trainees just don’t “feel” like working out…
They lack motivation, so they procrastinate.
Many individuals don’t have the proper focus to complete a training session at the proper intensity. So, they just go through the motions. The results are missed or wasted workouts.
Without proper focus and concentration when training, one can never reach their physical potential. Unfortunately, many trainees don’t know that there are exercises to focus your mind, develop your willpower, and deepen your concentration skills.
Understanding the importance of mental training can often be the difference between success and failure when it comes to building a powerful and athletic physique.
5. Failing To Break Training Plateaus
Trainees often get discouraged because their gains stop after a short time. They therefore quit or become stuck; never reaching their goals.
The real problem lies with the training programs. And the reason I say this is because many training programs do not provide a way to keep on gaining.
Understanding how to keep the training fresh and the gains coming is essential to reaching your true athletic potential.
If you find yourself making any of these “Mistakes”, I have good news. Tomorrow I’ll be teaching you how to avoid these mistakes and how to get on the path toward building “Smart Muscle”….
Talk to you then,
An old article by Mark Rippetoe, but one of my favourites! It’s no secret I’m a bit of a Rippetoe fan, despite his very strong opinions I enjoy reading his articles due to his style of writing and humour.
“There is a lot of advice, information, and well understood knowledge regarding the field in which I practice—strength training and fitness—that is just silly bullshit. Plain old “SB” (to keep from baiting the censors too temptingly). And it comes from numerous sources: chief among them are medical professionals who think that they are also exercise professionals, muscle magazines published specifically for the purpose of perpetuating it, home exercise and weight loss advertisers, Internet fitness sites, the academic exercise people, and the mainstream media, who are the mindless pawns of the others.” Continue reading –>Silly BS – Mark Rippetoe
Some serious strength gains after a year of 5/3/1 – My friend Pete demonstrating how effective the system is by simply following it for 12 months. Great work mate!
A Year Of 531 <——- Click Here!
The following is an excerpt from ‘Starting Strength’ by Mark Rippetoe and Len Kilgore. It breaks down in detail, why the squat should always be performed to full depth (where injuries do not prevent it) and describes the stresses on or around the knee and hips.
The full squat is the preferred lower body exercise for safety as well as athletic strength. The squat, when performed correctly, is not only the safest leg exercise for the knees, it produces a more stable knee than any other leg exercise. The important part of the last statement is the “when performed correctly” qualifier. Correctly is deep, with hips dropping below level with the top of the patella. Correctly is full range of motion.
Any squat that is not deep is a partial squat, and partial squats stress the knee and the quadriceps without stressing the glutes, the adductors, and the hamstrings. The hamstrings, groin muscles, and glutes perform their function in the squat when the hips are stretched to the point of full flexion, where they get tight — the deep squat position.
The hamstring muscles, attached to the tibia and to the ischial tuberosity of the pelvis, and the adductors, attached between the medial femur and various points on the medial pelvis, reach a full stretch at the very bottom of the squat, where the pelvis tilts forward with the torso, stretching the ends of the muscles apart. At this stretched position they provide a slight rebound out of the bottom, which will look like a “bounce,” and which you will learn more about later. The tension of the stretch pulls the tibia backwards, the posterior direction, balancing the forward-pulling force produced by the quadriceps, which pull from the front. The hamstrings finish their work, with help from the adductors and glutes, by straightening out, or “extending,” the hip.
Muscular actions on the knee. The anterior force provided by the quadriceps is balanced by the posterior force provided by the hamstrings in the deep squat position. The depth is the key: partial (high) squats are predominately quadriceps/anterior and lack balance.
In a partial squat, which fails to provide a full stretch for the hamstrings, most of the force against the tibia is upward and forward, from the quadriceps and their attachment to the front of the tibia below the knee. This produces an anterior shear, a forward-directed sliding force, on the knee, with the tibia being pulled forward from the patellar tendon and without a balancing pull from the opposing hamstrings. This shearing force — and the resulting unbalanced strain on the prepatellar area — may be the biggest problem with partial squats. Many spectacular doses of tendonitis have been produced this way, with “squats” getting the blame.
The variation in squat depth often seen in the gym. A Quarter-squat, B Half-squat, C A position often confused with parallel, where the undersurface of the thigh is parallel to the ground. D A parallel squat according to the criteria established.
The hamstrings benefit from their involvement in the full squat by getting strong in direct proportion to their anatomically proper share of the work in the movement, as determined by the mechanics of the movement itself. This fact is often overlooked when considering anterior cruciate tears and their relationship to the conditioning program. The ACL stabilizes the knee: it prevents the tibia from sliding forward relative to the femur. As we have already seen, so does the hamstring group of muscles. Underdeveloped, weak hamstrings thus play a role in ACL injuries, and full squats work the hamstrings while partial squats do not. In the same way the hamstrings protect the knee during a full squat, hamstrings that are stronger due to full squats can protect the ACL during the activities that we are squatting to condition for. In fact, athletes who are missing an ACL can safely squat heavy weights, because the ACL is under no stress in a correctly performed full squat (fig below).
Another problem with partial squats is the fact that very heavy loads may be moved, due to the short range of motion and the greater mechanical efficiency of the quarter squat position. This predisposes the trainee to back injuries as a result of the extreme spinal loading that results from putting a weight on his back that is possibly in excess of three times the weight that can be safely handled in a correct deep squat. A lot of football coaches are fond of partial squats, since it allows them to claim that their 17 year-old linemen are all squatting 600 lbs. Your interest is in getting strong (at least it should be), not in playing meaningless games with numbers. If it’s too heavy to squat below parallel, it’s too heavy to have on your back.
Olympic weightlifters provide a perfect illustration of the safety and benefits of the full squat. As of the 2004 Olympics 167 of the 192 countries in the world compete in Olympic Weightlifting. More than 10,000 individuals compete annually in IWF (International Weightlifting Federation) events alone, and the number of participants in total from the 167 countries would be staggering, likely on the order of 2 to 5 million (China alone boasts over 1 million lifters). All over the world, weightlifters squat way below parallel safely, most often using some form of the exercise, either back squats or front squats, every day. That is correct: they squat way below parallel every training day, and most programs call for six days per week.
