Saturday, January 12, 2008

More Weight On The Bar Does Not Always Equaly Better Results

At the gym today I saw a father lifting with his son (couldn’t have been more than 16 or 17 years old). They were squatting and you could tell the father really meant well as he was teaching his son the exercise.

The father kept on coaching the boy by telling him not to let his knees buckle in (good advice). But, every time the kid squatted, his left knee kept bucking in. Rep after rep, the father would yell out “don’t let your knee buckle in!” and after each set the father would say the same thing “don’t let your knee buckle in.”

The funny thing is that no matter how much the father told the boy to not let his knee buckle, he still couldn’t stop it from happening. What was even funnier was that after each set the father would increase the weight. I guess he thought that if he put more weight on the bar, his son’s form would get better and the knee would stop buckling in. Well, as you can imagine, the boy’s form didn’t get any better (in fact it got worse because as the weight increased his squat depth decreased) and the knee kept on caving inward.

The point I am trying to make is that more weight does not equal better form. More weight on the bar is not always the best option. If you are unable to squat down (or do any exercise for that matter) without good form, then lower the weight and work on it. For this kid, he would have probably got more benefit from either:

a) Performing a slower eccentric and an isometric in the hole, with lighter weight and working on staying tight and keeping his knees lined up over his toes.


b) Working on squatting to a box and again focusing on staying tight and keeping everything in good alignment.

The father fell into the trap that most un-experienced strength coaches make:

He wanted his young athlete to get really strong really fast. Even if that strength came at the expense of technique.

As we know, you can’t rush strength. It needs to be developed over time. Be patient with your athletes and coach good form. Allow them to develop their abilities over a set period of time and remember, they have their whole life to get strong!

Teach them; don’t rush them,


Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Treating People as Individuals

I was speaking with a client the other day that used to train at another performance facility. We were doing an exercise and she commented about how she liked that her program was individual to her. She told me that at the place she used to go to, they would take athletes in specific sports and just group them together and they would all do the same workout. I said that didn’t make sense as each athlete is individual and has different needs. She said that was a problem because when she felt like something wasn’t a good exercise for her they would tell her that they can’t change the program for everyone; so she would just “stick with it.”

I find that half funny and half stupid. I find this to be the trend amongst other strength coaches that train groups of athletes (2 or more at a time). “We have a program and everyone is on board for it.”

My first issue with this is what the heck is the point of assessing athletes if you are going to ultimately do the exact same program with all of them? I mean honestly, if we are doing assessments and looking for asymmetries or functional issues that are keeping the athlete from better performance, then those things need to be addressed.

My other issue with this is that everyone is individual and while the basics work and there are some fundamental lifts that we can all agree on, you still need to figure out which lifts are going to be best for the individual athlete and at what time in the program those lifts should be utilized (ie, when will said athlete be ready for a specific exercise).

While training groups of athletes can be tough as you have a lot of people to supervise, I think if you can strive to make programs as individual as possible, you will be on the right path.

A guy that I think has gotten it right and does a great job is Nate Shaw, head strength coach for the AZ Diamondbacks. I had the chance to meet with him before a game last season and then I saw him speak as part of a seminar that the entire Diamondbacks medical team were doing (the head ATC, team chiropractor and team massage therapist). I have to say, I am really impressed with the job that he (and the rest of the Diamondbacks staff) does as he assess his athletes and really tries to make the programs individual as far as each athletes needs. Even though he may have 24 athletes to train, he really seems to approach it with the idea of 24-individual, one-on-one, athletes. His postural assessment is comprehensive and from that, he evaluates which corrective exercises will be most beneficial for the athlete, as not all of them present with the same problems.

Whether you are training one athlete or thirty just remember, different people have different needs.


Thursday, January 3, 2008

2008 Goal Setting

Walking into gyms around the city, it is easy to tell that the New Year is underway. The gym is filled with “resolutioners” determined to make this year “their year to get in shape!” While I applaud their efforts, I don’t know what is more comical, the number of years they have set out on this goal only to repeat themselves year after year OR the fact that I can almost always pick out which ones will not be in the gym next month.

I don’t mind if they don’t come back; in fact, I love it. One of the worst times of the year to work out is the month of January. There is nothing worse than a bunch of people in your way and wasting your time as they half-heartedly try and get focused to embark on a goal, only to quit 3 weeks later.

That brings me to this month’s article. What type of person will you be this year? Have you set goals yet? Do you have an idea about what kind of health or fitness level you want to reach this year? If you have, do you know how to go about those goals in the right way? If you haven’t, maybe you should think about setting some. Are you happy with your current health and fitness? Are you happy with the way you look and feel?

Many of you are probably sitting there wondering “how do I do it? How can I make my goal become a reality?” I am going to give you a little piece of advice that can go a long way this year in helping you attain the goals you have set for yourself.


That’s right, go out and buy a journal or a notebook. Make sure it is one of the really larger sized notebooks though because you are going to need it for the entire year. This notebook it your one way ticket to getting in shape this year. On the first page of the journal you are going to write a few things:

1)Your name
2)Your long term, year long, goal
3)Your short term, 3 month goal
4)Your stats (body weight, measurements, body fat percentage, strength on specific exercises, endurance, etc. Basically anything that you feel is important to measure and that will help you gauge your progress, or lack there of.)

After the first page, you are going to begin recording. You are going to want to record anything that will help you measure whether you are moving closer or further away from your goal.

The two most important things to record are going to be your workout and your diet.

