WOW! I had an amazing weekend road tripping to Delaware, via New Jersey, with a stop in Pennsylvania. To top it all off, after finally returning home around 11pm on Sunday night, I saw a huge surge in blog readership. I couldn’t figure out why, then realized that I made it on Bret Contreras’ ‘Good Reads for the Week’ list. I’m link number 8, and I’m super excited because I didn’t think that a 22 year old college student could get on a list with some REALLY smart people. After reading some of the other articles, you’ll realize that I’m not nearly as smart as I try to be. (Link is HERE.) So, what I started as project to get information out to friends and family has been working pretty well. I’ll never learn as much as I’d like to, but I’m still pretty proud that I made that list. It’s also probably related to the fact that I discuss something that Bret’s done in almost every post.
Anyways, I had a great time when I was on my weekend get away the past few days. After picking up a brother in north Jersey, I headed down to Newark, Delaware to see friends and brothers of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, the men’s music fraternity. It was nice to get out in town and see everybody, and it’s always fun sneaking in a round of golf when I’m out away. I played 9 holes on Saturday morning with three brothers, and although we had an 8:40am tee time, we still had trouble getting there early, and ended up rolling in around 8:30. Great, no warm up.
A few practice swings and no ball contacts, I was on the tee. I tried to warm up a bit during the round but it’s hard to do that once you set your brain on the round. However, there is one thing that I was conscious of during my few warm up swings, and it’s related to golf and to rotational sports in general. When I first started golfing I w as fighting a hip slide. I had no idea at the time, but it’s because of a hip mobility, specially an internal rotation deficit in my right hip. If the hip can’t rotate, then your body is forced to transfer that momentum across the foot, and your center of gravity shifts. This leads to both pain and poor ball striking, so it’s something that I’ve worked on since I became conscious of it. Needless to say, hip mobilization was my first thought when I got on to the tee box to wait for my drive. (I also worked on thoracic mobility.) To drive lead hip internal rotation I performed the following drill on the tee box. Ideally, you would perform this before any squatting exercises as well. I also like to perform a standing drill after this, which helps me focus on keeping a strong right side when I swing.
Other than golfing in Delaware, my other athletic activity was running; I went for a jog on Saturday night with a brother. I know, I know, I hate running, far too many people do it and get hurt and it’s an inefficient way of training. However, since I wanted some extra bonding time and Newark is a beautiful place, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. According to the awesome website Map My Run, we covered 4.04 miles, although I’m not sure of our time. I ran in my Nike Free 3.0’s for the first time, and while my calves hated me during first mile of the run (which was all hills) it was awesome to run in such light, comfortable, and free shoes. (Pun intended.)
In other exercise-related news, I’m beginning to meet/lift with some really cool guys over at Adelphi University. It’s really convenient to have all of your classes in the building with the student gym, so I’ve been training after my classes are over on a regular basis. Like all commercial-style gyms, there’s a fair amount of ridiculous stuff going on, but for the most part it’s a performance and fitness oriented crowd. While a little part of me dies inside when I see a 140lb freshman on his 19th set of curls, it is reborn when I see girls doing RFESS, aka Rear Foot Elevated Split Squats. They’re a fantastic single leg exercise, and you’re about to watch a video demonstration.
Performing RFESS is just one of the great functional training methods I’ve seen thus far. For example, just an hour ago I saw somebody follow up their Y, I, and T shoulder prehab work with facepulls. In my last post, I disclosed my love for the facepull, so I was all about watching this. On Wednesday, while I was running sprints on the indoor track, I saw another student running completely barefoot, and in the clockwise direction. Barefoot running is awesome (albeit when told correctly), and the clockwise running helps prevent the asymmetries that develop from constantly turning left all the time. Now if only NASCAR could make that change.
For everything good, however, there are still some bad things. The two biggest mistakes that I see are people doing isolation work before their compound movements, and girls who use super light weights for ultra high reps. In both cases, the training effect is much lower than it could be. For the isolation work, kids aren’t getting the benefits of compound lifts to get both bigger and stronger. Regardless of one’s training goal, compound lifts should be the vast majority of their program, and isolation work should come into play once it’s necessary; if you’ve been training for less than 3-5 years, it is rarely necessary. It’s easy to manipulate compound movements to meet certain ‘goals’ of a trainee, while still performing strength building compound movements. For example, performing a chin-up over a pull-up places the biceps brachii in a more advantageous pulling position, allowing you to do more work. More work equals greater strength and size gains, so it would be logical to perform chin-ups as they allow for more work to be done. (Sidenote: According to THIS article, bicep activation is pretty similar, so while actual workload is similar, they’re perceived as being easier, so you’ll do more work.)
As far as the light weights/high reps concept that girls use to “get toned, not bulky”, I’d like to respectfully say that it’s absolutely useless. Well, not always; if your training goal is to stay weak and untoned, then I’d totally suggest that you do lots of curls with 7lb weights. Hopefully that’s not your training goal, is it. Now, if the goal is “toning”, as it is for many women, we need to define what being toned is. It’s really a terrible word, because of the similarities to the technical term tonus, which is the continuous and passive partial contraction of the muscles. According to the context it is frequently used in, toned just means lean. What the majority of girls are searching for is reducing body fat while building a bit of muscle. Funny, because guys are searching for the same thing, and we mess it up too.
