Pull, Mobility, and Dead Animals

You’ve been able to recognize it for a while now, but over the past month or so, I’ve definitely been slacking as a blogger.  I’ve been working hard in my classes and at work, and that personally makes me feel better, but unfortunately it doesn’t contribute to content on the blog.  The remaining 4 weeks of school are looking to be as intense as the last, and this semester is pretty brutal.  This week offers a slight reprieve from all of my work, and hopefully I can write a few things for you.  Today, I just want to quickly go over some thoughts on deadlifts, mobility work, and eating more dead animals.

I imagine a world where people deadlift at Family Night, and where an acceptable date is dinner and a barbell.  It may not happen in my lifetime, but the world would be a better place if more people pulled.  Properly picking up a heavy barbell is the most effective exercise that you can do…but I don’t need to tell you that; you read it in almost every post.  While some people will never have the mental strength to tackle the exercise, plenty of people have benefited from it, and I’m hearing some great feedback from friends recently.  The best text I received was as follows: “Yo – deadlifting rocks…did it for the first time today and felt it work everything including my heart rate.”  I don’t think I could have said it any better myself!  I’ve been using my trap bar to teach people to deadlift at the JCC, and I recently had success with a wide range of people.  Phil, a 58 year old grandpa, pulled 155 for 10 then fist pumped and let out a “Whoo!”  My girlfriend Maria just pulled 195lbs last week for a 10lb PR.  In my past two days working the floor, I successfully kicked 4-5 teenagers off of the leg press, introduced them to the trap bar, and watched them learn what a hamstring felt like.  All of these people are becoming stronger, healthier, and they’re feeling better while doing it.  Don’t you think it’s time you grabbed a heavy barbell and did some work?  If you need any motivation, here’s a video of Benedikt Magnusson pulling 1015lbs, the new deadlift world record.  Yes, everything that we touch is light.

When addressing a barbell for the first time, it’s rare that people start with proper form.  Learning a movement is key, but it’s hard to learn the exercise if your body can’t physically move into certain positions.  The lack of mobility and flexibility can be a huge limiting factor in ones performance of some exercises, which exercises they’re capable of doing, and how they move and feel.  Getting strong should be high on your priority list, but if you move like Iron Man, then hold back on the iron, man.

An individual assessment will give you the information necessary to figure out exactly what your limitations are, but the ‘hand grenade’ approach works well.  If you’re pain and injury free, I’d suggest that you incorporate soft-tissue work, dynamic movements, and static stretching.  Do it when you wake up, do it in the elevator, do it while you make dinner:  Do it outside of the gym, and definitely do it inside of the gym.

Soft tissue work is a very broad term.  There is an endless variety of massage treatments, and self massage is great for the creative and sadomasochistic.  However you add massage to your routine, just make sure that you do it.  Foam rollers, tennis balls, lacrosse balls, The Stick, handheld massage devices; you can use almost anything to massage your muscles, and help them feel better and move better.  Starting your workout on the foam roller can help open up the chronically tight and stiff muscles in your calves, hips, back, and shoulders, and you can do it when you wake up, before you go to bed, and right before you workout.  Read: Definitely before you workout.  Below you’ll find a great video from Cressey Performance showing Tony Gentilcore foam rolling like a champion.  It’s obvious that he’s done it before, but once you can maneuver your body over that little foam cylinder, it goes by pretty quickly.

Please, please, please follow your foam rolling with a dynamic warm up.  Jumping jacks and arm circles aren’t nearly enough; think range of motion. Mike Boyle has created a short list of eight essential drills that everybody can do, and it’s a great place to start.  I’ve been using a number of different drills to warm-up, and this list part of every workout, regardless of the day of my training split.  Full body warm-ups should take place before every workout, even if you’re only training your upper body, your lower body, or just your anterior deltoid and gastrocnemius.  Move every joint in your body, and you’ll feel better.  THIS is the link, and/or you can click HERE as well.  See how easy I make it for you?

Static stretching is an interesting topic.  On one hand, there’s research that says stretching can reduce injury risk, make you perform better, and cure infertility.  On the other hand, there is also research saying that it’s the devil, and you should never do it.  Maybe the science isn’t that extreme, but the scientific jury is still out.  However, the anecdotal jury rules in favor, and I agree that it’s something you should be doing.  Go ahead and static stretch!  Most of us, myself included, have tight calves, hip flexors, hamstrings, pecs, lats, biceps…stretch them all!  Gentle static stretching feels good.  Don’t do it until it hurts, or hold it for insane amounts of time. I wouldn’t exactly recommend an hour of just stretching, because that would be Yoga, and we can agree that yoga isn’t a real workout.  It’s great for recovery and stress reduction, but it’s only a step above sitting on the couch.  Stretch through out the day and at the end of your workouts.  However, if you can casually stretch of the course of the day, you’ll help maintain proper posture, muscle imbalances, and you’ll probably spend more time moving and on your feet.

The last topic was supposed to be eating dead animals, right?  It’s about protein consumption!  Well, and because live animals are too difficult to eat.  Protein is an important part of your diet, and you’re not eating enough.  How do I know that?  Well, if you’re following the government recommend 50 grams of protein a day, you’re certainly behind.  The average range, based on the .8 grams per kilogram of body weight recommendation is 40-70 grams.  Still low.  Unfortunately, considering the protein in the cheese on your Big Mac to be part of your daily allowance counts for the bureaucrats.  To me, it doesn’t, so stop eating that poison.  If you’re eating fast food and trying to justify it, even vegetarians have a healthier diet than you, and that’s not cool.

After you eliminate the junk food, stick the unprocessed animals.  I say animals, and that includes eggs, poultry, meat, and seafood.  Grill it, broil it, bake it; just don’t cover it with sugar and grease, and you have a good start.  Based on the source, protein recommendations for athletes can range from .8 grams per kilogram to 2 grams per pound, which is a huge difference.  The recommendation that I like the best comes from the NSCA, which is 1.5-2.0 grams per kilogram of body weight.  That relates to about 1 gram per pound of body weight, and eliminates any mathematical questions that can possibly have.  If you’re a 180lb male, and you’re eating 6 times a day, that’s 30 grams of protein per meal.  If breakfast is an egg and oatmeal, you have an issue.  Certainly a healthy meal, but missing more than 20 grams of protein from that meals ‘requirement’.  A Cliff bar and carrots for lunch isn’t going to contribute much, and over the course of the day, you’re missing out on lots of protein!  Instead, make sure that you have your good proteins in every meal, and surround them with a wide variety of fruits and vegetables.  If you’re not sure what real protein looks like, here is a thousand words.

If you’re idea of a delicacy is drive through and a milk shake, you should take care of cleaning up your diet before anything else.  However, if you know better than falling for the 100 calorie pack gimics, start monitoring how much protein you’re eating.  With a dirty diet, you can get too much of everything: protein, saturated fat, simple sugars, sodium.  Clean things up, and you’ll be able to eat more food while eating better food, and it will keep you healthy while you’re looking better.  If you warm up in the gym the right way, and you go heavy with your deadlifts, you’re set up for success.  You have the information necessary to improve the quality of your life; now it’s up to you do something about it.

As always, if you have any questions or comments, post them below.  Have a great day!

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