Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Overhead Squats - The Miracle Squat?

I'm a huge fan of the overhead squat. I don't remember where I got the idea of doing them first, but one of Dan John's articles was almost certainly an influence on me, as it has been on many, many trainees. Here's an article by Dan John about the overhead squat - I don't think it is the original, but it's a great one:

The Overhead Squat by Dan John

I've hurt my lower back a number of times over the past decade. Each comeback included overhead squats. As I've mentioned before in previous posts to this blog, overhead squats are an awesome proprioception exercise. They require and, done properly, develop great strength and flexibility. Barbell overhead squats with a snatch grip are all that's needed, but for a change of pace and a greater test of shoulder flexibility, they can be done with kettlebells or dumbbells.

Monday, January 26, 2009

When She/He Doesn't "Get It"

My wife was never really into athletics. She likes to exercise, but she doesn't "get" my need to lift heavy things... at all. That's okay and, actually, I wouldn't have it any other way. You see, I really do believe in the idea of couples shoring up each other's weaknesses and complimenting each other's strengths. My wife keeps me from becoming a total meathead, and I keep her from being a total priss. We have our differences from time to time and, occasionally, issues concerning my "hobby" come to a head, but we've been together for a long time now and I've learned a few things about keeping training time sacred.


Make your training goals and plans clear to your significant other. Make your training plans clear to your significant other well in advance. Having a large calendar with training times written down in a central location shares your level of commitment with everyone.


Training in the morning can be invigorating. Training late at night can be a great stress reliever. Be flexible about when you are willing to work out. It will make finding time to train a lot easier and inconvenience everyone else less.
For the record, I'm just like most people and, if I had my druthers, I'd be training in mid-late afternoon and have a solid, uninterrupted 1-2 hours of time to work with. However, since my son was born, most of my training has been in the 9pm-12am time slot, with a lot of 15-30 minute sessions thrown in wherever possible.


Consistently finding hour or two hour blocks of time is tough enough if you are a working man (or woman). Finding a half hour here and there is a lot easier.
Split your training sessions into main exercises and assistance work and do them in separately. With focus, you can ramp up to respectable poundages and get in your work sets in a much shorter length of time than you are used to. It may require a few weeks to acclimate to the new pace, but it's doable for most. No more putzing around with your iPod, cell phone, preening yourself in a giant mirror, staring at the gym "eye-candy", or long water breaks - get in and get out!

(or anniversaries, birthdays, Valentine's Day, etc.)*

Training sessions scheduled on "date nights" are a major no-no. And, (if you didn't know this already) it doesn't matter if there are no plans whatsoever - do NOT schedule anything on your spouse's day off, Valentine's Day, major holidays, etc.
I know what you're thinking; "But Christmas Day is a perfect training day!! Nobody else is in the gym and I have so much time!". You're preaching to the choir, buddy. Give it up. You can't win. Spend the time with your partner. ...and NO, I don't mean your training partner!


Gestures like the occasional "Aw, what the hell - I'm supposed to train, but I'd rather be with you honey!" can go a long way towards fostering good-will. ...and who knows if it's spontaneous or if you managed to get your training session in earlier in the week? Front load your training week and days like this are easier to come by later in the week.


I don't make much and every year is in the red when it comes to lifting expenses vs. coaching income. That's okay because I don't do it for the money. On the other hand, I can't be spending money irresponsibly either - it's easy to rack up costs in the thousands of $$ when you are buying equipment, traveling to competitions and seminars, paying for gym memberships, and reading S&C literature.
Learn how to say "no" when it comes to unnecessary lifting toys. Do you really need that #2.5 CoC? Can you do without this month's PLUSA even though it has that Dr. Judd article you've been waiting for?
Find ways to cut costs elsewhere. Ride a bicycle when you can. Give up that daily can of Coke from the vending machine. Eat out less.
$5 here and there adds up very quickly - we all know this, but deny it when it suits our moods. Don't indulge yourself in that line of thinking anymore and your spouse will see you as a more responsible person and be secure that training hasn't turned you into some neanderthal man that puts lifting metal, stones, and sand on a pedestal higher than the love of his or her life.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Right now, I can't really push the weights, so I dug out some grip tools that I hadn't used in a while. If you've never been bitten by the "grip training bug", then you don't know what you're missing.

Ironmind has a number of specialized grip training tools and they're one of the oldest in the business of "fringe" strength training (which isn't so "fringe" anymore by the way). The Captains of Crush grippers are a lot of fun and I bought a "trainer" and "No. 1" about 10 years ago. Like a lot of people, I was crazy about them for a short stint and overdid them to the point of developing minor tendinitis - I'm not recommending that approach.

