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Why Your Training Sucks and You Keep Getting Hurt

Part I: Beltless Training is NOT Core Training

Alright, fellow lifters of heavy things…I’m back! After a long hiatus from writing for LBEB due to the demands of life and residency, Dr. Meathead’s clinic is now open again for business, and I’ve returned with a very important message: your training program is bad, and that’s why you feel bad. Now don’t be offended; this may not be entirely your fault! In the era of Instagram coaches with little to no education and even less real-world experience, e-books with zero biomechanical background research, and cookie-cutter programs that don’t take anatomical interactions or recovery processes into account, it has become increasingly easy to get sucked down the rabbit hole of BS.  I’m here to drag you, kicking and screaming, towards the light.

I know, guys. Your coach is amazing. He or she is better than all the others. “He competed in that Olympic weightlifting meet that one time and has a B.S. kinesiology.” “She did 2 bikini competitions AND powerlifts, bro.” “His gym has 1.6k followers on the ‘gram.”  It pains me that I’m not joking. These are the people offering online coaching these days. They aren’t all like this, but the percentages are less than favorable. Maybe you’re one of the few with a coach who has an impressive competitive resume. Unfortunately, even that isn’t a qualification for a true understanding of human movement. “But I never would have gotten where I am without them!” You might be right about that last part, which is why you’re weak, beat to shit, and reading this article. In the upcoming series, I will be breaking down a few common mistakes often seen in programming, how they can result in pain or injury, and most importantly, how to implement simple interventions to mitigate and ultimately solve these problems. And of course, injury prevention is only one benefit. Improved performance is the goal of all athletes, and is the major outcome of addressing the aforementioned problems.

In Part I, we are going to delve into the truth and lies about “core training” (for the record, I hate that term, but it’s commonly used and that horse has been beaten enough, so I’ll use it in this article). Before we start with the basic anatomy and biomechanics behind trunk stabilization, let’s get something out of the way: THE ABILITY TO PERFORM HEAVY COMPOUND MOVEMENTS BELTLESS WITHOUT SHOOTING YOUR SPINE OUT OF YOUR BUTT DOES NOT MEAN YOU HAVE A STRONG OR STABLE CORE.  That’s right. Your beltless training is NOT sufficient core training. I will go into more detail later, but I cannot be any clearer on this point. Now, as always, we will start with a quick anatomy lesson (and don’t forget to review your anatomic terms beforehand if needed: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anatomical_terms_of_location).

Core

The abdomen is of course, a hollow cavity that contains many of your vital organs. It also a three-dimensional structure that if properly utilized, can provide immense amounts of stability for the axial spine and limbs via intra-abdominal pressure (IAP). It is bordered by the abdominal wall anteriorly, the lumbar spine and associated muscles posteriorly, your diaphragm superiorly, and your pelvic floor inferiorly. Each of these borders must work in conjunction with the others for optimal performance and effective injury prevention. There are multiple layers that encase the abdominal cavity, but for our purposes we will focus on only the muscular layers, as those are the ones we can actively improve in the gym.

The first layer worth mentioning is the most anterior and superficial, composed of the rectus abdominis within the rectus sheath. These are your “six pack” abs (or in most of the readers’ cases, the abs protected by your power bellies). While the rectus may be the money maker in Hollywood and on the bodybuilding stage, from a performance standpoint, it isn’t terribly important. Its primary function is to flex the trunk, with some small action in stabilization and anti-rotation. Although it is lower on the totem pole of stability and functionality, this does not mean the rectus should not be trained, as we will discuss below. Remember, the muscles of the trunk are a unit! Extending laterally from the rectus are the external obliques with the internal obliques deep to them. These muscles provide a tremendous amount of rotational and lateral stability, acting as side-benders, rotators, and anti-rotators. This last function of the obliques, anti-rotation, is arguably the most crucial to performance. By preventing excessive rotation of the trunk under load, the entire structure of the body is more stable and can exert force in a singular vector. More on that later. The last of the commonly discussed “core” muscles is the transversus abdominis, which is the deepest muscular layer of the anterior abdominal wall and meets up with the fascia of the psoas and quadratus lumborum posteriorly. The action of the transversus is to compress the abdominal cavity, which means this is one of our big guns when it comes to creating that IAP that all us lifters love so much.

Moving on to the posterior abdominal muscles, we have the quadratus lumborum (or QL), the illiacus, and the psoas. The QL is a multifunctional muscle, as it can side-bend the spine, extend the spine, elevate the hip, and fix the 12th rib during exhalation. You can likely understand why all of these are important to stabilizing the trunk. The illacus and the psoas come together distally as the illiopsoas and act primarily as hip flexors, but also aid in trunk flexion. Now if you’re thinking that these don’t sound like direct core stabilization actions, you’re correct. However, because the psoas originates in the lumbar spine, when it is tight (and likely weak), it pulls the lumbar spine anteriorly. This results in a weakening of the overall trunk stability as the transversus must now overcome this anterior force when trying to compress inward and generate IAP. Couple this with the likely anterior pelvic tilt that nearly always results from psoas hypertonicity, and you’ll be in the fast lane towards missed lifts and low back pain before you know it.

If you thought we’d be done using fancy terms of location and talking about force vectors now that the anatomy class is over, you’re wrong. Don’t worry though, because now it’s time to actually apply all the BS I just spouted off to make myself seem credible. Wait, did I say that out loud? Anyways, now that we’ve laid down some groundwork, I can explain why trunk stabilization is among the most important things you can train as a strength athlete, and why it needs direct attention in every training program.  Let’s take your average intermediate powerlifter. He’s done a few meets and has a few years of lifting under his well-worn lever belt. He’s starting to push some bigger and bigger numbers, but he can’t seem to stay healthy.  He hurts his shoulder, then his back, then his knee. What gives? He’s doing all the mobility work he can find, his technique is pretty solid, and he hits his accessory lifts hard. He also likes to post videos of himself deadlifting without a belt and “#thisismycoretraining” in the caption. He can pull 500lb with no belt and his back doesn’t tweak during the movement, so doesn’t he have a strong and stable trunk? Let’s unpack this a little bit. His bench technique is excellent and he stays away from low-bar squatting too far out from meets, and his shoulder hurts. His back never rounds when he pulls or squats, but it still aches. His knees never cave on squats, but they feel beat up.  Some would say that it’s just the ravages of the sport, but does it need to be?  Wouldn’t it be better if the forces from his lifts could be absorbed by stronger, larger areas of his body than the fragile joints of the knee, shoulder, and spine? That’s where trunk stability comes in.  The trunk is the platform off of which we push or pull, regardless of the movement. It is where our exertion of force on the bar starts, and where the majority of the opposing force ends. If that platform is unstable and can’t absorb all of those external forces, they have to go somewhere. That rotation, flexion, or extension that the trunk musculature isn’t stopping will wind up happening in a smaller, more injury prone joint.  For better or for worse, the human body is a phenomenal compensator.

Take my long-time nemesis, the overhead press, for example.  If you need me to explain why stability from the ground up is needed for pressing a heavy implement overhead, you might be hopeless, but I’ll take you through a rep anyways. With the bar resting on the deltoids, you take a deep inhale and set your transversus abdominis to establish that IAP. Now you’ve got your internal weight belt on. It’s a good thing you’ve got strong and stretched illipsoas muscles, because you didn’t have to work as hard to get set. You start your press, and like all of us, one arm is slightly stronger than the other, so that side goes up a little bit quicker. You feel your hips start to shift and your trunk start to side-bend, but you can’t really stop it because you don’t train your obliques. Of course, because they are “mirror muscles” and you’re “not a bodybuilder.” Now you’re not going to miss this lift, so you keep powering through, even though the bar is now uneven. Your scapulae start to shift awkwardly and you feel your weaker arm lagging even further. All of the sudden, there’s a pop and you drop the bar. Congrats, you just tore your rotator cuff, and it had nothing to do with your shoulders being weak or immobile. Due to a lack of trunk stability, the body overcompensated for the slightly diagonal shift in force vector, placing the stress on a small structure not designed to support that kind of load.  The same types of issues occur in the squat and deadlift, leading to knee, back, and hip injuries. We are all slightly unbalanced, but when we don’t have the oblique strength to stop rotation or side-bending, the psoas strength and flexibility to diminish anterior tilt, or the QL strength to reduce unwanted spinal flexion, this lack of balance can result in significant long-term morbidity.  Even the poor rectus, demonized by so many modern strength coaches needs to be strong enough to handle its share of the load. Simply doing a few extra sets without a belt on doesn’t provide enough stimulus to effectively strengthen any of these muscles (never mind the fact that a weight belt is a tool for increasing numbers, NOT for preventing injury in the first place). When all of these muscles are working in concert, heavy weights are bound to be lifted.