Isn’t it fascinating that they are both strong and not under the care of an orthopedic surgeon? There is simply no other exercise, and certainly no machine, that produces the level of central nervous system activity, improved balance and coordination, skeletal loading and bone density enhancement, muscular stimulation and growth, connective tissue stress and strength, psychological demand and toughness, and overall systemic conditioning than the correctly performed full squat. In the absence of an injury that prevents their being performed at all, everyone that lifts weights should learn to squat, correctly.
Forces on the knee in the squat. The hamstrings and adductors exert a posterior tension on the tibia, and the net effect of the anterior quadriceps tendon insertion is an anterior force against the tibial plateau. With sufficient depth, anterior and posterior forces on the knee are balanced. The anterior and posterior forces on the knee are balanced. The anterior and posterior cruciate ligaments stabilise anterior and posterior movement of the distal femur relative to the tibial plateau. In the correct squat, these ligaments have very little to do.
Article is an excerpt from the chapter ‘The Squat’ – Starting Strength 2nd Edition – Mark Rippetoe & Len Kilgore
What is Creatine?
Creatine monohydrate is a natural substance formed within the body from the amino acids methionine, glycine, and arginine. It’s stored as creatine phosphate (CP) or phosphocreatine. Creatine phosphate helps make a substance called adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP in turn provides the energy for muscle contractions.
The average person’s body contains around 120 grams of creatine. Aside from supplementation, foods such as beef and some types of fish, are fairly high in creatine, but a person would have consume huge amounts on a daily basis to equal what can be found in just one teaspoon of powdered creatine as a supplement.
What is it for?
During short maximal exertion bouts of exercise such as weight training or sprinting,
stored adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is the dominant energy source. It is also the immediate source of energy for muscle contractions. Muscle fibers only contain enough ATP to power a few twitches, then additional ATP must be taken in from the bodys stores. Creatine monohydrate is converted into creatine phosphate in the body to keep the ATP pool filled.
What does this mean in the real world? An increased pool of CP means faster and greater recharging of ATP and, therefore, more work can be performed for a short duration.
The Research – (Excerpt from Will Brinks Bodybuilding Revealed)
To date, research has shown ingesting creatine can increase the total body pool of CP which leads to greater generation of force with anaerobic forms of exercise,
such as weight training, sprinting, etc. Early research with creatine showed it can increase lean body mass and improve performance in sports that require high intensity intermittent exercise such as sprinting, weight lifting, football, etc. Creatine has had spotty results in research that examined its effects on endurance oriented sports such as swimming, rowing and long distance running, with some studies showing no positive effects on performance with endurance athletes.
Whether or not the failure of creatine to improve performance with endurance athletes was due to the nature of the sport or the design of the studies is still being debated. But one thing is for sure; the research is stronger in high intensity sports of short duration.
Recent findings with creatine monohydrate have confirmed previous research showing it’s a safe and effective supplement. More recent research has focused on exactly how it works, and has looked deeper into its potential medical uses.
Several studies have shown it can reduce cholesterol by up to 15%, and
may be useful for treating wasting syndromes such as HIV. Creatine is also being looked at as a supplement that may help with diseases affecting the neuromuscular system, such as muscular dystrophy (MS) and others. A plethora of recent studies suggest creatine may have therapeutic applications in aging populations, muscle atrophy, fatigue, gyrate atrophy, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, and other mitochondrial cytopathies, neuropathic disorders, dystrophies, myopathies and brain pathologies.
The importance of creatine is underscored by creatine deficiency disorders: inborn errors of metabolism that prevent creatine from being manufactured. People born without the enzyme(s) responsible for making creatine suffer from a variety of neurological and developmental symptoms which are mitigated with creatine supplementation.
As for safety, some have suggested that creatine might increase the need for extra fluid intake to avoid potential dehydration and muscle pulls. Still, creatine has not been shown to increase either dehydration or muscle pulls in the research.
In some people, creatine may increase a by-product of creatine metabolism called creatinine, which is a crude indicator but not a cause of kidney problems. Some doctors have mistakenly thought that high creatinine levels (in athletes using creatine) are a sign of kidney problems, but that is not the case.
Creatinine is not toxic to the kidneys and most doctors are not aware that creatine may raise creatinine levels with no toxicity to the kidneys. People with pre-existing kidney problems might want to avoid creatine due to the effects it can have on this test, though creatine supplementation has never been shown to be toxic to the kidneys and the vast number, of studies to date have found creatine to be exceedingly safe.
It’s interesting to note that there has been a concerted effort by many groups and ignorant medical professionals to portray creatine as being somehow poorly researched (flatly untrue) and unsafe for long term use. They systematically ignore the dozens of studies that exist showing it’s both safe and effective. Even more bizarre, they ignore the recent studies that are finding creatine may help literally thousands of people with the aforementioned diseases. This is unscientific, unethical, and just plain immoral, in my view.
One question that often comes up regarding creatine is whether or not the loading phase is required. Originally, the advice for getting optimal results was to load up on creatine followed by a maintenance dose thereafter. This advice was based on the fact that the human body already contains approximately 120 grams of creatine (as creatine and creatine phosphate) stored in tissues and to increase total creatine stores, one had to load for several days in order to increase those stores above those levels.
The idea also seemed to work well, in practice, with people noticing considerable increases in strength and weight during the loading phase. All was not perfect however as many people found the loading phase to be a problem, with gastrointestinal upset, diarrhea and other problems. At the very least, loading was inconvenient and potentially expensive.
The need for a loading phase was a long held belief, but is it really needed to derive the benefits of creatine? The answer appears to be no, as both research and real world experience have found the loading phase may not be needed after all. A 1996 study compared a loading phase vs. no loading phase among 31 male subjects.
