Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Hip and low back health w/ Gluteal function

The vast majority of people I see and assess on a daily basis are terribly deficient in hip mobility and function. Especially in the strength and recruitment of their glutes. The glutes are possibly the most important muscle in your body. Well I should say it's probably the most important muscle that is being left out of your training and movement throughout the day that can lead to a life where you can move more efficiently, stronger and feel much better. 

The gluteals
  1. It is a single joint muscle, meaning it attaches to the bottom of the pelvis and to the femur (one joint) so it has huge benefits to keeping the lower back and hip region healthy if it is strong and able to function optimally. The hamstring on the other hand is a double joint muscle, meaning all but one head attaches from the hip all the way down to the bones of the lower leg. Problem because this can lead to hamstring dominance if the glutes are not functioning the way they should, and leave the lower back up for problems due to the glutes not kicking in when they need to. The glutes function in hip extension is pivotal for performance as well as lower back and hamstring health.  
  2. The glutes are also a very thick muscle so they are incredibly strong. They should be the biggest, strongest, fastest muscle in the body. This has huge implications on speed and strength development. They are also the direct center of the body, furthering their importance in connecting each part of the chain. If the glutes are lacking not only are you setting yourself up for injury but you're also drastically reducing your abilities because you will not be nearly as strong or as fast as you could be.       
  3. Almost every person I see has some sort of pelvic tilt issue, and usually their hips are sitting in Anterior tilt. So the anterior portion of the hip (hip flexors) are too tight and the glutes are inhibited from functioning and therefore very weak, and this also usually leads to gluteal atrophy. So when the glutes should be extending the hip they are actually many times unable to fire (contract) and that's when big problems start. The body compensates and your low back and hamstrings take the load, and if you're lucky enough to not blow out your back you're severely at risk of hamstring issues and other problems.  Most of the time anterior pelvic tilt is due to something like this.
  4. The glutes also have many functions that we don't really take into account. For instance the anterior side of the glute medius has a different function than the posterior. This has many implications as the glute complex is actually three different muslces: minimus, maximus, and medius, all with different functions in different planes on differing sides. There is a ton of stability going on through the glute, for proof stand on a balance pad for one minute on one one foot. The glute should also be able to produce tons of force and movement when recruited (even though many are unable to recruit them). To keep this blog from going on for days lets just say the glutes are extremely important
Alright how are we fixing this? Well....I'm actually going to be a jerk and get into that next time, but it'll include some Muscular Activation Techniques and some Mobility stuff then. And I'll leave you with this. Now you'll be sure to understand why the glutes are so important. 
Obviously this girl has not experienced gluteal atrophy. 

Monday, April 27, 2009

Some Kettlebell Basics

Today I'm throwing out some kettlebell basics. This is a video of yours truly performing some very basic Kettlebell exercises. Kettlebells are great for the training affect you can get from them and versatility of how you can use them. 

First is the High Pull, then Cleans, and last is called a snatch. 

Notice the way the kettlebell travels back between the legs eccentrically (muscle lengthening) loading the hips and how you'd need to produce force in the opposite direction concentrically (muscle shortening) to overcome this. Perfect for corrective exercise and speed and strength development. Especially of the musculature through the core, which should include the hips, and the development of the posterior chain (low back, glutes, hamstrings).

I've written about the benefits of training the hips and the rest of the posterior chain before. But as far as tools to use this may be the most beneficial when it comes to hip and back health and posterior chain development. When I see an athlete performing a swing I see a ton of glute function, I see him/her building stability of the entire back but especially through the low back, I see the feet having to grip the ground, I see grip strength building through the hands as well, and I see a strong development of movement that they will actually use everyday as well as in competition.  

I usually explain it in terms of jumping. When you watch the profile of an athlete jumping, especially during broad jumps, their arm action and hip action is incredibly similar to the swing. Coincidence? Not even close. 

This type of movement is unlike the affect you can experience with a barbell or even a dumbbell. The offset center of gravity being lower than your hand allows you to perform exercises differently than these other devices. Not that barbells are dumbbells don't have their place. They most certainly do, and they are used in almost every program I write, but so are the good old KB's and anything else that will be effective and useful. 

I'll get some more information on how to make these tools more versatile in the future and how you can incorporate them to get more specific to your goals. Until then thanks for reading. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Compliments, kettlebells, and farm machinery???

I really wondered how the day would start today. I had a absolutely awesome weekend, monday was not a typical monday at all it was grrreat but last night was interesting. I actually somehow ended up back on the farm where I grew up helping my dad practically rebuild a planter. Which means laying in dirt, rolling around positioning yourself while holding odd shaped and awkward heavy pieces of machinery while trying to somehow get a free hand to use. By the time I was done my back was happy to be finished. I'm lucky I am in my deload week.
This is actually the exact same planter.