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So what are we going to do about your weak trunk? What’s step one to make your training suck less so that you can actually make it through a training cycle and perform effectively in competition?  Unlucky for you, I’m not going to give you some one-size fits all, magic mobility movement to rid you of imbalances, poor strength ratios, and limb length discrepancies. You are not a lithesome lion or any other type of well-stretched feline. But lucky for you, it’s actually simpler than all that. We just have to approach it systematically and address each action of the trunk musculature individually. Don’t forget, however, that like any other muscle group, the trunk needs recovery too, so don’t just throw core work in at the end of each session and expect to make optimal progress. Adding in a few of the following exercises two to three session per week (maximum) should be sufficient. Leave them for the end of your workout so a fatigued core doesn’t compromise your heavy work and put you at risk for injury.

Let’s start with the rectus and trunk flexion. I know, flexion = bad and extension = good, but that isn’t always the case. You can have too much of a good thing, so in an effort to help you maintain a neutral spine, I suggest you train your rectus. It gets hit by a number of common exercises, but arguably the best bang for your buck is the ab rollout. This movement is easily scalable (knees to standing, changes in tempo, adding a weighted vest), doesn’t require much teaching, and needs little equipment. You can do it with an ab roller or a barbell, but I prefer the ab roller as it allows you to change directions and move diagonally to hit the obliques. Due to the stabilization aspect of the movement, it performs a similar function to the plank as well. It is essentially both a dynamic and static core movement because of this, and trains the rectus, obliques, transversus, and even the posterior core musculature due to the load placed on the spine. It also helps with thoracic stabilization due to the movement of your upper back. A word of caution, however: be sure to scale the movement to your ability and control it at the end of the range of motion. It doesn’t take much to hyperextend your lumbar spine in that position and wind up creating more business for me. Other good rectus exercises are Stir-the-Pots (courtesy of the man himself, Dr. Stu McGill), dead bugs, hanging leg raises, and GHD situps (especially if your sport puts these in WODs). Just don’t do any crunches. Please.

The obliques are up next, and in addition to tweaking the ab rollout like I mentioned in the previous paragraph, there are a few other great movements to improve your ability to rotate, anti-rotate, and side-bend. One is the Pallof press, a favorite of physical therapists that also has benefits for shoulder stability. Simply take a band, wrap it around a rack, and grab it with your shoulders parallel to the direction of the band (your hand holding the band should be the one closest to the rack, with your other hand over it). Your hands should be in the center of your chest with the band stretched tight away from the rack. Now press the band out in front of you without rotating your body at all. You will feel your obliques hard to prevent rotation. Conversely, the contralateral oblique is also working to rotate your trunk, so you’re hitting both of these movements. To work on the side-bending aspect, you can move the band up or down on the rack as well.  This is another easily scale-able movement, as you can always get a heavier band. Try it in a half kneeling position if you want to take your legs out of it and provide an extra challenge. Other movements I like for the obliques are Stir-the-Pots, Turkish get-ups, windmills, rotational medicine ball slams/throws, side planks, and sunrise planks.

Speaking of planks, let’s talk about the transversus. This is both an easy and a difficult muscle to train, and does actually get some real benefit from beltless training. However, it should get some direct work as well. Planks are good way to go about this, but I’ve found that too many people graduate from planks too quickly. Adding a movement component like in a sunrise plank or gator walk can help make it more difficult, but I’d argue the plank isn’t as optimal a core exercise for strength athletes as some others. However, it’s easy to add into your training and doesn’t tax your recovery systems much, so if you like them, go for it. If you’re really interested in ramping up your trunk stability though, Stir-the-Pots are where it’s at. You’ll need a Swiss ball/stability ball for this (Oh, the horror!). Simply put your elbows on the ball as if you were in a plank position, and rotate them around like you’d stir a pot of stew. It’s a good bit harder than it sounds, and I highly recommend watching some Youtube videos beforehand. Actually, you should probably do that for all these new exercises so you don’t hurt yourself and make me feel like a jerk.

                Training the posterior core should already be a major part of your training as a strength athlete. Your illiopsoas and QL both take a beating from squats, deadlifts, and their accessory lifts, so I wouldn’t stress them too much. They will also get some love from these new movements you’re adding in. Don’t forget to keep your hip flexors loose though. For those of us that spend a lot of time behind desks, keeping on point with your mobility will help keep your illiopsoas from becoming a problem.

I would be remiss if I didn’t give the diaphragm itself some love when it comes to trunk and specifically, deep spine stabilization. If you aren’t already doing 90/90 diaphragmatic breathing exercises, you should be. You’re probably breathing wrong. That is a topic that requires its own article, and has already been discussed in depth by biomechanists more skilled and more knowledgeable than myself. Look it up as soon as you finish reading this.

Now my strong(wo)men and functional fitness athletes out there are probably saying, “Who the heck is this guy? He just spent 4 pages talking about trunk stabilization and didn’t even mention how awesome loaded carries are!” Cool your jets, Turbo. Of course loaded carries are great. They stress a level of dynamic core stability that is hard to match. However, they can also be very taxing on your recovery systems, especially if done with heavy loads. Ever try to have a good training session the day after doing heavy yoke walks? Not happening. Performing light carries, especially overhead or with a bottoms-up kettlebell, to close out your training session is a much better way to add them in. But if you’re a strong(wo)man or functional fitness athlete and carries are already part of your normal training, I wouldn’t recommend adding any more. That’s where the direct core training movements I mentioned before can be useful.

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So now that you’re armed with knowledge, hopefully you can implement some of what we’ve discussed and suck a little bit less. Remember, the best athletes are the ones that stay healthy the longest, and the road to mediocrity is paved with injuries.  A strong and stable trunk is a good step towards preventing them and improving your performance. Be on the look out for Part II of this series, focusing on the shoulder, coming soon.  Stay strong and healthy, my friends. And try not to suck.

 

DISCLAIMER: None of this article is intended to be taken as medical advice. If you have any questions or health concerns, please contact your primary care physician. Always consult a physician before starting any diet or exercise program. These statements have been made by a private citizen and do not reflect the views or policies of the United States Navy.

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Dr. Seth Larsen is a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine and resident physician in family medicine with an area of focus in musculoskeletal and sports medicine. He is also a former NCAA football player who now competes as a nationally-qualified lightweight (<200lb) strongman, elite-level deadlifter, and amateur highland games athlete.

 

REFERENCES.

 

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The Ultimate Guide To Forming Unbreakable Habits

Article written by Tom Foxley
Coaches are quick to talk about the physiological adaptation to a stimulus: the energy pathways, muscle recruitment, recovery time, Vo2 max etc. but they often neglect the adaptation at the heart of the matter: the psychological one.

What could be more important?

There are two sides to adaptation to a stimulus: neural adaptation and habituation. In this article, I’ll be discussing habituation. For the largest impact in your life, understanding how habits are formed and destroyed is the most important.

