Monday 17th November 2014 – Saturday 29th November 2014
Took a week off after the World’s and have been easing back in since. I’m going to change from conventional squats and deadlifts to wide stance/sumo as recommended by my coach in order to increase weight lifted, which means dropping the weight down and practicing over and over!! I’m also throwing in a back workout every other session and reducing Bench sessions as it helps my shoulder and you can’t go wrong by increasing back size/strength!
17th Nov – 22nd Nov
Back session – DB Pullovers, Pulldowns (V Grip and wide), T Bar Rows, Straight Arm Pulldowns, Single Arm Lever Rows and Rack Pulls up to 140kg x10
Squats – Wide practice with Pembrokeshire Powerlifters up to 140kg for 5 sets of 3 – Gorila chins and Captains Chair knee Raises
Back session – As above, Rack Pulls 160kg for 3 sets of 8
Deadlifts – Sumo practice up to 140kg for 3 sets of 5, biceps (DeFrancos 3-6-12 routine) & ab slings
23rd Nov – 29th Nov
Back session – As above, Rack Pulls up to 180kg for 3 sets of 3, biceps (3-6-12)
Squats – Wide practice up to 140kg x8 with loose wraps, Leg Press & Ab Wheel
Back session – As above with Rack Pulls up to 180kg for 3 sets of 5, biceps (3-6-12)
Bench/Deadlifts with Pembs Powerlifters – Bench up to 150kg, Sumo Deadlifts up to 180kg, Ab work
Squat 140kg x3, Squat 140kg x8, Rack Pull 180kg x5, Bench 150kg, Sumo Deadlift 180kg
8 Week Back Focus Results
After 8 weeks the back focus is finished, I’m happy with the results as there has been some definite improvement both in strength and aesthetics.
Initial measurements on 24th March 2014 in black and final measurements on 19th May 2014 in red
Chest/Lats 43″ – 44″
Waist 36″ – 35½”
Hips 43″ – 42″
Thigh/Quads 24″ – 24½”
Calf 15¾ – 15¾
Bicep 15½ – 15¾
Weight 89.7kg – 88.1kg
So to summarise – Weight has stayed roughly the same, but inches have been gained or lost in all the right places! (except the good old calves which have remained stubbornly the same despite regular training that I wasn’t previously doing … grrrr!) Traps have become more pronounced as planned and also gained a ¼ inch on my arms – which is nice 😉
Getting Hench – The Importance of Back Training Part 1
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!
How To Use A Foam Roller For Self-Myofascial Release
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:
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.
Lifting Straps – Should you use them?
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
Wednesday 6th February 2013
Felt like doing some back hypertrophy work today, Then taking a few rest days as away all weekend. When I get back I’ll be focusing more on this to bring my deadlift up and general mass for the back (can’t go wrong with that!).
Cable Row 60kg x8x8x8x8 (30s rest)
‘V’ Grip Pulldown 75kg x10, 70kg x10, 65kg x10, 60kg x10 (60s rest)
DB Pullover 38kg x12x12 (60s)
Rack Pull 140kg x6 – Still not sure I’m doing these right!
Shrugs (mainly for grip work) 90kg x6x6x6 (60s)
Then threw in some Single Handle Standing Alt. Cable Curls 10kg x12x10 (60s) and DB Preachers 12kg x10x7 (no rest just alt. arms)
Friday 11th January 2013
Short on time today so used my lunch break for a cheeky back session, limited equipment so did:
DB Pullover 38kg x10x10
‘V’ Grip Pulldown 90kg x6, 80kg x11
DB Row To Hip 30kg x12x12
Rack Pull 140kg x8 – Only a Smith Machine available, did 8 reps then canned it as it was just too awkward to use and the bar was too smooth to grip!
Friday 19th October 2012
Another double Spin class yesterday so spent a bit of time straight after classes stretching my hip flexors, I’ve also been trying to take some time at night to foam roll them and my quads (ouch!). A bit short on time today so superset (of a sort) my lifts – basically in the 3-5 minutes between Bench and Squat sets, I’d do another lift which didn’t effect it too much in order to get all my lifts done in the timeframe.
Decline Bench 120kg x5x5x6 – After previous post fancied giving them a try myself, I had to put boards under my feet as couldn’t put my feet down otherwise! Felt a bit unstable as not an ideal decline bench – can’t hook legs – felt like I was sliding a little, but got the hang of it by my last set. (cut the video as I stupidly went for a seventh rep which failed and you don’t need to see that!)
Yates row 82.5kg x15x15x15 (slotted these in between each bench set)
Machine preacher curls 15kg x11x10 (as I’m still doing pull-ups all the way through, my arms are pretty tired when I get to these! but I really like them so sticking with it! – Again, I performed these between squat sets to save time.
Squat 142.5kg x5x5x10 – Form got a little ugly toward last few reps but I was determined to get 10 again! I’m still surprised that Spin isn’t affected these at the moment, I put it down to the mobility I’m doing for my hips/APT and just eating as much as possible the night before my session!
Build a bigger back with Yates rows
You wouldn’t believe how much mis-information there is on this! Just a simple search on google will give you thousands of differing opinions on whether it is a good or bad movement, some will claim it’s no good at all! I would say take a look at Dorian Yates and ask yourself, does this man look like he knows what he’s talking about when it comes to a big back? I really like this lift, it feels like it’s really hitting the lats hard performed properly, and unlike standard barbell rows or Pendlay rows, there is far less stress on the lower back. The biggest problem most have is executing the lift properly. Dorian used to use an underhand grip, but as the weights used were getting huge, he ended up doing the inevitable and injuring his bicep tendon and now uses a narrow overhand grip instead. The main two mistakes most people make are flaring out the elbows, and pausing at the top of the movement. This is a power movement and should be treated so. Use the heaviest weight you can and keep the body still! For a more in depth definition here’s the man himself.