Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Karl Tillman & Donnie Thompson Squat Tip

I like this video and here's why - most people don't focus on OUTWARDLY ROTATING THE HIPS as they squat. Because they don't actively engage the glutes in this manner, they aren't generating nearly as much tension as they could be. I really like Karl Tillman's tip here and I think it's an easy way to get a feel for this outward hip rotation.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Words of Wisdom From Dr. Squat

"Look, 'routines' are just that! I have written much on the subject. I have probably given the subject more careful thought than most. Here is yet another thought that I should've written at some time... maybe I did... can't remember.

In order to achieve ANYTHING in life to the pinnacle of your capabilities, you must 'marry' the thing! Become a 'priest' to it. Live, eat, sleep and breathe it! You MUST NOT succumb to whoredom and meander from one routine to another in the false hope that one of them is gonna 'work'. It will not! You may get a quick fix from it, but it'll only be because you re-injected some adaptive stress into your routine.

Do this instead. THINK IT OUT!

Now, most lifters cannot do this because they are not educated in the discipline, and because they have never been taught to REALLY think things through! So, the alternative is to find yourself a bonafide guru who HAS, and hang your hat on what that person has to say! So, find one! ONE!"

- Dr. Fred Hatfield

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Great-Grandpa's Record Still Stands

On Thanksgiving Day, I had another go at the 50lb scale weight on Grandma's farm. Somehow it looked bigger than I remembered it... I tried to hold it like a kettlebell and realized, with it's sharp edges that it would NOT be held that way. Basically, to press it, you have two choices - bottoms up, or hold it like a kettlebell, but with the wrist bent way back. I went with the second option and, with my uncle counting but distracted by birds in a nearby tree, managed 20 (two reps shy of my great-grandfather's number) with a 4 second lockout on the final rep.

I was a little irritated by my failure (and failure to train for the attempt), but after hearing more tales of my great-grandfather's strength was consoled, a little... It was fun to listen to my uncles talk about the things they saw on the farm growing up - tales of guys doing pinkie lifts and presses with scale weights like this one, rafter pullups, lifting pairs of full 5 gallon buckets over fences all day, etc. It makes you wonder how strong you might be if you had grown up w. hard manual labor. I'm certainly not complaining that the hardest physical thing I did growing up was "practice", but it does makes you wonder...

As a gift, my grandmother gave me the scale-weight. It now sits in my garage, but I plan to make all "official" attempts at Grandma's farm.

I hope everyone had a Thanksgiving as good as mine.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

I Can't Squat ATF! (...and Other Tales of Woe)

"HELP! I can't get below parallel in my squat." and "My heels always come of the floor at the bottom of my squat." seem to be the most common issues I hear about squatting on the internet. For most people, simply sitting in the hole and working out the issue is their best bet; a bottom-up approach. Dan John does this through "goblet squats". Westside does it through box squats.

I approach it by having students stand in front of a chair or a support beam of a power rack and then getting into their bottom position and then shifting their weight onto their heels. Moving the hips and straightening the lower back will help the trainee feel how stress is transfered from the knees and ankles onto the hips and hamstrings. With practice, the trainee will be able to duplicate this position with less effort and with greater stability.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Thanksgiving Goal

More than a few years back, I went to Thanksgiving dinner at my grandmother's house on the farm. She had a 50 pound scale weight that she tied the dog to out in the yard. I picked it up, and holding it like you would a kettlebell, pressed it about 16 or so times and called it a day. My uncle was watching and after I finished he proceeded to do a couple of bottoms-up presses with it, saying that great-grandpa had pressed it 22 times back in the day. Not that impressive, but if you consider that the guy probably never lifted any kind of training weight in his life and weighed 130 sopping wet, it is.

I'm embarassed and shamed to say that I haven't visited Grandma on the farm for a long time, but I will this year.... and there will be pressing to go with the turkey.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Miyamoto Musashi's Rules

Rules for learning "the art" by Miyamoto Musashi (from The Book of Five Rings):

1. Think of what is right and true
2. Practice and cultivate the science
3. Become aquainted with the arts*
4. Know the principles of the crafts*
5. Understand the harm and benefit in everything
6. Learn to see everything accurately
7. Become aware of what is not obvious
8. Become careful even in small matters
9. Do not do anything useless

*Here, I believe, Miyamoto Musashi is using "arts" to mean practices such as the tea ceremony, calligraphy, etc. and "crafts" to mean various professions.

It is always amazing to me how forward thinkers like this are not part of general history or literature curriculums, but what the hell do I know? In any case, I think there is a lot that athletes and S&C coaches can take from words of wisdom such as these...