First, picture this story. You’ve picked up a niggle. At the moment, it’s just that – a niggle. You know that it will progress into something more severe soon though if you do nothing about it.

So you see a physio, chiro or research the issue yourself and come out with a plan of action. You know that for the next 3-4 weeks, you’re going to have to mobilize, stretch and strengthen the affected area 5 or 6 times a week.

The first week is a breeze, you’re clearly motivated. You do the work you’re supposed to do and begin to see the rewards as the niggle dissipates. You know you should be doing it for another three weeks, but forget one day. You remember just before you go to bed (when you still have time for 5 minutes of mobility).

You know what’s coming: you fall out of the routine and 5 weeks later, the issue is back with a vengeance.

This is a familiar experience in athletes worldwide, whether that’s in nutrition, mobility, training, meditation, visualization, recovery, whatever… So what do we do about it? We learn the process of habituation/adaptation so when you feel yourself sliding, you can acknowledge that you’re just at a stage of the process and you know what to do about it.

Introducing the Competence Spectrum

“He is most powerful who has control over himself” – Seneca

When you begin a new routine, it’s easy for you. The novelty of the process and excitement of the end goal make the first portion of any desired goal easy.

With excitement and relish, we smash the first few days. We tell our friends how well we’re doing. We can see the progress we’re making and the end goal seems closer already.

Then, for some reason, you wake up one morning and don’t feel like doing it. It could be personal issues, work stuff… you know, the normal shit. So you miss “just this one day” and promise you’ll be back on it tomorrow. Needless to say, a few weeks later, you’re not performing the habit that once served you.

At this point, you’re likely to find something more shiny. Hold on though, because you’re actually closer to making this a permanent habit than you think. In fact you’re at stage 3 of 4.

Before I identify the stages, let me define some terms.

Competence: Performing a behavior that serves you/that you want to perform (a beneficial behavior)

Incompetence: Not doing said behavior

Consciousness: How much you have to think about performing the behavior

Resistance: How difficult it is to perform the beneficial behavior

So, as you progress from incompetence to competence, you can see that both the resistance and the consciousness increase. As it becomes habitual though, the consciousness required and the resistance both diminish.

Along the way to competence, you will hit 4 stages:

  1. Unconscious incompetence
  2. Conscious incompetence
  3. Conscious competence
  4. Unconscious competence

Picture this… (guys, you’ll appreciate where I’m coming from. Girls, hopefully this will explain a few things)

Since you have been a young dude and were first peeing without help, you’ve been leaving the seat up. After all, who is there to complain? This is of course, unconscious incompetence. Soon, you meet the woman of your dreams and move in together. Leaving the seat up becomes an issue. It’s discussed and you promise you’ll sort it out.

Despite your best intentions, the habit is deeply ingrained and you “forget” (read: can’t be bothered). You know you’re doing wrong but can’t make yourself want to put the seat back down. We’re now at conscious incompetence. Your new girlfriend catches you. You promise to sort yourself out.

So, next time you go for a pee, you begin thinking about the idea that you’re going to put the seat down when you’re finished. Whilst you’re peeing, your aim wanders because you’re thinking about it so much. It takes every ounce of self-control to remember to put the seat down. Fortunately, you succeed this time. Welcome to conscious competence.

To take a slight deviation from the metaphor, this stage (conscious competence), is when we’re most likely to fall off the intended plan. The resistance is at its highest, and your level of consciousness is at a peak too. The key here, is to acknowledge which stage you are at and push through. Understand that you are actually closer to securing the habit than you’ve ever been before.

Repeat this enough, and eventually you’ll perform the behavior without thought – unconscious competence.

Back to our bathroom-based episode, that’s what happens here, you ingrain the pattern and it becomes habitual to put the toilet seat down after you pee! Success! You’ve reached unconscious competence, congratulations. Plus, your girlfriend will have to find another reason to finish with you now.

Does it always happen this smoothly? No.

Are there slight deviations depending on the person and the habit? Of course.

But we do know that everyone much follows this path, as long as they keep taking steps forwards.

So, next time when you find it difficult to prep your meals or do your mobility/accessory work know this: you’ve just reached a milestone along the way. You’ve just made progress. Let’s take another step.

Author Bio:
Alpha Movement Sandbag
I work with functional athletes on their mindset. Mindset (thoughts), lead to actions. Actions lead to results. Mindset is the lead domino to tip. That’s why I do what I do.
I also run The Alpha Movement Podcast which is a deep dive into the mindsets of some of our world’s best athletes and coaches. I extract the building blocks of a successful athlete (and get to speak to Games competitors and coaches).
I’ve racked up over 10,000 hours of CrossFit and 1-2-1 coaching. I’ve spent time in one of the elite arms of the British Military – oh, and I love German Shepherds, rock music, and slashing turns in deep powder on some fat skis.
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Four Nails in the Coffin of a Strength Coach

Article written by Pete Stables

As a young and upcoming strength coach, your goal is to make your client bigger, better, stronger and faster. But beware; breaking records, diagnosis of injuries and discounted sessions, could leave your income revenue down and your business belly up…

We all want results for our customers. That’s how we generate more business, right? Word of mouth is free marketing, and happy lifters should equal a happy and prosperous work life. How then, do good intentions lead to a declining client list if PR’s are being broken and the door to the gym is in constant rotation? After navigating plenty of ups and downs in the fitness industry for the past 15 years, I can tell you that there are four key factors that could negatively affect your livelihood.

 

  1. The ‘Bro Spot’

How many times have you had a potential business opportunity walk up to you, expressing their desire to take their 205lb bench press to 405lb in the next 6 months, (whilst simultaneously losing fat and gaining muscle)? In the eye of the neophyte, the jacked- and- tan strength coach seemingly possesses a  magic key that the ectomorphic gym muggle must attain, should they wish to unlock the gains they hoped would materialise within the first 2 weeks of signing up to their local 24 hour fitness establishment. However, unless you are willing to lay out the cold hard facts regarding how long it could really take to add 50lb’s of solid muscle to his frame and 250lb’s to his squat, the pressure is now squarely on you, the trainer, to deliver otherworldly results in an unreasonable amount of time. It’s either that, or tell the skinny-fat 155lb greenhorn that the only way he will ever have 405lbs in his hands is when he deadlifts it for the first time- In 2 or 3 years.

If you have any grounding as a Strength coach you will hopefully begin your protégé’s journey with a standard linear progression, focussing on sets of 5 with the goal of adding weight to the bar at every workout, or, percentage based training such as the Lift Big Eat Big 4 Week Beginner Program. A good trainer will either calculate percentages based on the current 1rm of said newbie or begin with sets of five that leave plenty of room for weeks of progress- not to mention keeping a record of each micro-cycle of sets and reps.

But what, if, like so many out there, the trainee fails to eat enough to support progress? And equally likely he only ventures in to train with you once per week? Any lack of motivation to return and complete the weeks remaining two or three sessions by himself will almost certainly hinder progress.

Neither of these circumstances are optimal  and let’s face it, many of us simply cannot afford to train with a professional three days out of seven, or possess the discipline to eat enough food consistently on a day-in day-out basis. On an unforgiving program that requires incremental jumps in weight at each session, failure to adhere to the correct loading and recovery protocols will leave almost anyone tapping out very quickly. Watching your client struggling with his first rep of his final set of 5 and realising he probably won’t hit another, leaves you with a choice. Allow him to fail, explaining that he will have to reset -not what he wants to hear- or gently apply a little pressure to the bar for the remaining reps and watch his face light up as he successfully completes his terminal set.

The same goes for spotting your client when retesting a 1rm.

You will both undoubtedly have a target weight for testing day that is almost certainly too lofty- and you know this. The big pull though, is that if he hits his 225lb bench he’ll be back for more sessions. If he misses, he may not.

What do you do? Let him suffer the indignity of barely moving the weight as much as an inch off his chest, or, place your hands atop the bar and utter the immortal line – “IT’S ALL YOU BRO!”

