Friday, November 15, 2013

If You haven't thought go go narrow, you've failed. Here's why...

Dave Tate said it, I didn't.  I'm no expert so theoretically, I have no credibility.  After all, I'm just a modestly above-average strong 30-something with a humble blog and a handful of fans and I don't train people for a living.  Tate's an expert for sure.  He's so expert-ish that his presence, or absence, from T-Nation is a critical element of making that place a worthwhile place to gather information.  It was there that he said something that I pretty much knew in the back of my mind without realizing it:  powerlifting (and probably most other lifting in general, for that matter) is about shortening the distance you have to move a weight as much as possible to make the lift count as complete. 

That's a kind of rule of thumb that I see a lot lately.  Since August, I've needed to join a gym to get my broken body to a stationary bike as part of rehabbing my knee after my ACL reconstruction.  This is, by far, the longest I've worked out in a gym in over 14 years.  So, I've traded in my solitary training existence for spending more time in a gym.  As a result, I've seen much more training styles first-hand than I have since my teenage years when I had less than a clue about what the fuck I was doing. 

It was kind of like landing on Mars, as much for me as it was probably for them.  They seemed as astonished that I would think to do close-grip pull-ups off of ropes as I was astonished about how few different ways they do pull-ups.  The rope-thing was a novelty but what drew a lot of attention was doing close-grip pull-ups (oddly enough).  Apparently this never entered anyone's mind. 

Regardless of whether you're pulling or pushing with the upper body, the wider you spread your hands apart, the easier the pull or the push becomes.  There's two reasons for this.  The first is that spreading the hands wide de-emphasizes the smaller, weaker arm muscles in favor of the bigger muscles of the upper body.  Then, there's the second reason that Dave Tate brought up and that as you spread the hands farther apart, the distance to complete the rep shortens up. 

I'll use the handstand push-up as an example here... and a jack-in-the-box. 

Here's a wide HSPU...

Now, putting the hands almost under the shoulders...


Like I said, this applies to Push-ups, Pull-ups, and rowing movements.   What this information is useful for depends on what you want to do with it.  It doesn't just have applications to moving as much weight as possible for the shortest possible distance.  That approach works great if you've got lots of iron to play with.  Maybe you do.  Then again if you're reading this article then chances are you're like me:  looking for ways to goose the most work out of a limited equipment supply.  You can change the level of difficulty with one movement by just a simple change in hand placement.  You can also change the focus of the movement from an upper body workout to a more arms-oriented one with this approach.   This is how I use Handstand push-ups to strengthen my shoulders one day and my arms at a later point in the week. 

Going for that extra ROM may pay off dividends may also pay off for that one other, pesky detail that too many people who like go get strong don't really want to think much about:  their health.  Since Dave Tate makes things more legitimate, I'll defer to his words yet again: 

Here's the deal. Powerlifting is about finding the shortest range of motion possible.[see?]
Look at the bench press. If your setup and arch is sound, it's a very short (albeit very safe) range of motion.
Bodybuilding, in the purest sense, is the opposite. The most effective movements generally take the muscles through the longest range of motion.
I realized that I hadn't done any full range of motion work for years, and if I were to regain my "functional mobility" this would be where to start.
This isn't to say that I love bodybuilding but it goes to show that ROM is a use it or lose it proposition.  Losing it will ultimately break you down.  That close-handed HSPU variation easily slices the amount of reps I can do as opposed to the wider-stanced one.  BW guys tend to look at their reps the same way that powerlifters look at their poundage:  keep the number high.  The consequences of that ego trip hurts after a while.  Even Tate admitted that (Read the rest of the article, not to mention all of the others, for that matter). 

I hope that these ideas and concepts aren't new to my readers' minds.  This shouldn't be most strength trainer's equivalent of the the discovery of Vulcanized Rubber (found by accident and never capitalized on by Charles Goodyear).  If that's the case, then feel free to self-flagellate as needed.  Otherwise, ditch any notions about getting creative, not giving as shit about your body, or caring about keeping your rep count high.   Moving the hands closer together here and there is as simple as dropping rubber on a stove so do it more often. 



pierini said...

Hi Justin, Stopping by to say hello and hoping you and your family are doing well. I suppose the ACL is doing better than when I last was following it on FB.

I fired FB and now don't have that as a resource to know how you're doing.

This is a great composition, Keep it up. I'm doing a little more blogging myself as of late being never short of things to share but only the time to share it.

Stay in touch and visit my place and see what I'm up to. EP

Fastfor40 said...

Hey Justin -

I'm not sure how you incurred the ACL injury, but hope you recover quickly.

WRT to your blog... I used to train with a couple powerlifters, but I didn't compete, and I also incorporated more weight movements in my routine. One of those was the overhead press. Those two guys were capable of contest benches in excess of 475 pounds, but neither could push or lock out a great amount of weight overhead. I happened to be good at it, and I suppose one could argue that the reason I could best them was I did the presses more than they did. While I could press and lockout 230 lbs without a great deal of effort, my friends struggled with 175. Both said that after they got the bar past the top of their head they had no more push. I always suspected it was because of the longer range of motion relative to their bench-press ROM