So, I wondered how things would go in the morning. Well I woke up, back felt great. Which is awesome considering I grew up feeling like my back could pretty much go at anytime. So that was a good realization. Learning functional anatomy, Abdominal bracing, Muscular Activation Techniques and kettlebells have really changed my life.

Then I get to work and a new member decides to retake my kettlebell class. GREAT! That really got me going. She had taken one class before and this class is not for everyone. It's hard, and you get sore and all that. So I usually worry that I'll never see people a second time. Then at the end of class she happens to give me possibly the greatest compliment I think I've ever received. I had told her that I worried she'd never come back, and she replied,"No way, it's the best workout I've ever had." That was awesome to say the least.

So there you go, throw out the planter and it's been 5 phenomenal days right in a row. I love it!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Where did the METTLE go?

1. courage and fortitude: a man of mettle.
2. disposition or temperament: a man of fine mettle.
3. on one's mettle, in the position of being incited to do one's best The loss of the first round put him on his mettle to win the match.
valor, pluck, vigor, ardor, nerve, fiber.

Aside from being one of my favorite words, it is also strong and having this can allow you to make massive changes in your life. But it has become lost in many lives. I see it all too often. The unwillingness to put in the time, the work, the effort. We are in the times of 'ready for you...". Ready for you meals, Home makeovers in under an hour, and all sorts of stuff similar. Success does not happen this way.

As a coach, I wouldn't have my quarterbacks practicing hail marry passes everyday or every week for that matter cause he might not ever get to throw one in his whole career. I will have them practicing the fundamentals everyday. Working handoffs, short outs and drags, things that he's going to have to perform every game. Doug Fluttie may be remembered forever for a hail mary but the rest of us are going to get it done one exercise, one lift, one practice, one play at a time. That is how it's done, and you're going no where without some mettle.

Whether you're losing fat, building strength, getting ripped, or having the life you dreamed of it's gonna take work and grunt work. That means mettle.

With all the promises you see all over the media it's no wonder we're in the mess that we are. Everyone wants the 30 days to lose 200lbs. Well what if that diet also makes sure that in the next 30 days you'll put it all back on again. Or, the vertimax, nautilus, hammer strength machines that are supposed to make you a better than ever athlete. I'll tell you the truth; most of this stuff isn't worth a penny. Those salesmen would have to pay me alot and I mean a shitload of money to use their stuff, and even then I'd sneak off to get an actual workout in.

Nothing is going to take a short time. Losing 200 lbs is going to probably take close to 2 years, and it's one workout, one meal, one pain stacking pound at a time. But once you get there you've created a lifestyle that you can continue to maintain and it'll lead to a much happier life.

It takes years to develop as an athlete. Tons of lifts, and running, practices and competitions, and many of them on days when you'd rather not do anything at all or when your body is just not doing as you'd like.

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Wrestling may be the best example I can think of. There is no shortcut to victory, or success. Everything is earned. There is one wrestle off, then one match at a time, and one meet at a time. Emotionally and physically this is the hardest sport on the planet. (moral of this part. Don't mess with a wrestler, no matter what size they are.)

All those 6 am lifts and practices are going to prepare you for much more than your sports. They're preparing you for life. If there's one thing I can get across to an athlete it is to give him/her the greatest challenge there is....To do the absolute best that they can possibly do each and every time.

It's gonna be hard, it's supposed to be hard.

Get your mettle. Build it, make it as strong as your body. Because without that everything else will not matter. A strong body with a weak mind will crumble every time.

Test your METTLE!!!

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Biggest Loser!

I wanted to post on this today due to all the craze and questions I've been receiving. But I happened to check in on a guy's blog that I very deeply respect for his knowledge and passion that he brings to training and fitness. His first post was on the biggest loser, and I don't think I could agree more but I also don't think I could say it any better. So here it is, straight from "the man" Mike Boyle himself. 

click me

"Just got a Facebook note from a friend about the latest episode of The Biggest Loser.

“I didn’t catch all of it last night (mainly because it hurts to watch the show), but a 210lb woman had to leave the biggest loser because she had a stress fracture in her hip. Maybe from running every single day?”

I am going to do something I don’t like. I am going to criticize a show I didn’t see. I hate The Biggest Loser. I watched it once. It made me ashamed and embarrassed to be in this field. What surprises me more is that there have not been more serious injuries in the show. The way they train the people on the show is an embarrassment to all of us who claim to know anything about working with overweight clients. I’ve been lucky enough to have helped my friend Hank Morse lose 115 lbs in less than one year but, we did it with no injuries and no abusive exercise.

I have said it before and I will say it again. If we abused any group besides overweight people, on television, for entertainment the way we abused these people on The Biggest Loser, there would be a huge public outcry. I guess we are doing something to combat obesity but boy do I wish we could do it better."