Ok, so you opted for the latter. What’s the big deal? He’s hit a new PR and walks out of the gym with his pigeon chest puffed out; as far as he’s concerned your coaching was worth every cent! The issue now is that he thinks he is stronger than he actually is. From a programming perspective, the percentages you use henceforth are technically invalid, and for him to make any progress at all on 5×5 or SS, he now requires you to be there coaxing the weight up earlier and earlier into his worksets. A snowball effect has begun. Suspicion usually sets in roughly around the time that his Bench starts overtaking his Deadlift (since this is the only lift you cannot assist, unless, of course you are braindead enough to attempt the infamous ‘chin spot’), or when he bombs on his opener at his first powerlifting meet. And what happens in a months’ time when he tries for 235lb alone in his basement? With no spotter and a false sense of his own ability, the potential for injury or worse, is very real.

Understand that you must manage your client’s expectations from day one. Have the guts to program using reasonable numbers and focus on realistic short and long term goals. If you don’t, you will be caught out sooner or later. If you con someone into thinking they will add 100lbs to their bench press by simply signing up with you, the eventual, inevitable outcome will be at best, disappointment and at worst disaster.

 

  1. Diagnosing injuries.

 

If you’ve been a trainer for longer than 6 months then you will have come across all manner of injuries. Bad backs, shoulders, knees, hips and necks are all common place. Inevitably, clients will ask for your advice on how best to treat any number of problems. Assuming you are simply a certified strength and conditioning coach and do not supplement your income moonlighting as a Doctor, you likely do not have access to an ultrasound or an MRI. In which case your response should probably be: “As your coach, I am here to help you become stronger and fitter. I am not qualified to provide you with a medical diagnosis regarding your ailment and would suggest you seek advice from a qualified professional.”

Hang on a minute though, you’ve seen an injury like this before. You also read an article by your favourite movement coach this morning over coffee that has your confirmation bias kicking in pretty hard about now. Who needs years of med school when the answer can be found so easily with a quick Google search?

Be careful. What started out as a possibly minor injury which may have simply required a week off, could land you in hot water when you prescribe an exercise that exacerbates the problem – or worse, leads to further injury.  Despite how sure you are of your wealth of knowledge when it pertains to the innumerable complexities of the human body, your qualifications reflect otherwise.

What this all boils down to is that, regardless of how many seminars and weekend certifications you may have attended, without  being able to see underneath the skin of your injured trainee, any opinion you have on how best to rehabilitate your client is conjecture at best. And when you, as an individual, have access to a ton of bars and plates, and a desire to impress with your unlimited knowledge, well… that makes you just about the most dangerous person for a paying customer to be around.

Let your client go and establish a correct diagnosis. Once this has happened they will likely be advised on which lifts to avoid and also be prescribed a list of exercises that you can take them through, safe in the knowledge that you have done everything correctly from a best practice standpoint and your reputation will remain intact. Far better that than risking hurting your client further or elongating the recovery time, because you’ve “seen this problem before”. Yes, if you can think of a more appropriate exercise than a 1980’s dogma-bound physiotherapist has prescribed, then go ahead and switch it up if you’re confident. But I’d recommend playing it safe- especially if you’re new to this racket.

This does not mean you cannot train your client. Most coaches will simply work around an injury by using exercises that don’t cause pain or directly work the aggravated area. Be warned though, that this is not the time to push for 100% either, regardless of how little pain they may be feeling with the prescribed movements. Remain cautious.

Remember, 99% of injuries heal all by themselves, so be smart and cover your end.

 

  1. Not Charging Enough

 

Given the context of the last two statements, you may think that I do not place much stock in the abilities of most Strength & Conditioning Coaches. This could not be further from the truth. By contrast, let me say that I’d be suspicious of Richard Branson in his ability to coach me in Track and Field.

Provided that you stay in your lane, you are in a unique position to change another person’s life for the better and could be a great source of inspiration to those who require it. If helping people is your passion, you love to train, and you love to provide quality information, based on what you have learned from studying hard -on top of many hours of in-person coaching- then you are of great value.

Most people hate their jobs. When they come to you, they don’t want to see that familiar lack of drive that eats away at them from nine to five, Monday to Friday. For these people, this single hour is often their release from the burden of daily life and is something they genuinely look forward to. If you give away free or discounted sessions, you may not feel as compelled to plan as hard for that workout; or you may even let your attitude reflect how your client feels when stuck in their office cubicle. Charging a little more than you are comfortable with, on the other hand, will almost certainly ensure that you go the extra mile to give the best possible service you can.

I understand, you’re afraid to ask for more. You think charging less than the other trainers will have punters flocking your way: but you’re wrong.

Derek Sivers recently alluded to the fact that those who spend more on a particular product or service, value it more. I’d be inclined to agree.

Studies have shown that people who were given a placebo pill were twice as likely to be alleviated of their symptoms when told the pill was expensive.

By charging more and also enforcing a strict 12 or 24-hour cancellation policy, you are much less likely to receive a text fifteen minutes before your 6am client is due to arrive, claiming to have woken up with a headache, food poisoning or having slept through their alarm.

Imagine, for a moment, that you went to the bakery and were offered seven of the finest doughnuts ever created- all for $1. The caveat is that you will be allotted only one doughnut per day from Monday through Sunday, and collection time is within a strict five minute window when the bakery opens promptly, at 6am. How likely is it that the average person will crawl out of bed and make the 20 minute drive, arriving on time, to collect their pre-paid Krueller each and every morning that week? No matter how damned delicious those lovingly crafted morsels might be, they only cost $1. Not a great loss if you accidentally sleep in one morning. Now, imagine instead that those seven doughnuts had cost you $20 each. Rather than hitting the snooze button on Sunday, I’d be willing to bet that the $140 you forked out ensures that that mornings breakfast tastes every bit as good as Raymond K Hessel’s did, after a chance encounter with Tyler Durden.

Operating your business in such a fashion quickly weeds out those who are serious about working with you and those who aren’t.

You provide a service of equal value to any other professional out there, and assuming that you are constantly striving to improve upon this service, do not be afraid to let your prices reflect this.

As The Joker once said: “If you’re good at something never do it for free.”

 

  1. Negativity

 

This is a really big one, if you plan on hanging on to your clients. I can’t tell you the number of times I have heard trainers complaining about how little sleep they’ve had, how they struggle to train when they’re sooo busy, or how hard in general things are for them whilst coaching a paying customer. Let me tell you this; you are not being paid to unload on your client. That is not why they are there, no matter how accommodating they are of your woes. Have you ever been to your doctor or dentist and had to listen to them waffle on about their personal issues? Of course not. They are trained professionals and so are you! I understand that, as a coach you, will hear all about your trainee’s life in the minutest of detail. Often times you may feel more akin to a psychiatrist than a drill sergeant but do not be tempted to allow this process to be a two way conversation. You can, of course, offer advice, but for most folks the very act of simply being listened to is usually all they will need from you. For you to then ‘one up’ them by speaking about your hardships is massively unprofessional and likely very off-putting for your client, too.

To really stand out in this fickle business, be sure to have your sessions planned ahead of time, arrive early, record every lift in your notebook and be POSITIVE. Always be engaging and ready to smile. If a lift falters on a technicality, offer a fix, rather than simply pointing out the fault. Thank your client at the end of the session and congratulate them on anything that went particularly well that day. Always reply to emails and texts promptly.

Finally, never expect to be treated as well by your clients as you treat them. It is unlikely they will always be in a good mood, reply quickly (if at all) to your texts and emails, tip you at Christmas or even pay on time without needing three reminders. They’re human. Do not let this influence how you behave with your client. It makes me laugh when I hear certain big names in the strength-field telling coaches that if their trainee doesn’t work hard or complains too much, you should just fire them. This sounds all too similar to those born with a silver spoon in their mouth; trust funds ready and waiting for them when they hit 18 years old and with zero idea of what it actually feels like to be in the red. It’s easy when you have Mommy and Daddy backing you up to tell those who live in the real world that if you hate your job you should just quit- or better yet, just go and travel for a year to “find yourself”. Bad news friend; you probably don’t’ have that option, yet. If any one of your clients isn’t to your liking, just remember that they’re paying your bills.