Thursday, November 15, 2007

What It's All About

Throughout my life, I've had some great teachers and coaches. I've also had some pretty bad ones. There are a lot of things that separate the good from the bad, but the essential difference that has become clearer and clearer to me as I've gotten older is that the good ones never forget what it's all about. If you're not clear on what it's all about, here's a video you should watch.

The Make A Difference Movie

As teachers and coaches, we can become overly focused on outcomes, sometimes because school districts and overzealous parents demand it and sometimes because we want our students to be "successful". We (students too) concern ourselves with grades, test scores, placings, stopwatches, and win-loss records.
We forget that 10 years from now, most of our students will not remember what a dangling participle is. Chances are pretty good they won't remember a single geometric postulate, theorem, or property.
What they will remember, hopefully, is how to think logically, how to research and investigate, how to be open-minded but not naive, how to be critical but not cynical.
We have to teach skills - as coaches and teachers, if we can't teach them the essential skills, then we have failed miserably at our charge. But, if we have taught skills with no positive schemata whatsoever for those skills to nest in, what will become of those skills long term? Will they become a painful, distant memory, or something remembered with a smile?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Squat Rx #18: Concentric and Zercher Squats

I made the following Squat Rx #18 about concentric and zercher squats primarily because I had requests for instruction on the two exercises. To be honest, I've never done either of them consistently, although I've enjoyed doing them as supplemental lifts here and there. I didn't address the "arm pain issue" with zerchers because I don't think there is really much of a solution to it - it's an uncomfortable lift and besides padding the bar (and increasing the circumference of the bar, possibly adding new problems), there's not getting around it.

If you have thoughts, I hope you'll post them; here or at YouTube, or shoot me an email or PM. I look forward to hearing from you.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Powerlifting and $$$

Years ago, one of the first message boards I ever stumbled across was Jason Burnell's Deepsquatter Forums. Jason Burnell has a way with words that you don't often find in the powerlifting community. I don't remember exactly when and where he wrote this, but here's his take on bringing money to the sport of powerlifting:

If powerlifters want to see the top "athletes" get paid and over the years I've heard a whole lot of APFers praise the PRO CONCEPT, then you have to face facts.

Fact 1) - the money has to come from somewhere. Right now, if Kidder dropped dead from a high blood pressure - possibly induced by that tiny ass jacket - the money for the WPO would stop and aside from the CUP there would be no constant $$$ flowing into the Pro Concept... unless you count the handfull of bench bashes etc.

Fact 2) Money for anything with weights comes from supplement companies - fitness, bodybuilding etc. and if we want to see powerliftiers getting paid then we need to jump on that "selling a dream" bandwagon ....unless someone can tell me of the other multi-million dollar industry willing to pay people money to lift weights.

Fact 3) Fat and bald is no way to go through life. Add in a few tattoos and some flames and skulls and you've got what "normal" people call an image problem.

Fact 4) Miss 70% of your lifts in front of crowds and you just look stupid - on top of fat, bald tatooed etc.

Fact 5) NOBODY buys fatburners or even weight gainer to look like anyone that is a SHWt powerlifter. I think I touched on this when I mentioned that Twinlabs isn't selling Fat****erFuel.

Fact 6) The world is full of 160 lb men who desperately want to get stronger and dream of weighing a massive 198 lbs. Those are the guys buying supplements and not a one of them wants to look like.... well anyone who is taking offense at this post.

Fact 7) Backne. Bloated. Balding. The three B's are a no-no. ACtually, Bald is still in but you actually have to have features to your face. If you look like a red eyed casaba melon chances are they're not laughing with you, they're laughing at you.

Fact 8) This is still America and sexy, blonde, white, in shape people can sell anything. Also, mentioning that something has been "used in Europe for years" helps but I digress.

Kennelly would sell. Yoked - square jaw, benches a lot.

Mendelson could sell. Same as above except bigger and looks sort of like Shrek (I mean that in a good way) but gets a dispensation for benching a whole lot.

Wade Hooper could sell. _A whole generation of short, small guys would sell their kidneys to be built like or lift like Hoop and if DwarfyFuel promises to do it, they'll buy it.

Goggins could sell. Ok... Goggins is a colored feller but yolked up brothers everywhere would buy man-in-a-can after watching Goggins pull.

Coan could sell. He couldn't sell tanning lotion but just short guys everywhere want to be 242 and lift like him.

Conyers. See Goggins but add in short.

Becca. I saw here in person once and I wanted to be as big as she is. Then she outlifted me. Now I hate her. LOL

Kara Bohegian. A drowning man would buy water if it came with Kara's DVD.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Idle Speech

I love the internet. I can easily spend hours reading articles, checking and posting to message boards, and watching videos. I believe that the internet is one of the greatest things to happen to education and coaching EVER. But, occasionally you’ll hear strength coaches say “the internet is the worst thing to happen to strength training”. I think that’s hyperbole, of course. But, in the history of mankind, there have never been more arm-chair quarterbacks and that is almost entirely thanks to the internet.

