Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Just a Few Things You Probably Don't Do But Should

There's got to be hundreds of ways to move for reasons of getting stronger.  I'll take liberty to assume that many only do a fraction of them.  The reasons are likely totally legitimate.   Maybe your half-assing trainer didn't program them for you.  I'm sure that lots of them don't help your bench. Nobody else around you does them so if you did, you'd violate that unspoken agreement of conformity.  Actually, that's a good word to describe a lot of why people do what they do in strength temple.  It's unfortunate that the answer to why to choose an exercise is, "TO GET STORNGER". 

The funny thing is, that seems to change between generations.  We don't lift the same since the test of strength have changed.  So, lifts have changed along with the times.  Being good at selected lifts doesn't necessarily make a persons strong, just strong at the lifts at hand.  There is a difference.  Some good ideas get lost like that.  Here's a list of those lifts, and things to train, that are best remembered. 

I strongly suspected my revolving door of IT Band tightness and lower back irritation was the result of my left knee not naturally hyperextending like it should back in September.  Early in my resumption of normal training, I'd lifted right-side dominant.  Even as I tired in later months, I'd still notice my right leg was still locking out faster.  I suspected I had to get my knee to move more like it should naturally. 

After looking at the glute-ham machine in the gym, I hit myself for not thinking of this sooner:  hyperextensions.  The set-up in this contraption would put some force on my knee somewhat similar to what I used to do in physical therapy and hopefully get my natural range of motion close enough to 100% back to stop the above-mentioned insanity. 
Vasily Kolotov.  That back cleavage should put to rest any arguments about the value of hyperextensions.
During research into the topic of hyperextensions, I stumbled onto this article.  Apparently, these were a Soviet favorite back in the 1970's to turn the spinal erectors into dueling telephone poles (I'd also like to draw attention to the fact that this was written long before Pavel was even potty trained so it's unlikely not THAT kind of Russian training secret.)

I didn't get too creative on this one.  The rep training scheme provided in the article was what I did (I conformed). While it did help my knee out, the training had another effect:  I haven't tweaked my back in any manner lifting since I started doing these. 

Vince Gironda's Pullups
Generally I can't stand bodybuilding. I like to confine flexing in my underwear to the privacy of my bathroom.  So, it does seem a bit odd that I generally have a highly favorable opinion of Vince Gironda since he's just about the biggest bodybuilding purist of his time.  There's just one thing:  the guy happened to be stupid-strong at the same time.  What else do you call a person who can do this?

From what I've read, the cranky, alcoholic, high-priest of bodybuilding favored doing pull-ups in which he brought his sternum, not his chin or chest, to the bar.  It kind of looks like a row combined with a pull-up.  It also looks like a ridiculously hard pull-up variation that most bar-humping, pull-up kippers will avoid like the plague.  That's unfortunate since this simple extra few inches makes the upper back want to explode.  It's the perfect example of, sometimes, a few extra inches can make all the difference in the world (ask your girlfriend). 

The best cue I've found to do pull up to the sternum is to simply throw the head all the way back.  Look straight up and pull.  Never bring your head up.  This is hard and be prepared to have a shocking, and embarrassing,  number of repetitions sliced off your sets.  That's probably why nobody does these anymore.  Don't mind that.  Just pull.  Allegedly, Gironda did four dozen of these to a set.  So, follow his lead (skip the alcohol) and get to work. 

The Bent Press
It doesn't take too long to read this blog to realize that I adore this lift.  I started doing this lift five years ago with a measly 35 lbs for one reason only:  it's fun and it looks cool.  It's a slow-grind lift that was done regularly in old strongman shows because it was visually appealing and a lot of weight can be lifted with one hand if the technique is mastered.  That's the rub right there:  it's also tricky to learn and very hard to find someone who know what they're doing with it. 

I never really assigned any practicality to doing such a lift.  It was just something that caught my attention to do and I did it because I enjoyed it.  As it turns out, there are two things that this lift has going for it.  The first would be Lat work.  Very simply put, the getting-under action of the bent press is a lot of upper back work.  Even two straight reps of this will fry the Lats.  There's a lot of time under tension with this lift. 