That…is life. Suck it up, stay positive and be prepared to learn from any situation, good and bad, that you encounter on your path to becoming a well-respected strength coach.

 

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Pete Stables is a Uk based Strength Coach, Nutritional Consultant and Fitness writer. His work has been published in print for magazines such as ‘Perfect Body’ and in 2016 his ’16 Week Powerlifting/Bodybuilding Hybrid Program’ was the top ranked article (highest traffic) for elitefts.com. He is also a competitive Powerlifter and Trail Runner and in 2014 took the BPU British Powerlifting record in the 220lb raw with wraps class. He is also the author of two best selling ebooks and can be contacted via his website southpawpower.com

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LBEB Mental Health: Suicide

In the latest installment in my mental health series, I have decided to discuss a topic that I spend a great deal of time dwelling on; suicide. There has been a great deal of death in my life this year, some voluntary, some not, and combined with the suicide of my uncle before I was born, I felt it was a good topic to bring up. I also discuss how this culture of “suck it up/tough it out” can directly contribute to feelings of isolation, which can lead to suicide.

I also discuss the hypocrisy of this culture, which will, in turn, tell people that those who say “suck it” are not going to be safe people to open up to. Physical ailments are easy to understand, because you can SEE them. Mental issues are not so visible, and can be easily dismissed or mocked, which further leads to feelings of isolation.

Mental health is just as important as physical health, and I feel that these things need to be discussed, in order to make well-rounded individuals, which will, in turn, make for a better society. Thanks for taking the time to watch this, let me know your thoughts in the comments.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SvIuMlNAtyU

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Two Reasons Why You NEED to Pinch Lift

Article written by Peter Baker
I know what you’re thinking. It sounds something like this: “My grip will be just fine doing regular old deadlifts on a plain bar.” And that might be true, to an extent. But if you want healthy hands, a better deadlift, a stronger grip, AND more function, you need to pinch lift. So I will tell you why you need to and show you how. Before that, we’re going to cover some basic hand motions so you have a frame of reference.

Basic Hand Motions

There are more than I am listing, but for the sake of simplicity, you’re going to want to pay attention to these three. We have:

Flexion—When you bring your fingers in to form a fist, this is flexion.

Extension—If you give someone a high five, you are putting your fingers in extension.

Opposition/Reposition—Moving your thumb to touch your index, middle, ring, or pinkie fingers is what we call opposition, and moving it away is reposition.

Having gone over that, we train flexion of the fingers the most, and extension, opposition, and reposition the least. So with that in mind, here are the reasons why you need to pinch lift.

  1. Your Thumbs

In every lift you do at the gym, your main fingers take a brunt of the loading. Grabbing barbells, dumbbells, pull-up bars, and the like contribute to that. And while they indeed help with building a strong supporting grip, you’re neglecting your thumbs. So why not train the thumbs? Throwing in some pinch lifting will help with this. A better way to look at it is as follows: you’re doing equal parts pushing and pulling by working your chest and back right? This helps keep you balanced, symmetrical, and overall, not looking like a silverback gorilla.  So it follows with your hands. Adding in the pinch will lead to more muscular development of your hand and forearms if you incorporate it into your routine. In short, we are training the motions of opposition and reposition by practicing certain types of pinch lifting.

  1. Your Extensors

Spend a long time lifting, you might start to see some odd things. One such thing is the idea of using tiny but strong rubber bands to train the opening of your fingers, that is, the extension motion. While I don’t hate this idea, I would like to pose a few questions regarding this practice. My former coach, Adam T. Glass is a world record holder in grip sport. He posited that the hands don’t exert force by way of extension, the way they do in flexion. So having witnessed people use the bands to train their extension, he also witnessed many injuries. The Solution? Training the extensors in a position where they are strong but safe way. You can do just that with certain forms of pinch lifting.

I should also mention that just because there might be a better way to train your extensors, using the bands isn’t wrong, by any means. It just means you need to exercise caution if that is the route you choose to take.

How to Pinch Lift

Now that you have a good idea on why to pinch lift, it’s time to learn how to do it. For these movements, I am showing you some basics. Your creativity, equipment availability, and your strength will dictate how you can modify them.

  1. The Blobblob-lift

A blob is the actual bell portion of a York dumbbell. Cut it off the handle, you have a blob. The strongest of the strong will be able to lift the bell of a 100lb dumbbell. If you’re not there yet, fear not. You can cut off the end of any other York dumbbell and use it. Still don’t have a York dumbbell? Use any hex dumbbell and do the same. If you opt for one of these variants,

If you opt for one of these variants, pay attention to a few things. In the picture, you will note that there is a nice dusty coat of chalk on the weight. This is important. Also, the leverage. You will have an easier time if you keep your elbow bent a little before you make your lift. Aside from that, when you are in position, stand up with it. Still can’t lift it? Drag it.

You may not feel like doing serious metal work to cut a dumbbell, so if that applies to you use both hands and use an untouched hex dumbbell.

  1. Pinch Grip Deadliftpinch-grip-deadlift

This is going to be the one that focuses on strengthening your extensors. If you’re a strong woman, you can start out with two 25lb plates with the smooth sides on the outside. If you’re a man, try two 35lb plates. As with the blob, you want to use a lot of chalk and keep the slight bend in the elbows for better leverage. Just like before, once you are set up, treat it like a regular deadlift and stand up with it.

Conclusion

Now that you have some sweet new moves in your arsenal, you’re going to want to go and do them all the time. At least, I know I did. I urge you to curb that temptation. Your hands are loaded with connective tissues and they respond to stimulation in a different way than your muscles will. All that means, at first, is that a little bit will go a long way. As time passes, you can build on your hand training volume, but the rate at which your connective tissues gain strength is slower than your muscles.

A good way to go about this would be to tack on one or two sets of three to five reps at first on your deadlift day (or wherever you have time) and build the reps, then the sets from there. After you get a good groove in your pinch, you can start training them with greater frequency. Above all, use your best judgment.

 

Bio:
img_6972lron-1-2
In addition to being a fan of music and heavy metal, I am an avid player of table top RPGs, and I am a personal trainer in Tampa, FL as well as a graduate of the prestigious University of South Florida. Formerly, I was a prefect for House Slytherin.

http://peterdbaker.com/

References:

  1. http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1285060-overview

 

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Weak Backs Are Injury-Prone Backs

When you push your body to the absolute limits as we do in strength sports, injuries are bound to happen. However, how you react to them will dictate how long you will last in the iron game, and continue to get stronger despite these setbacks. Aside from poor technique, the most common way a muscle is injured is because it is weak. There’s much variability when it comes to form on a lot of the big lifts, and for good reason. When you are a beginner, you should use absolute perfect form, and that means keeping your spine in a neutral position deadlifts, for starters. The more advanced/stronger you are, the more leeway you have on technique. This is where we see big deadlifters rounding their back yet pulling over 700lbs with no injuries.

I’ll use my favorite example with Orlando Green:

Now this is not how I would ever teach a beginner how to deadlift, but obviously, Orlando’s back is extremely strong. I know many lifters in Strongman that pull this way, using very little legs, mostly use their back and move huge amounts of weight with zero lower back issues.
Your lumbar spine is not as delicate as most people think, as long as the supporting muscles are strong enough to protect it. Many times when people have bulging discs, the doctor recommends a lot of abdominal work to protect the lower back. The reason the lumbar region is injured is because the abdominals are weak to begin with as they are not able to support the load you are moving.