The subjects loaded for 6 days using 20 g/day and a maintenance dose 2g/day for a further 30 days. As expected, tissue creatine levels went up approximately 20 percent and the participants got stronger and gained lean mass. Nothing new there! And, not surprisingly, without a maintenance dose creatine levels went back to normal after 30 days. Then the group was given 3g of creatine without a loading dose. The study found a similar but more gradual increase in muscle creatine concentrations over a period of 28 days. The researchers concluded:
“…a rapid way to creatine load human skeletal muscle is to ingest 20 g of creatine
for 6 days. This elevated tissue concentration can then be maintained by
ingestion of 2 g/day thereafter. The ingestion of 3 g creatine/day is, in the long
term, likely to be as effective at raising tissue levels as this higher dose.”
A more recent study done in 1999 found that 5 g of creatine per day without
a loading phase in 16 athletes significantly increased measures of
strength, power, and increased body mass without a change in body fat
levels (whereas the placebo group showed no significant changes).
The researcher of this 1999 study concluded:
“…these data also indicate that lower doses of creatine monohydrate may be
ingested (5 g/d), without a short-term, large-dose loading phase (20 g/d), for
an extended period to achieve signifi cant performance enhancement.”
So, if you have suffered through the loading phase in the past thinking it
was the only way to maximize the eff ects of your creatine supplement, it
appears you can rest assured you don’t have to go through all that hassle.
A 3 – 5 gram per day dose over an extended period of time will probably do
the same thing.
Brewer GJ and Wallimann TW. Protective effect of the energy precursor creatine against toxicity of glutamate and beta-amyloid in rat hippocampal neurons. J Neurochem. 2000 May;74(5):1968-78.
Earnest CP, Almada AL, and Mitchell TL. High-performance capillary electrophoresis-pure Creatine monohydrate reduces blood lipids in men and women. Clin Sci (Lond). 1996 Jul;91(1):113-8.
Ferrante RJ, Andreassen OA, Jenkins BG, et al. Neuroprotective effects of creatine in a transgenic mouse model of Huntington’s disease. J Neurosci. 2000 Jun 15;20(12):4389-97.
Hultman E, Soderlund K, Timmons JA, et al. Muscle creatine loading in men. J Appl Physiol. 1996 Jul;81(1):232-7.
Klivenyi P, Ferrante RJ, Matthews RT, et al. Neuroprotective effects of creatine in a transgenic animal model of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Nat Med. 1999 Mar;5(3):347-50.
Kreider RB, Ferreira M, Wilson M, et al. Effects of creatine supplementation on body composition, strength, and sprint performance. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1998 Jan;30(1):73-82.
Malcon C, Kaddurah-Daouk R, Beal MF. Neuroprotective effects of creatine administration against NMDA and malonate toxicity. Brain Res. 2000 Mar 31;860(1-2):195-8.
Matthews RT, Yang L, Jenkins BG, et al. Neuroprotective effects of creatine and cyclocreatine in animal models of Huntington’s disease. J Neurosci. 1998 Jan 1;18(1):156-63.
Matthews RT, Ferrante RJ, Klivenyi P, et al. Creatine and cyclocreatine attenuate MPTP neurotoxicity. Exp Neurol. 1999 May;157(1):142-9.
Odland LM, MacDougall JD, Tarnopolsky MA, et al. Effect of oral creatine supplementation on muscle [PCr] and short-term maximum power output. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1997 Feb;29(2):216-9.
Pearson DR, Hamby DG, et al. Long-term eff ects of Creatine monohydrate on strength and power. J Strength Cond Res. 1999 13(3):187-92.
Peeters BM, Lantz CD and Mayhew JL. Eff ect of oral creatine monohydrate and creatine phosphate supplementation on maximal strength indices, body composition, and blood pressure. J Strength Cond Res. 1999 13(1):3-9
Poortmans JR, Auquier H, Renaut V, et al. Eff ect of short-term creatine supplementation on renal responses in men. Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol. 1997;76(6):566-7.
Poortmans JR, Francaux M. Long-term oral creatine supplementation does not impair renal function in healthy athletes. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1999 Aug;31(8):1108-10.
Tarnopolsky M, Martin J. Creatine monohydrate increases strength in patients with neuromuscular disease. Neurology. 1999 Mar 10;52(4):854-7ealed
Volek JS, Duncan ND, Mazzetti SA, et al. No Eff ect of Heavy Resistance Training and Creatine Supplementation on Blood Lipids. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2000 Jun;10(2):144-56.
Walter MC, Lochmuller H, Reilich P, et al. Creatine monohydrate in muscular dystrophies: A double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical study. Neurology. 2000 May 9;54(9):1848-50.
Which Creatine is best?
Aside from the obvious price differences, there are also several different types of Creatine in the form of creatine monohydrate, creatine citrate, creatine phosphate, tri-creatine malate, creatine-magnesium chelate and even liquid “ creatine serum”. The newest at the moment being Creatine Ethyl-Ester which is apparently the next best thing. The Problem here is that the overwhelming majority of research to date on the effects of creatine and muscle mass/performance used the monohydrate form and most creatine found in supplements and food is in the monohydrate form.
That fact alone should do it, or the fact monohydrate is the cheapest and easiest to obtain supplement should persuade you away from the lesser tested variations.
Many of these companies try to claim monohydrate is poorly absorbed or that it makes you bloat or hold water – However there is yet to be studies performed side-by-side to compare the differences and the research just simply hasn’t been performed to make these bogus claims. We basically have one of the most researched supplements known to man, shown to be safe, effective and cheap and yet for some reason people are still being drawn toward the new fancy unproven products. I’m not for a moment saying they are not effective, just that they are untested over time. Stick with what we know works!
A great article (http://www.t-nation.com/free_online_article/most_recent/rippetoe_throws_down&cr=) at T-nation by Rippetoe recently. I’ve always liked his straight talking opinion – here’s some others (http://www.t-nation.com/ALSAuthor.do?p=Mark%20Rippetoe&pageNo=1) if you’re interested.