The activities that would actually ‘tone’ the best are the same ones that these girls avoid like the plague, and the ones that are definitely not discussed in Cosmo and Glamour. (I haven’t read them recently, but unless they discuss metabolic work and lifting heavy stuff, I’m right about that.) These could be the two most crucial aspects of training that will ‘tone’, yet they’re present in very few training programs. Rhetorical Question: Could this explain why most people are perpetually losing weight? Yea, thought so.
While metabolic conditioning programs, such as CrossFit, P90X, and Kettlebell classes are all the rage at the moment, there are far more men involved in these programs than women, and in many cases the irrational fear of heavier weights is present. If you’re swinging a 16lb kettlebell, what the heck is that actually going to do? Yea, you’ll elevate your heart rate swinging it, but it won’t do a good job of building lean tissue; the training effect just won’t be there. Lack of true training effect is the problem in many programs used by younger or uneducated women. Resistance training programs lack appreciable loading, and steady state aerobic training does little to stoke the metabolism and burn fat. By incorporating full-body workouts and metabolic conditioning work into their exercise plans, far more is accomplished than the pink dumbbell and Zumba crowd. Here is a picture of American Hurdler Lolo Jones. She’s an Olympic athlete, World Indoor Champion, and the current US record holder in the 60m Hurdles. I think it’s safe to say she looks amazing, and it’s not because of the hour she spends on the elliptical every day. It’s because she hauls ass down the track. Incorporating High Intensity Interval Training, such as sprints, into one’s overall exercise program is a great way to shed fat and improve cardiovascular fitness, and you’ll get faster in the process. You probably won’t run as fast as Lolo does, but you’ll certainly get closer to looking like her! (And gentlemen, if you’re wondering how good she looks after a race, you can find out HERE. You’re welcome.)
Transitioning from you utilizing interval work over steady state work, let’s talk about me doing steady state work. Specifically, I was used as a research subject for an experiment in the Adelphi Exercise Physiology lab, where they were testing a new recumbent bicycle, and wanted to develop a scale of intensities for the Adult Fitness Program. While it was very fun to wear a heart rate monitor and have a giant hose strapped to my mouth for data collection, I can’t say that riding the bike was actually fun. If it wasn’t for a Vampire Weekend channel on Pandora, I’d have been bored out of my mind. (Seriously, make one; you won’t be disappointed, as it’s a constant flow of mood-boosting tunes.) It was certainly interesting to be in the lab, but it made me think about how much fun I’d have collecting the data on a steady-state experiment. At this point in time, I’m far more excited about hands on training and coaching, and every time I explain how to hip hinge to someone with an erroneous deadlift pattern I get more excited about the field. Whether it’s pushing a lifting partner to finish his work in a given period of time, or saving the poor beginners from the Cybex circuit and introducing them to the basic movement patterns, it’s extremely fulfilling to help people reach their goals in the best ways possible.
On that thought, I leave you with one last tip, on exercise super-setting. I’ve done a number of recent lower-body training sessions with a fellow student and coworker at Adelphi. Ken knows more about how the body works than almost anybody else I’ve run into at school, and we’ve been having some awesome discussions during our workouts. (I bet being a nursing major has helped him with that!) While I’m looking for strength and performance via functional training, Ken is blood flow, get-that-pump bodybuilder. To satisfy both of our tastes, I thought of a very hard fun superset last Friday; we paired Romanian Deadlifts and TRX RFESS. You’re pretty much forced to finish your reps as soon as possible because you’re watching the other guy finish his, and it made for an amazing quad/hamstring pump, all the while working on single leg stance with the squat and using a loaded stretch to tax the hamstrings. It was a difficult one, and you can bet I’ll be doing it again in 12 hours. If you don’t have a TRX available, you can perform your RFESS just as they were performed in the above video, with the laces of your shoes flat on the top of a bench. These can be performed for reps, such as 10 RDL’s, 10 right leg squats, 10 left leg squats, or for time, such as 30 seconds for each exercise. Add in a 30 second rest, and you’ve got a repeated 2 minute circuit! Tell me how that feels after 10 minutes, and I can bet your heart is pounding in your chest. You’ll get stronger, develop balance, work on flexibility and mobility, and get a greater metabolic workout? Now that is efficient! This is definitely one to add to the list of what to try. Just make sure you’re ready for it.
I’ve been really busy this week between school work and doing things like training a friend at school and going to see Benny Greb in a drum clinic. (He’s amazing, if you’re wondering.) Next week promises to be far busier, which I’m excited about/ totally dreading. I’ll be in Connecticut for a sports nutrition conference on Sunday, so I’ll get a review of that up as quickly as possible, and will try to find more time for shorter, more organized, and super-duper informative blog posts.
Now I’m going to play rock-paper-scissor to figure out if I should watch Jersey Shore or Glee on Hulu. Decisions, decisions.