Another one of my favorite anomalies of deadlifting is Konstantin Konstantinovs:

Konstantinovs is known for pulling big weights with a rounded back, but you can’t question a guy’s form when he pulls over 900lbs beltless. Now the trolls can critique his rounded back all day but the only time Konstantinovs has suffered a back injury is from back squatting, NEVER deadlifting. Just by looking at him, he has extremely thick erectors, so he’s able to use his strongest muscles to move the weight. Also, he doesn’t need a belt, because his abdominals, and especially his obliques are extremely strong, like any good deadlifter’s should be. The erectors and abdominals are what protects his lumbar spine, and allows him to get away with this kind of form.
Most deadlifters who pull with a rounded back do so for another good reason; it makes it easier to pull from the ground. The hips start closer to the bar making it a faster initial pull. However, as we have seen in the last two videos, the lockout will be more difficult. There is a trade-off with this technique, and this is why you see many strong(wo)man pull like this because they are allowed to hitch in competition making the lockout easier. For any of you that compete in strong(wo)man you have no choice but to have a very strong lower back, or it will be a matter of time before you get injured.

Check out Nick Hadge; a training partner of mine, and this year’s winner of Junior World’s Strongest Man pulling 815 with this technique:

As Nick sets up, he has a slight round to his back, you can see he is extremely fast off the floor. Once the weight gets to his knees his legs are almost locked out so he uses a slight hitch to lock the bar out. Now I have to add this in, HITCHING IS ALLOWED IN STRONG(WO)MAN. So I do not want to hear any complaints about this.

For anyone that has lifted an atlas stone properly, you can and should have a rounded back when you first lift the stone off the ground. Trying to arch the lower back will make you much weaker off the ground, and I guarantee you won’t be lifting any heavy stones that way. In fact, most injuries I see with the lower back on lifting a stone come from over-extending when loading to a high platform, as I’m sure some of you experienced stone lifters are nodding your heads.

I must stress that beginners should not use this technique to avoid injury. Everyone is different, so I’m not saying this is the ideal way for everyone to pull, but your lower back is not as weak as you think it is. A lot of people will say lifting with a rounded back is dangerous but, I would argue being weak is far more dangerous. If you haven’t checked out my previous article on how to strengthen your low back, you can here. Questions or comments drop them below or on the facebook page.

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College Students: Science-Backed DIY Eating Guide

Article written by Phillip James
Disclaimer: this article serves only as written information in which you, the reader, can make more educated choices in your life. I’m not responsible in any shape or form with the implications, possible health risks, or problems that may arise in changing one’s diet. Consult a medical professional for guidance and monitoring prior to embarking on a changing your diet and nutrition.

Note: before you read this article, check out our prior articles in this series:

How to save money shopping for groceries

How to meal prep

Today’s article is going to be focused on how to construct your own nutrition guide based on proven research. As athletes, we’re constantly looking at ways we can optimize our bodies for our goals. Ensuring you’re taking in the right amount of macronutrients and calories is vital if you want to continue progressing. We’ll be taking a look at how you can calculate the amount of calories, proteins, carbohydrates, and fats, as well as how to looking at a sample template constructed for a 200lb male and a 150lb female. Let’s get started!

Calories.

Caloric intake is something that can be easily calculated depending on your age, height, current body weight, and activity level. The tall, young male with an extremely active job is going to be burning more calories at a resting rate than the short, older female with a sedentary lifestyle or career.

In regards to finding the amount of calories one should be consuming, we will utilize a revised Harris Benedict equation calculator for our recommended daily caloric intake:

Protein.

It’s very well known in widespread bro-science that protein consumption triumphs all. Muscles are literally made of protein and consumption of protein in the form of food can aid in muscle synthesis. A study indicated that the lower tier of protein consumption is approximately 1.6g/kg for a sedentary individual not participating in any competitive or strenuous training. The same study also analyzed the consumption of high tier protein consumption at the range of 2.3g/kg for a competitive, well-trained athlete. The results found that by consuming the high tier amount of protein resulted in minimized loss of lean muscle mass and also provided an surplus of amino acids that can aid in muscle synthesis.

The verdict? Eat 2.3 grams of protein per kilogram of your bodyweight.

Carbohydrate.

Imagine a high performance sports car. Carbohydrates are the equivalent to gas for the sports car; exactly why eating enough of them is extremely important. Thanks to recent fad dieting, we have seen a massive change in the view towards eating carbohydrates. Low-carb diets may work if you’re somewhat sedentary or have a very low level of activity, however, minimal fuel for your training can only last for so long. I tried eating less than 100g of carbohydrates a day at a bodyweight of 220lb and guess what happened? I felt exhausted, I wasn’t recovering properly, and my training suffered massively. I am now eating 300-500g of carbohydrates a day in regards to my training and am seeing the best progress in the past eight years.

Studies have found that consuming a range of 3-5 grams of carbohydrate provides your body with readily available fuel that can be used for training. If you’re having a low intensity training session, go for the lower tier consumption of carbohydrates of 3g/kg. Medium intensity training sessions: 4g/kg carbohydrate. Higher intensity training sessions: 5g/kg carbohydrate.

Fat.

Fat isn’t the enemy… HOWEVER, if you’re downing five avocados a day with a tub of peanut butter, you’re most likely going to gain excess fat. Consuming fat around your training session as apposed to immediately before, during, or immediately after can affect how well your body digests proteins and carbohydrates to be delivered to your muscles for recovery. Make sure you’re limiting consumption of fat or fatty protein sources prior to and after training sessions.

Studies have found that fat does not yield a definitive value in terms of consumption volume. However, they have found a correlation in terms of the percentage it should make up in your total calorie consumption. Utilizing the recommendation of fat intake making up 30% of your total daily calorie intake is a great place to start.

 

Cutting or bulking.

For manipulation of bodyweight, you can add or subtract 500 calories from your daily intake in the form of fat. We choose manipulating fat intake because it contains the most amount of energy (9 calories per gram of fat as apposed to 4 calories per gram of protein and carbohydrate). We also manipulate fat consumption because we need to keep our glycogen stores topped off for training and protein consumption within normal values for muscle repair.

For a cutting phase, subtracting 500 calories a day for a total of 3,500 calories deficit a week (one pound of tissue) is recommended.

For a bulking phase, adding 500 calories a day for a total of 3,500 calories surplus a week (one pound of tissue) is recommended.

 

Quick and simple:

Protein consumption: 2.3 grams per kilogram of bodyweight.

Caloric intake: enter in your current age, height, bodyweight, and activity level at: http://www.globalrph.com/revised-harris-benedict-equation.htm

Massing phase: increase calories by 500 in the form of fat calories (approximately 55g of fat). This results in a 3500 caloric surplus per week (one pound of body tissue added per week).

Cutting phase: decrease calories by 500 in the form of fat calories (approximately 55g of fat). This results in a 3500 caloric deficit per week (one pound of body tissue lost per week).

Carbohydrate consumption: 3 to 5 grams per kilogram of bodyweight, depending on the duration and intensity of your workout.

Fat consumption: approximately contributes 30% to your total caloric intake (as long as protein and carbohydrate consumption are kept consistent).

So, now we will take a look at an example of applying these details to both a male and a female.

MALE.

200-pound, 21 year old male, 5’10 tall, with moderate activity level

= 91 kilograms, because 1 kilogram equals 2.2 pounds

PROTEIN.

(91 kilograms) x 2.3 grams of protein

= 209 grams of protein consumed per day

CARBOHYDRATE.

(91 kilograms) x 4 grams of carbohydrate, in the instance of a medium intensity workout

= 364 grams of carbohydrate consumed per day

FAT.

Utilizing the listed calculator on: http://www.globalrph.com/revised-harris-benedict-equation.htm

We find that our male needs 3165 calories per day.

30% recommended fat intake from our 3165

= 950 calories coming from fat.