I’ve written a few posts now on Hyper Lordosis or Anterior Pelvic Tilt and it’s effects on lifting. The fact is, almost everyone has a degree of hyper-lordosis due to the fact we all use chairs far too often! From working to travelling to relaxing, it is all usually done in a seated position, this then in turn re-inforces the poor posture already lurking, causes tight lower back/hip flexors and weak or elongated abdominals/gluteals.
Most of us then try to address it with some stretching of tight muscles and strengthening the weaker ones. The problem with strengthening the abs is that the overwhelming majority simply don’t know how to. They will do something like sit-ups or crunches and hold a plank for minutes on end. The problem with these is:
- Situps work your hip flexors more than your abs, especially with the classic jerking off the floor type, crunches are a little better, but still involve the hip flexors and tend to lead to…
- Upper back rounding – When crunches are performed the movement reinforces poor posture by causing you to round your upper back each rep so leading into Kyphosis or a Neanderthal type posture – Instead of keeping your shoulders back and down with good posture, you’re constantly rounding your upper back and pushing your chin forward.
- Too much flexion and extension of the spine. Alot of people do situps by arching the lower back, pulling their body up with the hip flexors, then rounding forward towards the top of each rep. Think about it – what happens when you keep bending something back and forward over time? SNAP!
- Most people hold a plank ‘passively’ – hips sagging and upper back rounded (see post on RKC Plank for a better option)
- Due to the law of reciprocal inhibition (when a muscle on one side of a joint contracts, the other opposing muscle relaxes), your already inactive or weak glutes get weaker every rep because your hip flexors are strengthened with every rep! In other words – Sit-ups exagerate the problem you’re trying to address!!
Real Abdominal or Core Strength is simply the ability to stabilise the spine especially when under load. This is the primary job of the abs after all! How often are we even required to perform a sit-up/crunch type movement? I can’t even think of an example after getting out of bed! But, I can certainly think of many an occassion where I am supporting a load – Carrying shopping, picking up the kids/pets, moving things around, picking things up, etc etc.
If you’re already doing heavy deadlifts/squats/press’s then your core will already be getting plenty of stabilisation, if not, or you want to focus on it a little more you can’t go wrong with looking at the olympic weightlifters (especially the lightweight category). They are required to stabilise huge loads overhead and generally have the physique to match! Makes sense really, if you’re going to lift something heavy over your head then your abs are going to have to work overtime to keep your torso upright and stabilized.
To work on stabilisation, you can’t beat a bridge/plank type movement (performed correctly!)the light-weight Olympic lifters do things like supporting weight on their stomachs while they’re laying over two chairs, making their abs a “bridge” for the weight and forcing their whole core to stabilize and work to keep their back straight. A bit of an extreme version for most, but it is the general ‘bridging’ principle we’re looking at – Try the RKC plank to start.
Instead of doing hundreds of reps of easy situps and causing so many muscle imbalances, un-even weaknesses and strengths… if you’re going to do abdominal exercises to train your abs to contract your body in half… you should try harder ab exercises.
Try and focus more on lower ab work. Most people have weaker lower abs compared to their upper abs. This is usually due to crunches and upper ab work like that.
On top of that, posterioral problems and muscle imbalances are common from doing so many situps and from crunching your ribcage down towards your pelvis. You need to work your abs in a different plane of motion.
If you are lifting heavily on a regular basis, there is a great move for strengthening the abs, but also to stretch (decompress) your spine from those heavy loads. The Hanging Leg Raise and its variations
- They strengthen your abs
- They decompress your spine
- They stretch your back
- They help Correct Lordosis by training you to tilt your pelvis posteriorly and up.
Train your abs the way they were meant to be – As spinal stabilizers and with harder contraction exercises.
Anyone that exercises whether it be weightlifting or running or even if you don’t exercise and work in an office or typically have to sit at work all day – You need to start using a foam roller. If you struggle with posture or tight muscles or are just looking to improve your flexibility/mobility, buy yourself a roller! – They are cheap and easy to use and far more effective than stretching, they will alleviate typically tight and/or sore areas like lower back, hips or shoulder pain with simple easy to learn techniques as detailed below (article/guide originally posted on T-Nation)
Feel Better for 10 Bucks
Self-myofascial release: no doctor required!
by Eric Cressey and Mike Robertson
Ten bucks doesn’t buy much nowadays. You could pick up a day pass at some commercial gym, or pull off the co-pay on a visit to the chiropractor. If you’re lucky, you might even be able to swing a mediocre Russian mail order bride.
Or, you could just go the safe route with your $10, take our advice, and receive a lifetime of relief from the annoying tightness so many athletes and weekend warriors feel from incessantly beating on their bodies. Don’t worry, this isn’t an infomercial. We just want you to pick up a foam roller for self-myofascial release and deep tissue massage.
How does it work?
Self-myofascial release (SMR) on a foam roller is possible thanks to the principle known as autogenic inhibition. You’ve likely heard of the Golgi Tendon Organ (GTO) at some point in your training career. The GTO is a mechanoreceptor found at the muscle-tendon junction; it’s highly sensitive to changes in tension in the muscle.
When tension increases to the point of high risk of injury (i.e. tendon rupture), the GTO stimulates muscle spindles to relax the muscle in question. This reflex relaxation is autogenic inhibition. The GTO isn’t only useful in protecting us from injuries, but it also plays a role in making proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) stretching techniques highly effective.
The muscle contraction that precedes the passive stretch stimulates the GTO, which in turn causes relaxation that facilitates this passive stretch and allows for greater range of motion. With foam rolling, you can simulate this muscle tension, thus causing the GTO to relax the muscle. Essentially, you get many of the benefits of stretching and then some.
It’s also fairly well accepted that muscles need to not only be strong, but pliable as well. Regardless of whether you’re a bodybuilder, strength athlete, or ordinary weekend warrior, it’s important to have strength and optimal function through a full range of motion. While stretching will improve the length of the muscle, SMR and massage work to adjust the tone of the muscle. Performing one while ignoring the other is like reading T-Nation but never actually lifting weights to put the info to good use.
What’s SMR good for?