Just to let anyone that doesn't already know who Mike Boyle is. He is a world renowned strength and conditioning coach. He's produced tons of great information with dvd's, books, articles, and he trains all kinds of people, professional athletes to the general public. In fact, he's probably forgotten more about the body than I have learned, and I consider myself to be in the top 99% when it comes to trainers and strength coaches. So, when he talks I listen. 

Stay tuned. I'm sure to continue to shake your dogma some more in the future.  

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Quality vs. Quantity: for fat loss

Sometime things just get to me a bit. Today I was reviewing an article on nutritional basics and the idea of the article was to stop trying to complicate things. This was written by a ridiculously smart guy and he did a great job, but one thing got me.

Just like the article states, in order to lose weight you need a negative energy balance. Too true, without doubt.  

The energy balance spectrum. Image from scienceinschool.org.

More calories burnt/used than calories eaten. Pretty simple. 

After that he layed out some strategies to create a negative energy balance. 
  • The first one eat less. Okay.
  • The second one: exercise more. True. 
  • Third: do both. Well, Tell me something I don't know. 
All of these are fine, and living an active lifestyle with ample exercise (some types obviously better than others) are great. Also, burning extra calories through the day and during exercise are going to help you lose fat.

Where I disagree is later when he layed out a plan for fat loss. Here if his clients are simply maintaining, not losing weight or gaining weight, then he'll advise them to increase their exercise time from 5 hours a week to 7 hours a week. 

This is where I go the other way. I can completely and whole heartedly agree with increasing the number of hours you spend being active in your daily lifestyle. By this I mean recreational type activities, playing with kids, going on a nice enjoyable walk or bike ride, just getting off your butt and having old fashion fun. As far as actually increasing the time that you are exercising whether it be at the gym or wherever I do not agree with that. 

So what should you do. 
  1. Get a more active lifestyle: Rock climbing, biking, rowing, boxing, exploring nature, underwater basket weaving, who cares. But this is going to help you a ton, even if it seems small. 
  2. Time exercising should not be looked at in terms of quantity (as it is here using hours). It should be looked at in terms of QUALITY. What are you doing while you workout and in what ways? What exercises are you doing, what intensity, volumes, rest times, and things of that nature. 
This is something that can make or break your success. 
Let's make a made up person. She is 5'6", has been sitting on the couch for six years and ballooned up to 300 from a healthy weight of 140. She's having all kinds of joint pain from lugging around all the extra weight so she begins to try and lose some fat. 

She starts eating better and begins walking one hour every day. That's 7 hours a week. In the first 3 months she drops 24 pounds (completely doable). She sees success so continues the same thing. In the next 3 months she only drops 16 pounds, and then she plateau's. 

Why? because her initial success was just the fact that she started doing something. It could've been anything and worked. But as she continued to get into better shape her body not only became more efficient so she was just plain and simple better at walking, but it also only had the one stimulus. On top of that, the type of training that she was doing would only work for someone in that situation. Hardly anyone is going to see good results doing this type of cardiovascular type exercise, but that is not the point of this blog. 

The point is, increasing the amount of hours that she walks is not going to lead to more fat loss and what's she suppose to start doing, get to the point where she's walking 3 hours a night? NO, it doesn't work that way and who has that much time. 

This is where QUALITY comes in. The quality of the workout and not the quantity. You want to lose alot of fat fast, you need to be burning tons of calories in short amounts of time in a very specific way in terms of the energy systems you want to be utilizing. 

In other words exercising smart for a short time is going to do much more for you than exercising for a ton of time.  

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Different kinds of training

So you've finally figured out that treadmills are killing your feet, knees and Nervous System.

Body Pump has lead you down a road too often taken straight to the hospital for surgery and/or rehab.
Yoga and Pilates felt good (and is great 3/4's of the time) until you helped a friend move and received a herniated disk for it.
And I know you are way smarter than to be using pre determined range of motion machines that have inadvertently led to more injuries than Bill Romanowski can list off the top of his head (by the way that is a lot).

In light of this, I'd like to show you an innovator. Will Jones just produced his first workout video. Please enjoy.

Aside from the outfit, the awkward and unsubtle adjustment, and the music I think this kid may go far.

In reality the truth is that treadmills do cause problems, large group lifting classes (like body pump) with less than knowledgeable trainers are not going to be able to provide workouts that are safe or healthy, yoga and pilates are great about 3/4's of the time other than that you should love your spine more, and a sad truth but machines can be the worst place to invest your efforts.

It's really too bad, but it's true. And the best solution? Leave the implementation, the exercise prescription, the programming, and the training to an expert. To someone that understands functional anatomy as well as functional movement, and is able to implement that into workouts.

This starts with assessments, goes in with programming, and all the way through with the actual attention to detail during training.

Remember that 'how' is always more important than 'what'.