Has this ever happened to you? You’re reading a message board and you find a thread about a guy whose squat is stuck at, for example, 450 and he’s wondering what he should do to get out of his rut. You continue reading the thread and hear replies like, “You should do Bill Starr’s 5x5”, or “You should do WS4SB”, or “Conjugate periodization kicks ass!”. Impressed by their confidence and apparent experience, you search for other posts by these people, only to find out that the advice dispensed was from a 15 year old who squats 185, an 18 year old who benches 205, and a 200lb, 20 year old who deadlifts 315.

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying that any of those lifts are worthless. Nor am I saying that a 15 year old can’t teach me anything. I teach for a living and (although it’s cliché) I can honestly say that I have learned as much from my students as they have learned from me. BUT, we have found ourselves in an information society that values “virtual experience” almost as much as the real thing.

In our mission to teach kids critical thinking skills, we sometimes forget that a foundation of genuine experiences needs to underpin them or those thinking skills are going to go out the window when challenged. Sometimes we say to kids “You’ll understand when you’re older”. What we are really saying is “You don’t have the breadth and depth of experience necessary to understand this from a different perspective.” In other words, “You don’t get IT. With experience, you might.”

Today, we are bombarded with words from television, internet, instant messages, text messages, cell phones, and iPods. Most of it is without purpose and depth. For whatever reason, it is comforting to some, even addictive. The bottom line (and the point I'm trying to make) is we don't get experience by talking or watching someone else. You owe it to yourself to ask the following questions and give honest answers:

How much time did you spend training today? How much time will you train or coach?

How much time will you spend on the internet talking about training and coaching today?

I’m doing my very best to spend my time more productively when it comes to training and study. Less talk, more action.

One final thought before you decide whether to wheel up to your computer, or hit the gym: 500 pounds doesn’t care how much virtual experience you have.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

How To Do The Asian Squat

This video really is a classic and from spending time in Japan and Korea, I can testify to the fact that many, many Asians do indeed squat while eating or waiting in public places. We could point to a lot of things like culture, diet, and body type (i.e. weight), but no one would deny that Americans are way ahead of Asians when it comes to the sheer number of knee and hip replacements performed yearly - perhaps if Americans learned How To Do The Asian Squat, those numbers might decrease a little.


Thursday, November 1, 2007

Overachievement by John Eliot, Ph.D.

Here's another book I happened to find one day in a book store. Overachievement, by John Eliot, Ph.D. is a delightful break from the usual sport psychology mumbo-jumbo that feeds you mental rehearsal and relaxation scripts.

This excerpt from the introduction sums up the content of the book. If you find it interesting, you should pick up a copy. It is a very easy and informative read.

Using your head is stupid. In high-stakes performance, the real genius is someone like Yogi Berra. On his way to ten World Series rings and a place in the baseball Hall of Fame, Yogi was thinking about nothing.

The best embrace stress - and get juiced. Classic breathing and relaxation techniques tend to undermine most performances, eliminating the possibility of setting records. Stress is the high-level performer's PowerBar.

There are no limits. If you really want to find out what you're capable of, you cannot put limits on yourself, and you defininately cannot be cautious.

Setting goals is for couch potatoes. The long-standing practice of goal setting is actually a major obstacle to sustained, vigorous motivation - and to being great.

Hard work is overrated. Superstars know when to stop working at their job and start playing at it. In my research and work with clients, I have discovered that too much practice will turn you into a classic case of the "over-motivated underachiever."

All those eggs belong in one basket. Unlikely accomplishments are borned out of single-minded purposefulness. Future superstars don't get there by keeping part of heart in reserve.

Arrogant S.O.B.s run the world. A performer can never have too much self-assurance. The best in every field are likely to strike most people as irrationally confident, but that's how they got to the top.

Being a team player may get you a gold star on your annual review, but it won't get you into the corner office. By definition, striving to be exceptional puts you outside the team. If you're a maverick CEO, you're a colorful genius. But, if you're a young rogue exec, you're gone. ("Not a team player," reads your evaluation.) The best performers not only think exceptionally, they teach their colleagues to think differently, too.

Legends never say they're sorry. Having a long or frequent memory for mistakes and a short or infrequent memory for successes is a guaranteed way to develop fear of failure. High achievers dwell on what they do well and spend very little time evaluating themselves and their performances.

Risk-reward analysis is for wimps. For exceptional people, risks equal rewards. The challenge of uncertainty is the fun of high performance and where overachievement lies.