Traditional stretching techniques simply cause transient increases in muscle length (assuming that we don’t exceed the “point of no return” on the stress-strain curve, which will lead to unwanted deformities). SMR on the foam roller, on the other hand, offers these benefits and breakdown of soft tissue adhesions and scar tissue.
One mustn’t look any further than the overwhelmingly positive results numerous individuals have had with Active Release Techniques (ART) to recognize the value of eliminating adhesions and scar tissue. Unfortunately, from both a financial and convenience standpoint, we can’t all expect to get ART done on a frequent basis.
SMR on the foam roller offers an effective, inexpensive, and convenient way to both reduce adhesion and scar tissue accumulation and eliminate what’s already present on a daily basis. Just note that like stretching, foam rolling doesn’t yield marked improvements overnight; you’ll need to be diligent and stick with it (although you’ll definitely notice acute benefits).
Those of you who have been following our Neanderthal No More series will definitely be interested in the valuable role foam rollers can play in correcting postural afflictions. Get to work on those tight muscles and you’ll definitely see appreciable returns on your efforts!
So let’s get started!
What you need to get:
1) 6″ foam roller (either the 1′ long or 3′ long version)
2) Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing” CD
3) A leopard-skin thong
4) Two quarts of baby oil to lube yourself up
Note: If you thought we were really serious on numbers two through four, you need to get your mind out of the gutter and find a new favorite website!
These techniques are actually very simple to learn. Basically, you just use your body weight to sandwich the roller between the soft tissue to be released and the floor. Roll at a slow pace and actually stop and bear down on the most tender spots (“hot spots”). Once the pain in these spots diminishes, roll the other areas.
In order to increase the pressure on the soft tissue, simply apply more of your body weight to the roller. The simplest way to do this is by either moving from working both legs at once to one leg, or by “stacking” one of your legs on top of the other to increase the tension.
As you get more comfortable with SMR, you’ll really want to be bearing down on the roller with most (if not all) of your body weight. As with almost anything in the training world, there’s considerable room for experimentation, so you’ll definitely want to play around with the roller to see what works best for you. Be careful to avoid bony prominences, though. (Insert your own joke here.)
One other technique we’ve found to be beneficial is to work from the proximal (nearest the center of the body) to the distal (away from the center of the body) attachment of the muscle. For instance, instead of working your quadriceps from top to bottom all in one shot, shorten your stroke a little bit. Work the top half first, and after it has loosened up, move on to the bottom half.
This is an important strategy because as you get closer to the distal muscle-tendon junction, there’s a concomitant increase in tension. By working the top half first, you decrease the ensuing tension at the bottom, essentially taking care of the problem in advance.
Note: Those with circulatory problems and chronic pain diseases (e.g. fibromyalgia) should NOT use foam rollers.
Demonstrations and Descriptions
Hamstrings: You’ll want to try these with the feet turned in, out, and pointing straight ahead to completely work the entire hamstring complex. Balance on your hands with your hamstrings resting on the roller, then roll from the base of the glutes to the knee. To increase loading, you can stack one leg on top of the other.
Hip Flexors: Balance on your forearms with the top of one thigh on the roller. Roll from the upper thigh into the hip. Try this with the femur both internally and externally rotated. To do so, just shift the position of the contralateral pelvis. (In the photo, Mike would want to lift his right hip to externally rotate the left femur).
Tensor Fascia Latae and Iliotibial Band: These are a little tricky, so we’ve included pictures from two different angles. Without a doubt, this one will be the most painful for most of you.
In the starting position, you’ll be lying on your side with the roller positioned just below your pelvis. From here, you’ll want to roll all the way down the lateral aspect of your thigh until you reach the knee. Stack the opposite leg on top to increase loading.
Adductors: Balance on your forearms with the top of one of your inner thighs resting on the roller. From this position, roll all the way down to the adductor tubercle (just above the medial aspect of the knee) to get the distal attachments. You’ll even get a little vastus medialis work in while you’re there. Watch out for your twig and berries on this one, though!
Quadriceps: This one is quite similar to the hip flexor version; you’re just rolling further down on the thigh. You can perform this roll with either one or two legs on the roller.
Gluteus Medius and Piriformis: Lie on your side with the “meaty” part of your lateral glutes (just posterior to the head of the femur) resting on the roller. Balance on one elbow with the same side leg on the ground and roll that lateral aspect of your glutes from top to bottom.
Gluteus Maximus: Set up like you’re going to roll your hamstrings, but sit on the roller instead. Roll your rump. Enough said.
Calves: This, too, is similar in positioning to the hamstrings roll; you’re just rolling knee to ankle. Try this with the toes up (dorsiflexion) and down (plantarflexion). Stack one leg on top of the other to increase loading.
Tibialis Anterior: This is just like the quad roll, but you’re working on your shins instead.
Peroneals: This one is similar to the TFL/ITB roll; we’re just working on the lower leg now. Roll along the lateral aspect of the lower leg from the knee to the ankle.
Thoracolumbar Fascia: With your arms folded across your chest, lie supine with the roller positioned under your midback. Elevate the glutes and roll from the base of the scapulae to the top of the pelvis. You’ll want to emphasize one side at a time with a slight lean to one side.
Thoracic Extensors, Middle and Lower Trapezius, Rhomboids: With your arms behind your head (not pulling on the neck), lie supine with roller positioned in the middle of your back; your glutes should be on the ground. Roll upward, reversing direction when you reach the level of the armpits. This is an excellent intervention for correcting kyphosis.
Latissimus Dorsi and Teres Major: Lie on your side with the same side arm overhead. The roller should be positioned at the attachment of the lat on the scapula in the starting position. You’ll want to roll toward the attachment on the humerus (roll toward the armpit).
Triceps: Start with your body in the same position as you would for the latissimus dorsi. Now, however, you’ll want to place the roller at the top of your triceps (near your armpit) and your noggin on top of your arm to increase the tension (and no, you don’t have to be that geeky kid from Jerry Maguire to know the human head weighs 8 pounds!)