950 / 9, this is because there are 9 calories per gram of fat.

= 106 grams of fat consumed per day

 Now let’s apply this to our female example!

FEMALE.

150 pound, 21-year-old female, 5’4 tall, with moderate activity level

= 68 kilograms, because 1 kilogram equals 2.2 pounds.

PROTEIN.

(68 kilograms) x 2.3 grams of protein

= 156 grams of protein consumed per day

CARBOHYDRATE.

(68 kilograms) x 4 grams of carbohydrate, in the instance of a medium intensity workout

= 272 grams of carbohydrate consumed per day

FAT.

Utilizing the listed calculator on: http://www.globalrph.com/revised-harris-benedict-equation.htm

We find that our female needs 2308 calories per day.

30% recommended fat intake from our 2308

= 692 calories coming from fat.

692 / 9, this is because there are 9 calories per gram of fat.

= 77 grams of fat consumed per day

 

So there you have it. Keep in mind, these are values coming from only certain research articles and there are great deals of other research studies that have been performed yielding different results. I would highly recommend doing your own research, both on the Internet and by purchasing text from authors, in order to formulate a strongly educated opinion about nutrition for athletic performance.

Sources:

Phillips, Stuart M., and Luc J.c. Van Loon. “Dietary Protein for Athletes: From Requirements to Optimum Adaptation.” Journal of Sports Sciences 29.Sup1 (2011): n. pag. Web.

Slater, Gary, and Stuart M. Phillips. “Nutrition Guidelines for Strength Sports: Sprinting, Weightlifting, Throwing Events, and Bodybuilding.” Journal of Sports Sciences 29.Sup1 (2011): n. pag. Web.

Helms, Eric R., Alan A. Aragon, and Peter J. Fitschen. “Evidence-based Recommendations for Natural Bodybuilding Contest Preparation: Nutrition and Supplementation.” J Int Soc Sports Nutr Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 11.1 (2014): 20. Web.

McAuley, David. “Revised Harris Benedict Equation.” GlobalRPh, n.d. Web. 1 Nov. 2016. Used for reader access to equation for caloric intake value.

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Inner Dialogue: Why You Need to Toughen Up

Article written by Ali Peterson
We’ve all been there. One hundred sixty-some reps into Filthy Fifty or Murph or any grind of a work out and it starts.
“No one will know if I shave off a rep or five.”
“Why did I sign up for this?”
“This place sucks.”
“Maybe I’ll just get halfway and call it a day.”

That’s negative self-talk. The insidious voice that tunnels out of your subconscious when you start to get uncomfortable. Cut it out. Now. I’m going to help you realize why it’s hindering your performance.

WHY DO SOME ATHLETES EXCEL WHILE OTHERS DON’T?
If you’ve spent any time in a high intensity training facility, whether a CrossFit gym, a garage gym, or a group exercise class, you’ve probably seen the high level athletes that continually crush their workouts. You’ve probably also worked out alongside these people and wondered how the heck they do it. There’s many moving parts to a great athlete, one of the biggest pieces being mental toughness. This toughness goes beyond going against what your body is telling you and jumping back on the pull-up bar after ripping your hands to shreds. That’s not mental toughness. Mental toughness is when you feel like your lungs are collapsing but keep moving, no matter how slowly. Mental toughness comes from the ability to filter out your own negative self-talk. Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right.” I think about that quote often, especially when going for a PR on a lift or a benchmark work out. It’s true. The thoughts that you choose to listen to will define your performance.

HOW DO I GET MY ACT TOGETHER?
Start Meditating
I’m not sure why people are so terrified of meditation. The common misconception is that meditation requires you to sit and think about nothing. Fortunately, that’s not true. Meditation is a challenging skill, and one worth adding to your recovery and regeneration routine. The simplest way to start a meditation practice is to set aside five minutes every day. I like to meditate at the end of the day as it helps me unwind and decompress after being around people all day.
Begin in a comfortable seated position. This can be on the floor with your back against the wall or a chair or seated in a chair. Avoid laying down as it’s tempting to fall asleep or get distracted. Set a timer on your phone for five minutes and toss it to the other side of the room – no distractions, people. This means music too. Music will distract you from the thoughts you’re trying to tune into.
Close your eyes. Start to notice your breath. You don’t have to ‘om’ or make any special breathing noises, just breathe naturally. Notice the sensation of your breath as it goes in and out through your nose. Notice how your body feels in this seated position. Start to bring your awareness to your senses. Create awareness of the way the air feels on your skin, on how the back of your eyelids look, on any sounds you might hear. Tuning into our senses in a controlled state help to develop a better sense of intuition and of your body. Your relationship with your body is one of the most important ones you can develop. This simple practice of sitting quietly can help you discover your thought patterns. During your meditation, allow thoughts to travel through your mind, as if they’re a breeze coming in an open window. Allow your thoughts to surface at the front of your mind, acknowledge them, and then set them free. If you find yourself wanting to dwell on something, observe that. There’s no wrong way to acknowledge your own thoughts.
Once your five minutes is up, treat yourself to any comfortable stretches you feel like taking. You’re already on the floor, so I recommend taking a few rounds of cat and cow stretch. If you don’t know what that is, use this thing called google. I hear it’s pretty great.

Practice Yoga
If you give a hoot about your body and your joints, you need to have a yoga practice. I’m not saying you need to take an hour long class every day, but try to roll out your mat at least twice a week. It doesn’t matter what kind of yoga you take, as long as it serves you. If you need to get a workout in, try a hot yoga class. If your body hurts and it’s a rest day, take a Yin or a restorative yoga class.
I love yoga as a method of recovery because it encourages blood flow without being too hard on your body. Yoga is a practice of breath. One of my favorite teachers likes to say, ‘Yoga is a breathing practice first, the postures will follow your breath.’
How does that help you? You’re breathing right now, yes? How about during Fran or Grace or a 200 meter sprint?
Yoga classes are great because it is an environment that allows for you to be an observer of your body and learn how to control your breathing. Learning to stay calm in the face of adversity, or in our case an elevated heartrate, will only help to improve your performance.

Start Paying Attention to the Way You Speak (To Yourself and Others)
We’ve all met a person or two that is chronically negative. They’re a pain to be around because all they do is complain. Don’t be that person. You have so much to be grateful for. The next time you find yourself wanting to say something negative, keep your dang mouth shut for once and see what happens. Better yet, try saying something positive. Compliment someone. Smile at a stranger. Pay for the person behind you at Starbucks. These acts of kindness will make you feel good, which then leads to positive self-talk. Do you see where I’m going with this?

Something I’ve recently started trying is practicing gratitude when I’m faced with a challenge. Whether that’s a workout, or a challenge at work. Next time your mid-workout and you hear that little voice starting to pipe up with things like, “Ughhhh I HATE running! This sucks!” Try taking a step back and approaching it with a thought like, “Man, I’ve got these two legs that I can run on, I’m thankful for that.” Find gratitude for your able body! You’ve found yourself in a place with health and fitness professionals that want to help you get better. You already have everything you need. The motivation you seek is already in your brain. It just takes time to train to get yourself thinking positively in the face of adversity.

PUT IT ALL TOGETHER
Before I sign off and send you out to be a more effective human, I have some suggestions for putting these recommendations into practice. Pick one thing from the list above to focus on for the next week. I recommend starting with meditation. It’s the most time friendly and straightforward option. Commit for the next week to set aside five minutes a day to meditate. I promise you can do it. Five minutes. That’s about a half hour total for the next week.
If you keep a training journal, which I highly recommend you do, jot a note or two by every workout this week about your mentality. It can be as simple as, “Stuck in my head today,” or, “Smiled during box jumps and it made my workout easier.” Whatever. That stuff will stick with you.
Going forward, remember that everything you do or don’t do today will affect how you look and feel tomorrow. Go workout, stretch, meditate and smile.