For your workout, you are going to want to know
- Date
- Location of the workout (gym, backyard, home, mountain, street, etc)
- What you did (run, bike, lift weights)
- The amount you did (3 miles, 40 minutes, 25lbs/3 sets x 12 reps, etc)
- Any other info that may help you know where you stand (how you felt that day, were
you rested or tired, are you sore, etc).

For your diet, you would want to know things like:
- Date
- Number of meals eaten
- What you ate and drank at each meal
- Portion size
- Calories consumed at each meal
- Grams of carbohydrates, protein, and fats at each meal
- Total calories at the end of the day
- Total grams of carbohydrates, protein and fats at the end of the day
- How much water you drank that day

All of this information is vital towards reaching your goals this year, as it tells you what you are doing and whether or not it is working for you (don’t expect changes over night, things take time! Formulate a plan and then give it several weeks to see changes). As well, this journal keeps your accountable to yourself. If you aren’t hitting your goals or if you are a little depressed about things happening to slowly, you can look in your journal and see that you have missed 3 workouts that week and that your diet has not been perfect and you have been missing meals and eating too many calories. The journal keeps you honest and you can look back and see exactly where you went wrong and have strayed off course.

Will 2008 be your year? Or, will you be reading this same email next year? That is for you to decide. All I can do is give you the tools. If you don’t use them properly, then it is nobodies fault but your own. I hope that you can take this information and put it to good use.

Good luck with your goals,


Wednesday, January 2, 2008

My current training outline

I just got back from doing my cardio this evening. As much as I hate to admit it, I kind of like it. Well, let me re-phrase that, I hate DOING in; but when I am done I really like how I feel. There is this strong sense of accomplishment there. It feels really good.

I am enjoying these three weeks off from school. I have felt really rested during my training and I have had time to read a lot of things that I have been sitting on my desk that I didn’t have time for during the semester (only 44 more weeks of school to go…not that I am counting).

Anyway, for those that are interested, I thought I would post up the current training program I am doing now. It is a daily undulating program based around 3 total body workouts per week. The qualities that I am training are as follows:

Day 1: Muscular Endurance
Day 2: Strength
Day 3: Power

On the endurance and power days I typically do some sort of interval training at the end of the workout as well. I also do some cardio on in between days. I will stick with this program for the next two weeks and then change it when I start back up at school.

More tomorrow,


Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Which shoe do you like?

Your next blog post should be about what shoes you recommend wearing in the gym. I know it's a question I've pondered from time to time, especially this week, as I left my gym shoes at home and borrowed a pair of running shoes from my father and loved the extra support I had with them while squatting.

There has been a lot of discussion about which type of shoes are “best” for lifting over the past couple of years. I think it is a tough debate due to the fact that, like everything, there is a lot of individuality in foot and ankle control and comfort.

Some strength coaches feel that lifting shoeless is optimal. I am generally not a fan of this as I feel there should be some support (especially when lifting heavier weights). Also, for those that have a tough time controlling the arch of their foot they can have a difficult time lifting in a shoeless environment. This can causes faulty or dysfunctional movement and possibly stress structures that are trying to compensate for lack of joint alignment. It has been argued that this type of training can help to teach those individuals how to properly control their foot and perhaps “correct” some of the issues that they currently display. This may be so for athletes who have a functional issue with foot control and may need corrective exercises. However, corrective exercises are not the same as all out lifting.

Other coaches seem to favor the Nike free trainers, which put our foot into pretty much the same environment as the shoeless option. The soles of the shoe are segmented to allow for free movement of the foot, while giving us some padding (as opposed to standing in bare feet). I have tried the shoes and I don’t mind them for training. However, these shoes are not for everyone. Some individuals who have problems with their foot or ankle are going to benefit from something that offers them a little more support. It is hard to use a “one-size-fits all” approach (no pun intended) and just say that everyone should train in these shoes.

Chuck Taylor’s and the Adidas soccer shoes are popular amongst lifters as well. These shoes don’t have much support, like the free trainer, however differ in the fact that the bottom of the shoe is not segmented, but is one long sole. I like to lift in Adidas soccer shoes personally. I find them comfortable. As with the other options, your individual foot may not lend itself to training in these shoes though.

Training in running shoes, as you suggested, is pretty popular if you look around the gym. Some strength coaches feel that training in running shoes is not optimal as the soles are thicker and padded, which absorb some of the force we push into the ground with, ultimately decreasing some of our force out put. How much? I don’t know. I don’t think it is enough to actually make a HUGE difference to someone training in the gym, as I have seen guys clean big weight in nothing more than sneakers. If you were a competitive lifter, obviously this wouldn’t be an option for you, as you are going to want to get the most out of your body/equipment as possible. Also, running shoes can be purchased with different support structures, to allow us the option to buy a shoe, which works properly with our foot type. This can be extremely helpful for those who need the support in the foot and ankle to ensure that everything up the kinetic chain is properly in line.

Picking shoes can be tricky. Not everyone will be able to use the same shoe, as there are many differences in foot type and preference. Having your foot evaluated and taking the proper steps to train or “re-train” the muscles of the foot and ankle can help to correct some impairments that you may have developed along the way. The more strong and stable you can make the foot and ankle complex, the less you will need to rely on getting this stability via external sources (special running shoes, orthotics, etc). Some may have structural problems with their foot, which can’t be changed through corrective exercises; causing them to lean more towards a shoe which gives them optimal support for their individual foot.

Happy Shoe Shopping,