Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy EatasmuchasyoupossiblycanandgetHUGE Day!

Just wanted to send out a message to everyone saying Happy Thanksgiving (or eatasmuchasyoupossiblycanandgetHUGE Day). Remember, we all have goals and we all know where we want to be. Keep this in mind when making decisions and make the choices that will take you towards these goals, not away from them. I was informed the other day by a client of mine that the average American gains 2.7lbs over Thanksgiving weekend. Remember that when you are feasting with the fam this weekend. If you are looking to gain weight then eat your heart out and keep the training intense. If you are looking to lose weight then be aware of the amount of food you take in and stick to the healthier choices. Oh and keep the training intense. I don't care that it is a holiday weekend. If you are there I will see you in the gym. I'll be the guy getting mine. Remember, the average American gains 2.7lbs...who wants to be average? Not this guy.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Got Your Back Right?

I have been working with a large number of people over the past few months. This group of people ranges from young adults to the elderly at various different fitness levels. One thing that I have noticed with about 90% of these people is their lack of strength in the upper back, specifically their ability to retract the shoulder blades. Many of the people I have worked with have pronounced slouching posture and internally rotated shoulders but there are many people who do not look as bad yet still have trouble with retraction.

I recently started messing around with scapular retraction exercises and many of my clients have a lot of trouble squeezing the shoulder blades. From a point of muscle weakness to a lack of muscular control this problem is being seen in so many people. Since I have been noticing this a lot in the majority of my clients I have started to add in a lot of work on retraction from isolated exercises to positioning on other exercises such as rows. Before I get into some exercises let's look at the reason for retraction.

The scapulae help form the shoulder joint and give the humerus a fossa to rest in. On and around the scapulae there are muscles that help stabilize it and keep it in position. These muscles include the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, subscapularis, teres minor and major, and the levator scapulae. The rhomboids are also included in this group of muscles as they are responsible for retraction. If these muscles are weak and underdeveloped then the scapulae will protract and the shoulder joint will move causing a pulling on certain tendons and muscles. A displaced shoulder joint can be a cause of some serious dysfunction and pain. Keeping the scapulae in the right place can save a lot of trouble in the shoulder joint as well as improve posture.

When looking to strengthen the muscles of the back and improve posture and retraction there are some very helpful exercises. These include such things as wall slides, scapular rows, and cable retraction to low row. Other things include keeping the scapulae retracted while doing seated rows or focusing a lot on squeezing the shoulder blades together when doing rows, pull downs, and even things such as push-ups or bench press. A simple way to work on this is to add in one or two of these exercises into a warm-up every workout. This way the muscles in the upper back can see some development each and every workout. As I read in Dan John's book, if it's important, do it every day.

Strengthening these muscles of the upper back and bringing the shoulder blades into the right position will not only keep the shoulders healthier but will also help with strength gains in just about every upper body exercise. Remember, we are only as strong as our weakest link.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Less May Be More

As I was in the middle of my Saturday morning lift this week I started to think about my programming now versus my programming in the earlier years of my lifting career. Earlier in my gym life I was always doing a lot of variation to my lifts from drop sets, to crazy volume, to 15 exercises in a single body-part workout. Now days I may only do 3-5 exercises in a workout and that may a full pull workout. I had always thought that if I wanted to get stronger and bigger I needed to do a ton of work and volume. That just isn't the case and it took me many years to realize that.

Over those first few years I did get bigger and, yes, I got stronger as well. However, these were only minimal gains compared to the potential I had. Within recent years I have revamped my thinking and became a lot more simplistic. I have moved away from body part splits, decreased the number of exercises, and implemented the basic, multi-joint movements. Within a years time of implementing a push/pull split with only 4 exercises per workout I took my squat from about 345 to 405; my bench from about 245 to 310; and my body weight shot up about 15 pounds with my body fat staying just about the same.

If you are looking simply to get stronger and more balanced in muscle then stop looking for the new, crazy workouts in the muscle magazines and start thinking simple. Pick a horizontal and a vertical push movement and a lower body pull movement and make it a workout. 4-5 sets of each exercise will have you definitely feeling it. Add in some mobility and pre-hab work as a warm-up and finish with some core work and you have a great day. Do the same for upper body pulls and lower body pushes.

I promise you that if you push yourself with the weights and keep the intensity high you will see some greater results with a simplistic approach.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Heels and Weights

I was training today at the gym and as my client is performing sets of bench press and 1 arm lat pulls I look over and notice this trick working out in high-heel boots. Yeah, high-heel boots. I had to double take because I was so thrown off by her tactics. I started laughing out loud and had to share this sight with everyone else I could get a hold of. Seriously, why in the hell would anyone think that wearing high-heels during a workout is a good idea? Let's look at this...

With high-heels (or majority of today's athletic shoes) the heel is put in an elevated position. Being placed in this position for an extended period of time creates a lack of mobility in the ankle joint. Decreased mobility in the ankle joint creates problems all the way up the body. Knee joint, hip joint, lower back...they are all affected. This is a huge problem with people and joint pain in today's world. Along with that, having an elevated heel takes all of the activation out of the posterior chain. Just another addition to a weak backside that most of our society does not need. So many women wear heels on a daily basis and everyone looks for a new workout shoe such as Nike Shox which have a much higher heel. People need to get into a habit of walking around with their entire foot on the ground. Walking around barefoot while at home, wearing flats to work, working out in minimal footwear such as Nike Frees.

Start getting back to the way we were intended to be. Barefoot. Keep the heel low and see improvements in health and strength.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


Monday, November 2, 2009

I Know I Can

As I look around I see a people all around me wanting something better in their life. Whether it be a better job, a better body, or a better relationship, they all want something better. We all want to be better. We should. Why should anyone not want to improve themselves or their lives. However, working towards these goals takes a lot of work and a lot of consideration. We have to consider the sacrifices it takes to get to where we want to be. We have to consider the company we keep because if you don't keep positive people around you then it's going to be hard to achieve the place you want to be. Why be around people who are going to hold you back? Surround yourself around people who better you. At the same time we have to keep in mind that place we want to get to because if you lose focus on that then you may as well kiss those dreams good-bye. So remember, stay focused, keep good company and know that you can achieve whatever you want with just a little bit of hard work and dedication.