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College Students: Meal Prepping

Article written by Philip James

 Part Two

(If you haven’t read our first article on how to bulk on a budget, you can check it out here!)

If there’s one thing that I’ve learned in college, it’s that there are not enough hours in the day. That’s why meal prepping is the next best thing since sliced bread (no pun intended). Meal prepping allows you to have food ready to go whenever you need it and it helps you stay on track with your nutrition.

I’m a big fan of prepping my proteins and carbohydrates one day during the week and then preparing my vegetables for either each individual day or for the next few days. As for fats such as peanut butter, avocados, and olive oil you can pretty much add them to individual meals as you go.

Let’s dive into the wild, wonderful world of Tupperware and bulk cooking!

Chicken breast.

The classic bodybuilder’s go-to meal. I’m sure some of you are cringing from past experiences of dry, bland chicken breast. While it does have the potential to develop the consistency of an old leather belt, it all comes down to how you prepare your chicken breast. I’ve found a great way from years of trial and error. Here’s a step-by-step look at how I make chicken breast in bulk for the whole week:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Obtain the amount of chicken breast you need for the week. Also get cookie sheets, tin foil, and a marinade or dressing of your choosing.

Place the tin foil over the cookie sheet and then lay your chicken breasts down on the tin toil.

Lightly cover with a thin layer of the sauce you’re using. Place the cookie sheet in the oven.

Allow the chicken breasts to bake for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, flip the chicken breasts over to the other side. Leave in the oven for another 30 minutes

Remove the chicken breasts after the second 30 minutes for a total of 60 minutes in the oven.

Let the chicken breast sit and cool before placing in packaging for your meal prepping.

Eggs.

As discussed in my last article on cost-effective eating, eggs are extremely cheap and can make a large portion of your daily protein intake. However, for some people, they can be a hassle to cook and clean up after. Boiling your eggs allows for one-time cooking and almost no clean up whatsoever. Here’s another step-by-step way of boiling your eggs for the whole week:

Get your eggs, a large pot, salt, and a dish of ice water.

Place your eggs in the large pot and pour enough water in to cover the eggs by three inches.

Add a pinch of salt to the water and eggs. This helps with separating the shell from the egg itself when you peel them later.

Turn your stovetop on high and bring the water to a high boil.

Once the water begins to come to a roaring boil, place a lid on the pot to contain the heat. Then turn your stove off and completely remove the pot from the heat source.

Allow the covered pot to sit for 10 minutes.

Remove the eggs and place them in a dish of ice water. Allow the eggs to sit in this dish for 10 minutes so they can cool.

Package your eggs for the week and leave the shell on until ready to eat. This allows the eggs to have a longer storage life.

Rice.

Buy a rice cooker, plain and simple. It can last you years upon years and many models have other features such as slow cooking and steaming things such as vegetables and meat. A big bag of dry rice provides you with an enormous amount of rice that can be prepared in large quantities. In this next step-by-step guide, I’ll give one of my methods I’ve learned on how to prepare rice in a rice cooker:

Get your rice cooker and rice cooker pot.

Add the rice into your pot up until the height of your distal finger’s knuckle. This is an old trick my neighbor from Japan taught me. I have added a picture of how to do this for reference:

rice2

Now you will wash the rice. This removes excess starch and makes a fluffier consistency. Just add a small amount of water, stir the rice and water using your hand or a spoon, and slowly dump the water out. You want to do this until the water being poured out is almost clear.

Next, add water until it reaches the level of your proximal finger’s knuckle. Here’s another picture for reference:

rice1

Finally, set your rice cooker to the “cook” mode. It will do the rest for you!

 

Vegetables.

Steaming your veggies is a very fast and easy way to prepare them. This method applies to most, whether fresh or frozen. Here’s a method I’ve learned on how to prepare steamed vegetables:

Get your vegetables either in frozen or fresh form. If they’re fresh, you’re going to want to properly wash, peel, and any other methods needed for safe cooking. Cut the vegetables into uniform size as well such as small cubes or slices.

Add one inch of water to your pot and place your stovetop on high. Bring the water to a boil.

Add your vegetables, cover, and lower the heat level to medium.

Allow the vegetables to steam. The denser and larger the vegetable, the longer it will take. I recommend steaming the vegetables until they are tender enough that you can stick your fork in them and they will fall off. You can check them every couple minutes until they’re ready!

In closing:
In the long run of things, you’re going to want to switch up your meals and get some variety. That’s where I would recommend using different food groups and find their respective cooking method. For proteins it could be things like lamb, beef, bison, pork, fish. For carbohydrates it could be different types of rice, different types of beans, and even various potatoes. Lastly, for your vegetables, the possibilities are almost endless for what you can use and how you can prepare them. The vegetables can be baked, microwaved (if you’re short on time), and even fried if you want.

This article is only scratching the surface for what you can do with meal prepping and preparing your food. I would highly recommend doing more research yourself as to what you want to cook and how you want to prepare it. Measuring tools such as measuring cups, measuring spoons, and a food scale will accomplish a ton for you. I would also download a food tracking app or utilize a food tracking website so you can keep into account how much food you’ll need according to your dietary goals.

Happy meal prepping!

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Using Rest-Pause Sets To Your Advantage

Rest-pause sets are one of my favorite techniques to first add some size with extremely high volume, and second, to greatly increase strength.  This method started in the penitentiary where prisoners had to be creative with their training, and do more work in less time.  There is also plenty of research to back this, as a study in the Journal of Science & Medicine in Sport in 2012 showed that a rest-pause set recruited more motor units, and caused more post-workout fatigue than a traditional workout.

How to perform a rest-pause set is very simple, but you have to stay honest with your rest period and be ready to give 100%!  First begin with 75% of your 1rm, or a weight that allows you to get a max of 10 reps.  You will perform each set for max reps but do not fail on a rep unless it’s your last set.  There will be 3 “mini” sets with only a 20 sec rest period.  For example I wanted to bring up my incline bench press so I started this protocol with 300lbs, and it went as follows:

Set 1: 300 x 10 reps, 20 sec rest

Set 2: 300 x 4 reps, 20 sec rest

Set 3: 300 x 1 rep

Now here’s the fun part.  Rest as needed and drop the weight 20% and repeat for another rest-pause set.  My next set was 250 for 12, 4, 3.  And I can say after 2 rest pause sets I was absolutely spent on this exercise.

Now if you are really pressed for time your entire workout can consist of rest-pause sets.  Here is an example of an upper body day:

1. Incline Bench as I described:    2 sets

2. Seated Dumbbell press:            2 sets

3. Incline Cable Fly:                        2 sets

4. Dips:                                            2 sets

Continuing with how to use rest-pause sets for strength, you will make small jumps each week that will eventually change from a hypertrophy rep range to a strength one.  For myself it took me 10 weeks to go from a 10 rep max to then setting multiple PRs in the last few weeks.

Week 1: 300 10, 4, 1/250 12, 4, 3

Week 2: 315 8, 3, 1/255 10, 4, 2

Week 3: 325 7, 2, 1/260 10, 4, 2

Week 4: Deload

Week 5: 350/4, 1, 1/300 6, 3, 2

Week 6: 360 5, 1, 1/300 10, 3, 2

Week 7: 370 4 (pr), 1, 1/310 8, 3, 1

Week 8: Deload

Week 9: 380 2 (pr), 1, 1/315 8, 4, 3

Week 10 405 x 1 (pr)

As you can see through these 10 weeks I started with a great way to build muscle, and very importantly build tendon and ligament strength through the higher reps.  Once the weight got heavier (lower than 5 reps) I was more than prepared to handle it as well as get multiple rep and 1 rep max PRs.

Give this method a shot with a lift you have been struggling at.  As I have stated in previous articles you cannot grind out heavy doubles and singles each week, and expect the weight to continue to go up.  You need to step back sometimes and add some muscle to your frame to support the heavier weights.