Pectoralis Major and Anterior Deltoid: Lie prone with the roller positioned at an angle slightly to one side of the sternum; the arm on this side should be abducted to about 135° (halfway between completely overhead and where it would be at the completion of a lateral raise). Roll toward the humeral head (toward the armpit).
Hopefully, this article has been proof enough that SMR on the foam roller is an excellent adjunct to your training, diet, supplementation, and restoration efforts. And, even if it isn’t, we’re only talking about ten bucks here, people! For crying out loud, just look under the couch cushions for change and you’re halfway there!
Where do you buy one? Try Perform Better:
Classic 1′ roller
More Durable Foam Roller Plus
Pick one up and give it a shot. Your body will thank you for years to come!
About the Authors
Eric Cressey, BS, CSCS is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in Kinesiology with a concentration in Exercise Science at the University of Connecticut. He graduated from the University of New England with a double major in Exercise Science and Sports and Fitness Management. Eric has experience in athletic performance, rehabilitation, and general conditioning settings. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A frequently asked question when it comes to chest training is ‘Are Dumbells better or worse than a Barbell?’ – There is no yes or no answer to this one, it is entirely dependant on your goals.
As you can load a barbell gradually with minor increases in weight, they are the ideal tool for building strength. To get stronger you need to progressively lift more weight over a period of time. If you can’t, something is not right – You can perform all the drop-sets/supersets/giant sets/forced reps etc etc, but if the weight is not increasing, you will not get stronger – You will plateau much quicker with Dumbbells due to the large increase in weight percentage between them. Even a well stocked gym will have the weight increases around the 2.5kg mark. This is as increase of 5kg on your lift which is going to be a challenge for most and makes progressive loading nigh impossible. If your goal is pure strength you can load significantly more onto a barbell due to its balance and stability and so is the perfect tool in this situation.
Muscular imbalance is another thing to address. Although you can try and be more aware of pushing equally or focusing on leading with the weaker side, with a Barbell imbalances can be masked. When using Dumbbells you will be much more aware of imbalances as one side will be unstable or will fatigue first, and will prevent your dominant side from growing faster than the other. Balanced body strength leads to greater performance and lowers the chance of injury.
The Barbell bench press is also harder on your joints than dumbbells. When pressing with dumbbells, your hands won’t remain completely pronated (palms forward), but will rotate slightly inwards reducing the stress on your wrists elbows and shoulders (particularly rotator cuff) and therefore reducing your chance of injury.
With regard to muscle recruitment, researchers noted that electrical activity or muscle stimulation in the arms was greatest in the triceps with a barbell, but when dumbbells are used the biceps also come into play as stabilisers. The Barbell activates more upper chest fibres and anterior deltoid due to the wide grip in the top position, however as your hands are free to move across your body with dumbbell presses there is greater lower pectoral activation. Although yes, you will use more stabilising muscles with the dumbbells, you will be limited by the weight increases as previously mentioned meaning you will plateau sooner.
In my opinion the barbell is the better option as you can handle a lot more weight doing the same exercises. More weight moved = bigger muscles. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use dumbbells, you should try and use both – Just keep the main focus on increasing the weight on the bar and use dumbbell sets to ensure you work the entire chest area, prevent imbalances and keep your joints healthy.
In a nutshell:
Barbell – Heavier weight handled, better mass gain, easier for beginners, greater progression (stall less often).
Dumbbell – Better for balance and stabilisation, no need for spotter, less stress on joints, slightly increased range of motion.
Should you use lifting straps? It’s yet another massive debate with people on both sides passionately arguing the case for and against them.
Having had a crossfit background, I have been guilty of judging people on using them myself. However, since strength training I’ve been bringing them in for my heavier topsets on deadlifts and I’m getting a couple more reps, so definitely see the benefits. A lot of the for arguments are that there’s better Lat isolation or they say ‘I feel it in my back more’ or even just being able to perform more reps with a weight that they can’t without them.
When performing deadlifts, rows or pulldowns, the majority of the time your grip will give out before your back will. If you use straps a lot you will need to add in some grip work on top of everything else. Grip training itself is extremely taxing to your CNS and is difficult to recover from as everything you do involves your grip to some extent. My advice? Don’t use them every set, just when grip is starting to become an issue with the weight you’re using. That way you’re not having to do additional grip training and you can reap the benefits of being able to go heavier on your lifts.
Additional info: Pros and Cons of Strapping up, Using Straps to Build Muscle – Sean Nalewanyj, How Using Straps Can Save Your Back and Elbows – Jason Ferruggia
As I’ve referred to this a couple of times and will be bringing it back into my training again, I thought it would be useful to have the man himself describe it:
Extract below from Johnny’s blog
Villain Challenge #1
We will be issuing a series of “Villain Challenges” these are intended to promote specific physical adaptations and create a well balanced, capable, villainous athlete. The challenges will all be simple in design, and will be trainable for anyone without special equipment. There is literally no excuse for a person who is not injured or disabled to not take on these challenges.
Challenge #1 is an old Greyskull standard, and here it is.
100 Burpees in 5 minutes.
We all know the burpee. It is a terrible calisthenic movement that elicits a very shitty systemic feeling when performed quickly and for high reps. Accomplishing 100 of these nasty SOB’s in 5 minutes means holding a 1 Burpee every 3 second pace or better for 5 minutes.
An overweight and or out of shape individual could begin by doing 3 or 4 sets of 5, with the goal being to accomplish the sets in less than 15 seconds per. Once they can do that, they would add a few reps, trying for sets of 7 or 10. Each time the time goals are made across the board, they would add repetitions per set.
A more in shape individual might begin with sets of 20 to be done in 1 minute, or even (as I would advise) sprint sets of 10 to be accomplished in 30 seconds or less.
The simple goal formula is: #of Burpees x 3= Target in seconds
The idea here is consistency, working towards a goal over time. This is something that can be trained daily, as in 7 days per week. How much do you honestly think your strength training will be affected by 3 sets of 10 burpees? I would have you do this after your weight training on training days, and on all of the other days in between with the understanding that missing a day here or there certainly isn’t the end of the world. After all it is what we do most of the time that matters, not what we do some of the time.