The second was brought to my attention by an article posted not too long ago:  thoracic mobility.  Very simply put:  we don't twist much any more when we train.  Sure, some will begrudgingly admit that's important.  Then, they will assign some sort of puny, boorish band-assisted mobility work that we'll disregard as soon as issues brought on by the lack of mobility are eradicated.  I've heard of an interesting alternative:  why not do a strength move that moves in the same manner as the rehab move you'll soon disregard?  At least we could have some fun, get strong, and stay moveable. 

In fact, that's something I can't beat my readers up with enough:  DO SOMETHING THAT YOU ENJOY DOING!  If you don't enjoy the lifts that you're performing, then don't do them.  Very, very few exercises are so important that you can't afford to not do them.  Unless you compete in a strength sport that dictates you do a specific lift, then there is no reason to follow the lead of others.  That's really why most don't know about the vast array of ways to exercise and get strong. 

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Just get it overhead

Continuation of blogging about shit that, in the past, I never used to do, seems oddly intriguing to me.  I spent the past half decade smashing keys about almost all bodyweight and not giving much of anything in routines.  After all, few things annoy me about our subculture quite like people who can't comprehend training without stuff, much less how to put together something as rudimentary as programming.  Both of these could be irrefutable proof that there just isn't enough thought out there going through people's minds when they decide their muscles need stimulation. 

So, I try to put some thought into my routines.  Once in a while, I find the thoughts produce a result that's worth sharing. Such is one of the workouts I did the Sunday after my first competition.  Apparently, I broke some sort of tradition that stipulates that you should do your best to mimic a statue in the subsequent days after a strongman competition.  Since I love to train as much as I like to kick the nuts of conventional training wisdom, I took my traditional goof-off day and did some kettlebell work. 

In case I haven't said it enough recently, I adore Ironmaster's kettlebells.  Not only are they square, (which really throws people off) but they also more than pay for themselves if you tried to buy a set of conventional kettlebells (ie a 35, 53, 70 and 97 lbs).  With the right pin set-up, its possible to adjust from 22-103 lbs with a nice, tight lock-up. 

Strongman appeals to my sense of practicality because so much of it is getting stuff off the ground and getting it overhead in one way or another.  There are many ways to do that, some more conventional then others.  So, that's what I decided my break from strongman training would do, even if I wasn't going to a traditional strongman implement. 

I hadn't done a kettlebell snatch since before I borrowed a piece of knee ligament from some random, dead guy.  Prior to having such a need for spare parts, I used to do these pretty heavy, sometimes up to 100 lbs.  Since I was still barely smart enough to do these with some caution, I did them with only 85 lbs. 

Next up, I grabbed two kettlebells, stacked 70 lbs on both and threw up some clean and presses.  Since my shoulder strength could use some work,  tried my damnest to not use any leg drive off the clean to press the KB overhead. 

Since that kind of fried my shoulders up but I still had a desire to do some overhead work, I rounded things out by adding more leg drive and doing double KB squat-presses.  This one I made a concerted effort to explode out of the hole and use that drive to push the KB's overhead.   I also do this movement only with weight I cannot press overhead.  That way, I have to add lots of leg drive. This movement helped me immeasurably in the yoke press part of my medley. 

This may have been one of the best routines I've ever put together for myself off the top of my head.  I've used the last two in tandem several times to keep getting shoulder work in even after they're fatigued.  I heard a strongman bring up an interesting point about his competition preparation.  He noted that for a while, he wasn't necessarily getting stronger, he was just coming up with different ways to move the weight in an effective manner.  That's kind of what I was aiming for with this workout:  practice getting weight off the ground and overhead in as many different ways as possible.

Mr "finding different ways".  Heard of him?
Of course, if one were to care about such things, this would also be an effective routine to make for a bigger ass and wider shoulders. It would beat the hell out waist training to achieve an hour glass figure.

These videos weren't demonstrations. They were actual sets. Yes, those are kettlebells. No they don't have to be done in high repetitions. I do all of these in low reps and as many sets of each as I can handle. That can change depending on how much manual labor I do but mostly in the 6-10 sets range, each. So, make a conscious point to throw off any preconceived notions about strength training that you have (When to train, strongman and kettlebells, kettlebells for high reps, etc) and put some creative thought into what you do.