One of the lectures that sticks out from the RKC Certification was Brett Jones and Mark Reifkind talking about the hips and grip being "neural potentiators" - which is absolutely correct. My father always used to (and still does from time to time) mention how the Russians did studies measuring grip strength and found strong correlations between a lifter's measured grip strength prior to an Olympic lift attempt and their success or failure. The grip, is at the end of the strength chain - if you can't hold on, it won't matter how strong your core is.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Scott Adams on Steroid Marketing

Steroid Commercial

I just heard that sprinter Justin Gatlin, the world record holder for 100 meters, tested positive for testosterone and steroids. I was shocked!
My first thought went to the second-fastest man in the world. I have this image of him being so happy when he heard the news that he leaped for joy with his mighty legs, penetrated the ceiling, continued on through the attic and roof, and landed in an nearby pond, where he downed...
How happy are the guys who sell illegal steroids? You can't buy that kind of advertisement. And it sure makes it harder for the just-say-no people. "Kids, don't do steroids. If you do, you might become the fastest man in the world and have so much poontang and money that... I forgot my point."
Just once maybe there should be a story about an athlete who did steroids and didn't set a world record, and didn't hump his way through the entire Victoria Secrets model list. Otherwise you have what I call a mixed message.
Have you ever seen one of the bodybuilding competitions where all the contestants are "natural", meaning they tested negative for drugs? The winner still looks like he could lift a car, and that's impressive. But the winner of the nonnatural competition looks like he could crush the car into a small ball, eat it, and poop it five miles into the center of a mountain. There's a difference.
As I understand it, the side effects of steroids include pimples, shrunken nuggets, and the occasional rage. Are you telling me that science can't fix those things? Just give me some Retin-A, nutsack implants, and Prozac and I'm good to go. I think it would be worth it if I could pull a grown tree out of the ground with my bare hands. Then, at holiday gatherings, when the life-of-the-party guy starts playing the piano. I could upstage him by lifting the house off its foundation and shaking all the furniture to one side until his stupid piano falls out a side door and into the pool.

- Scott Adams (Stick To Drawing Comics, Monkey Brain!)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Wrist Pain When Squatting

I frequently come across people who have wrist and shoulder pain when squatting. This is a red flag because, if the bar is racked across the back properly and securely, there should be minimal pressure on the wrists. In some cases, it is a flexibility issue and with practice and some additional stretching, it can be remedied. In most cases, however, the cause is either poor bar positioning, and/or a poor bar.

With a high bar position, the bar is actually resting along the superior angle of the scapula. It should not be resting on the neck.


With a low bar position, the bar is resting further down on the scapula and on your rear delts. The position will necessitate more forward lean, but, as with a high-bar position, the weight should NOT need to be supported by your hands.


Frozen sleeves (the part of the barbell where plates rest) that don't rotate freely are a sure way to sore wrists and shoulders. Make sure that the bearings are well maintained and oiled.

Bent bars can be a shoulder and wrist wrecker. "Sighting" the bar is an easy way to see if the bar is bent. Fix your eyes on a stationary reference point while rotating the bar and check to see if the bar's position relative to the object changes. If so, unfortunately, it's time to find a better bar.

For further reference, see Squat Rx #4: Bar Placement & Squat Depth

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Just As Soon As...

"Just as soon as I catch up with my work, then I'll relax," we say. Then I'll be there for you. Then I'll make it up to you. Then I'll show you how much I love you. Another time, another place, a different environment, a better situation, a more golden opportunity. Just as soon as...
Years ago, I lost a part of my extended family in an airline crash. When search teams found the five bodies in the wreckage, the two parents had their arms around the three little ones. The passengers who had survived the crash must have quickly realized that the smoke and flames sweeping through the aircraft gave them no chance to survive. Trapped, the parents held the little ones until the end. "Just as soon as..." got taken away.

- Robert K. Cooper (The Other 90%)

My family and I had an auto accident this weekend. While driving, I lost control of the car on black ice, flipping the car going 60 mph, the car landing in the ditch on the passenger side, my wife, son, and myself getting out of the car about 2 minutes before it burst into flames... Thankfully, and miraculously, my son was unharmed and my wife and I got by with bumps and bruises. In the moments before the crash, I had three, virtually simultaneous, thoughts; "Oh S***!", "This car is going to flip", and "I'm sorry I couldn't protect you". l almost had my "Just as soon as..." taken away.

Since writing two articles for Dan John's Get Up! newsletter, I've taken a few questions here and there on training time-management tips for new and expecting fathers. I've trained twice since the accident, but I think it's worth reminding ourselves that " the gym and out, it’s ALL quality time". Find time for your training, yes, and always remember what is most important and the legacy you want to leave after your "Just as soon as..." is taken away.

Monday, January 5, 2009

A Classic SNL Skit

The "All-Drug Olympics":

Thursday, January 1, 2009



What are your resolutions, goals, and wishes for 2009?