Ask yourself, what do you think the cumulative effect of the work necessary day in, day out, to knock this goal off of the list will be on your cardiovascular health/fitness/conditioning? What about your body composition? Do you think that your body will look exactly the same as it does now once you can accomplish this goal, assuming you are a ways off? I often tell beginner trainees desiring more upper body development that when they can bench press 100 pounds more than they can currently they will look like a guy who benches 100 pounds more than they do currently. The same goes here. Consistent effort towards the goal over time is hands down the most important variable in training as well as in many other aspects of life.
This challenge is an example of the villain mentality as it applies to training. Eat lots of good food, lift heavy weights, chin, dip, condition with calisthenics and other methods, and you will in time take on the appearance of a guy or gal who consistently does all of the above mentioned things. You do not have to be fat and sloppy to be strong. To quote my friend Anthony Roberts, we are about building “a nation of linebackers”.
So here’s the first challenge, 100 Burpees, five minutes. Get hot on it. Post your progress in the logs, ask questions if needed. Once you have it down, video it and submit it. Those completing the challenge will receive a reward as well as the intrinsic reward of knowing that you accomplished something that few will do.
Click HERE to read a great nutrition article on EliteFTS by a good friend of mine Pete, my go-to-guy when it comes to anything to do with nutrition. Also click here if you missed his earlier article The Whole Foods Diet.
Pete Stables is a REPS accredited strength and conditioning coach from the United Kingdom, specializing in constructing nutrition plans for clients who want to lose weight, gain muscle, or excel in any given sport. For consultation inquiries, contact Pete at www.maximumuscle.com
- Grip the bar so that your forearms are perpendicular to the ground and your wrists are straight (bar is in heel of hand, directly over forearm bones) not bent back. For most that will be just at the edge of the knurling.
- Take a deep breath, flex the chest and lats hard to create a shelf for your upper arms to rest on. Try to avoid the common ‘rack’ position (think Olympic lift, where the bar touches chest/collarbone and bar rests on shoulders) as this will cause you to lose tightness at the bottom of each rep.
Straight Wrists Bent Wrists or ‘Rack’ Position
- Drive the bar quickly overhead to lockout, bringing your head and chest through at the top of the movement (so bar is directly overhead), this reduces the stress on the anterior deltoid (front shoulder) and lumbar spine (lower back). You can then exhale before starting the next rep.
Bad Overhead Position Good Overhead Position
- Rep 2 begins at the top position, inhale and control the bar down to the start position to ‘bounce’ off the lat shelf and back to the top before you breathe out again to start next rep.
- Keep your legs straight throughout with anywhere from deadlift to squat stance, squeeze glutes and abs hard throughout the lift.
Article from TheDeadlift.com
The Physical Benefits of Deadlifting
Why Deadlift? To us asking that is akin to asking Why Breathe? The Deadlift is one of the most ancient, fundamental and just flat out alpha lifts out there. In no other lift do you raise hundreds of pounds of weight off the ground with your bare hands. There’s really something magical about the Deadlift. You just don’t feel the same amount of confidence and joy doing Squats or Bench Pressing as you do while Deadlifting. There’s a reason so many people look forward to Deadlift day.
What Muscles Does The Deadlift Work?
The primary of deadlifting are increased strength and muscle mass. Since the deadlift is a compound movement it utilizes nearly every major muscle of your body:
• Spinal Erectors
• Lower Back
• Middle and Upper Trapezius
• Abdominals and Obliques
So doing one deadlift is almost like doing In a leg presses, aback extension, lying leg curls, an abdominal crunch, a gripping exercise, a straight-arm pull down and a shrug all at the same time. Yep, its one hell of a compound lift.
Another great reason for deadlifting is testosterone and growth hormone release. Studies have shown that compound lifts like the deadlift use the most muscle groups and thus release the most of these 2 crucial chemical compounds.
Still not fully convinced by the glory of the Deadlift? Listen to Johnnie Jackson, IFBB Pro and one of the strongest bodybuilders in the world.
Other Deadlifting Benefits
• Deadlifting helps to increase stability control. While using machines to train muscles will isolate and target only a specific few muscle groups, the deadlift also involves supplementary and minor muscles called stabilizer muscles that are usually ignored by the mainstream. The lack of training of these stabilizer muscles will lead to imbalances and can lead a person to be more susceptible to injury and unsymmetrical physique.
• Another huge benefit from deadlifting is increased grip strength. Since the deadlift is one of the few exercises where you must manually hold hundreds of pounds of weight, it is one of the best exercises for increasing grip strength and strengthening the forearms. Increased grip strength will then aid to improve other lifts like the bench press.
• Deadlifting is also one the few exercises out there with real world application. Pickup weights off the ground is something we’ve been doing for millennia and is exactly what the deadlift trains the body to do.
• If performed correctly the deadlift also strengthens the spine and can lead to better posture. People with lordosis or excessive curving of the spine can benefit from the deadlift as it will help fix their posture by strengthening their lower back muscles, as well as the core, and by ironing out any lower back imbalances.
• Cardio. The only two exercises to really make someone light headed are Deadlifts and Squats. Deadlifting really taxes your cardiovascular system, as you already know, or will soon find out. (Pro tip: Make sure you have somewhere to sit down after deadlifting).
Some uneducated people and crappy gyms (AKA Planet Fitness) will try and tell you the Deadlift is not a good exercise, and that it’s dangerous, and that you shouldn’t do it. That’s not true at all. Driving a car is dangerous, yet we still do it. Why? Because we learn how to do it first. So read up on Deadlifting Form before you go out there and do a clean set of 5.
Article from TheDeadlift.com
- Take a stance roughly heels in line with hips – Alternatively think about doing a vertical jump, this varies with course but it is a guide.
- Toes should be slightly turned out. Not as much as the squat but definitely not parallel. Bar is just in front of your shins whilst standing.
- Bend down and grip the bar, your arms should hang vertically (so a shoulder width grip). You can use an alternating or hook (thumbs under fingers) grip, as the bar gets heavier, but if you want to improve your grip strength try and use a double overhand grip as long as possible. In this position your shins should now be touching the bar.
