03 November, 2017

Squats - We Can Do Better!

"Morality is contraband in war." -Mahatma Gandhi

Question the importance of squats on any lifting forum on the net and typically youll get back a range of responses from necessary evil to better than sliced bread. Some people love pushing the squat so much theyll tell you you need to do it if you want a bigger chest or arms. And then a breath or two later explain the principle of SAID (Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands) without blinking.

Squats, though a good leg exercise aren't necessarily the best choice for every single athlete that comes through the doors of the weight room. In other words, as we stated in a previous article, We would like to emphasize that there is nothing magical about placing a bar across ones back to develop lower body strength.

Whether or not the squat is the right choice depends on several things:

  1. Does the movement fit the subjects body. Is he 6'10" or 5'10"?
  2. Do you have a safe setup for performing squats? If a power rack is unavailable, do you have competent spotters available? Enough racks or spotters that you can run the team through the lift in a time efficient manner?
  3. Are there prior injuries that need to be compensated for, or that make performing barbell squats difficult? For example, if a players injured shoulder doesnt allow the hand to get back to grip the bar properly, then you should be looking in another direction than the barbell squat for leg and hip strength.
  4. There are various squat machines, leg press machines, hip sled machines, lunge movements and body weight squatting movements that also strengthen your legs as well as squats do and possibly in a safer manner.

Sufficient strength can easily be acquired with movements and methods other than the barbell squat. Many athletes are too tall or don't have the right lever arms for proper (safe) form in the squat.   I am working with an athlete that has very long legs and a short torso.   She cannot hit parallel without excessive forward lean and struggles to not fall over backwards.  I quickly ruled out parallel barbell squats as an exercise and have had her working the leg press instead and she is progressing nicely.

In summary we should be thinking about the athlete, any limitations they have, and how to deliver that athlete a safe, effective, time efficient method of strengthening the legs. The weight room is a tool for an athlete to utilize to develop strength. It's how the strength gained in the weight room is brought to utilized on the playing field that matters, not how the strength was gained in the first place.

Don't lose sight of that.

30 October, 2017

It's Not Complicated

"Enthusiasm is the most important thing in life." -Tennessee Williams

Don't Complicate Strength

On my own, I have learned simple is best. Yet, what I read said, complex is best.

There are many reasons strength training isnt portrayed as simple, but perhaps the biggest is that the simple is not worth as much money as complex. Arthur Jones and other high intensity advocates had simple programs. Many of todays gurus teach a Soviet/Eastern European periodization that factors in the level of the tide, sunrise, moon phase, barometric pressure and the orbit of Halleys comet.

While those programs can work as well, they work because the body is made to work hard and to follow that work with a period of rest. I believe a lot of the reason for the pushing of the complex approach is because when you see all the factors that you must (according the the ones pushing the complex) consider, you are sure to understand why you need to be paying top dollar for this advice, probably need a personal trainer and could never make gains on a simple program. Reminds me of lyrics from Pink Floyds Mother

  • Momma is gonna put all of her fears into you.
  • Momma is gonna keep you right here under her wing.
  • She wont let you fly, but she might let you sing.
  • Momma is gonna keep Baby cozy and warm.
In our case Mother is the excessive periodization faction and their followers. If they told you it was as simple as putting more weight on the bar when you can or doing another rep when you can and changing exercises occasionally you would start to question the worth of the coaching you were buying. The more complicated it is, the easier it is for the coach to justify their existence.

Can it be that simple? The resounding answer is yes, not only can it be that simple, it IS that simple. Look for lifting programs from people like Ken Leistner, Matt Brzycki, Kim Wood and the like. These guys practice the KISS (keep it simple, stupid) principle. You wont see a workout called Double Negative Inverse Loading Periodization Protocol, but you just might find some effective workouts that make you stronger, larger and able to perform at a higher level in your chosen sport.