Deadlift Overhand & Alternating Grip
- Take a deep breath, squeeze shoulders together and lift chest, pushing bottom back. Your lower back should remain either static or slightly arched throughout the lift, don’t let it round!
Good Vs Bad Back Position
- Squeeze the pressure into the bar and sit back into your heels till you feel like you’re about to fall backwards, then lift, keeping the bar as close to the body as you can.
- As soon as the bar passes your knees, drive your hips forward to complete the lift (lockout), squeezing the glutes hard. Do not lockout by leaning back at the top!
Good Vs Bad Lockout Position
- Return the bar to the floor along the same path, don’t drop it! If you have exhaled at the top, take another breath and hold as you lower. Most deadlift injuries occur on the lowering as people tend to relax and drop the bar down, jerking the lower back, or with poor back position at the start of the lift.
- At the end of each lift, re-set your position before taking another breath and lifting again. As soon as you feel your lower back starting to round or can’t lockout the set is over.
So you’ve been doing a plank variation for some time now and can hold it for a couple of minutes so think your ‘core’ is strong?
There is a far more difficult and massively more effective version called the RKC Plank (Russian Kettlebell Challenge).
Most of us hold a plank ‘passively’ with little activation of the internal abdominal muscles that the plank is supposed to strengthen. A few tweaks to it and you’ll understand what a plank really is and be stronger under the bar for it!
Anyone who has read any of Pavel Tsatsouline’s books will know he advocates ‘whole body tension’ in all movements, but especially when looking at strength training. The RKC plank is a great way to learn how to do this and can then be applied to your lifts.
——————– An extract from Deadlift Dynamite by Andy Bolton and Pavel Tsatsouline ———————
Senior RKC Thomas Phillips has called the plank “the most popular exercise performed incorrectly”. Most folks either let their backs sag or their butts shoot up and use a minimal amount of effort in order to last the longest. Using poor form amounts to what Gray Cook, RKC, calls “adding fitness to dysfunction” and all sorts of problems down the road. And going for a minute or longer develops endurance rather than strength.
The difference is fundamental.
To express max strength one must learn to maximally contract all the muscles at once and hold nothing back. To develop muscular endurance one must learn to use as few muscles as possible and the least effort.
The conflict is obvious.
The bottom line: a strength athlete ought to practice the plank as an all out effort, and has no business leaving the 5-20sec window.
Giving it all in a short period of time is what the RKC plank is all about. Sports scientist Bret Contreras comments:
The RKC plank is a reverse-engineered core exercise that has evolved into a brutal full body isohold. I learned about the RKC plank (also called the Hardstyle plank) from Pavel Tsatsouline, creator of the RKC, and when done right, it wipes you out completely after only ten seconds. Sure you can do a [regular] plank for 3 straight minutes, but now show me that you can do a [RKC] plank and exhaust your body through maximum muscle exertion. The RKC plank has you manipulating whole body muscle tension to generate maximum internal work. Though you won’t be moving as it’s a static exercise, you’ll be engaging in a 10-second isometric war…
Contreras took EMG measurements to compare the peak activation of various midsection muscles in the traditional front plank and the RKC version and here are the results:
||Lower Rectus Abdomnis (RA)
||Internal Oblique (IO)
||External Oblique (EO)
|Standard Front Plank
In the RKC plank, the six-pack is contracting more than three times more intensely, the internal obliques more than twice, the external obliques almost four times as intensely as in the typical plank seen in gyms everywhere.
It is the many technique subtleties that make the RKC plank work so well, so pay attention, and add various technique elements to your practice gradually. If you try to do it all the first time out, you are bound to forget something.
- Place your elbows directly underneath your shoulders or slightly in front of them. Either keep your forearms parallel to each other or make your fists touch. Keep your fists in the “hammer” position.
- Keep your whole body in one straight line, from head to toes. In the beginning it helps to have a training partner place a stick on your backside to teach you what a straight line is. Your back may not sag, your butt may not pike up. Your hips must extend as they do in the deadlift.
- The stick will also help you correctly align your neck. The following subtle alignment practiced in martial arts and physical therapy makes a difference. Stretch your neck long—and then, in Dr. Michael Hartle’s words, “rotate the chin in the direction of your chest around the axis going through your ears.” This will flatten your neck against the stick. You may have to practice it lying on your back at first.
- Look straight down on the ground, between your wrists.
- Make tight fists.
- Breathe shallow, as you would when holding a bar on your back between squat reps. Periodically employ Hardstyle breathing—short, powerful hisses. Do your best to keep the tension out of your head and neck.
- Lock your knees and pull up your kneecaps. You will have an easier time doing this if you stretch your hip flexors first.
- Cramp the glutes and try to tuck your tail under (posterior pelvic tilt)—without bending the knees! We do it for many reasons. Contreras has one more and it is right down our alley: “The posterior pelvic tilt develops glute endurance and helps engrain proper deadlift lockout form.”
- You may not let your knees bend or your butt shoot up when you are strongly tucking in your tail!
- A useful cue for the posterior pelvic tilt comes from karate: point your belly button slightly towards your head. Insist on keeping your knees locked and your kneecaps pulled up.
- Use your lats to maximally “unshrug” your shoulders away from your ears.
When you have figured out how to do all of the above, add the following powerful subtleties added to the RKC plank by Dr. Michael Hartle, Senior RKC.
“Make sure the toes are fully extended and the ankle is maximally dorsiflexed.” In other words, point your feet and toes towards your nose. “This aids in the anterior chain contraction one is achieving during this plank.”
Simultaneously drive your elbows and your toes hard towards each other (isometrically). This will make your body pike or jacknife. Prevent your pelvis from rising by tensing your glutes even harder and driving the hips forward, as in the DL lockout. Now you will understand what Bret Contreras meant by the “isometric war”!
Practice the RKC plank in sets of approximately 10sec long, always stopping before the intensity of the contraction drops off. We are in the strength business—not endurance business.