Thursday, July 29, 2010

Exercise Cues: Grip

...I don't think she needs my advice...

Last week - #2 specifically - I mentioned how certain exercise cues aren't really that obvious. On the bright side, this gives me more material for posts and a new label & series to create.

First in this installment is how to grip any implement you use. Whether it be a dumbbell, barbell, kettlebell, or small child, where it rests in your hand can change how the action is executed. Additionally, proper gripping minimizes callus formation.

Some of this is copied & pasted from the document I wrote here since it's a good description. I originally learned this through Mehdi over at StrongLifts.

Hand shows which way your moving the weight
in opposition to which way the weight wants to move.

That indeed is my hand. Now optimal position on the,
Left – Where to grab the bar in exercises which involve pulling the weight towards the body.
Right – Where to grab the bar, possibly lower, in exercises which involve pushing/pressing the weight away from the body.
Hand direction is shown when force is being exerted upon the bar. This is during the concentric portion of the lift. During this part, the bar will be going against the movement of your hand (shown by the 2 arrows coming out of the bar).

If you’re doing a pushing exercise, such as the bench press, but improperly grab the bar high in your hand, as seen on the left, the bar will move down while you perform the exercise. Gravity works like that. As a result, skin will get rubbed and folded upon itself while the bar slides down. It not only forms calluses, but is inconvenient and irritable while you perform a set. Lastly, this could contribute to your wrists bending backwards instead of remaining straight.

For pressing exercises, I put the bar in my hand as close to the bottom of it as possible. When your fingers close, that bottom part (the palm pretty much) actually creates a mini-platform/cushion for the bar to sit on.

For pulling exercises, I take my four fingers and create a sort of "hook" with my hand and fit the bar in that area. It gives me an idea of where the bar will be during a set. I may adjust a bit here and there, but for the most part it's accurate enough. All that's left to do is close your thumb around the bar.

One problem in positioning your grip is what does the exercise fall under, press or pull?
Presses: Typically work front shoulders, triceps, and/or pecs.
Pulls: More focus on the forearms, biceps, traps, and/or lats.
There are a few caveats to this. Farmer's walks work the forearms, however gravity is pulling the weight downwards so you would want to use a pulling grip (position near the fingers).

Also, this is hard to apply to lower-body exercises. Back squats and overhead squats fall under pressing while deadlifts, snatches, & cleans are more pulling.

Overall, this post is a thorough explanation on how you want to position your grip.

Next time: The excitement of scapular retraction! Stay tuned!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Because They're Just That Good

On the right side of this blog, if you click "View My Complete Profile" you will see a ton of other blogs I follow. Without clicking every single one and browsing for yourself, you really don't know what each is like.

Luckily for you, I can highlight a few that are of exceptional quality. I'll go over each one in alphabetical order as well as recommending a post or two and, if the description interests you, you can visit them to get a better idea of their blog.
Body Transformation by Carter Schoffer:
  • Carter is easily one of the best in the field of fitness and a personal favorite of mine. If you ever visited the Precision Nutrition forums and see his posts, you'd wholly agree. Likewise, his blog on BT is a nice change of pace from the typical popular thought on training and nutrition. I have yet to find another who writes as concise and well as him. He's always dead on.
ChAoS & PAIN by Jamie Lewis:
  • This guy is something else. He makes the guys over at T-Nation look like gentlemen. His writing is aggressive, crude, and obscene. You may get turned off right away. But judging anything on a superficial level is silly. After I took the time to read his posts, I could definitely see he knows a lot. His methods and philosophy are unconventional and give a fresh & new view on fitness compared to concepts already extensively - and repeatedly - discussed by others.
My Tree of Life (Just One Step at a time) by Harry Hollines:
  • I'm sure my blog resonates with the distaste I have for runners. There's nothing wrong with running, but those who take it up without proper knowledge of technique, footwear, and inadequate recovery & strength training make my brain want to explode. Enter Harry. A seasoned runner with a great deal of experience. He discusses runs, races, minimalist footwear, pacing, and anything related to running. I'm pretty sure Harry is every professional trainer's ideal runner. A well-balanced athlete listening to their body and refining it with every experience.
Nick Grantham by, well, Nick Grantham:
  • Nick hails from the UK and works with a wide array of athletes. Not only that, but he writes above and beyond the base information of fitness and shares his own knowledge from personal experience on working with athletes as well as being a trainer. His posts are unique, thorough, and are filled with invaluable material.
Precision Nutrition by the PN team
  • The wonderful folks at Precision Nutrition are consistently putting up articles on various fitness subjects and making studies understandable to anyone. They cover a lot. I enjoy their blog for the simple fact that they go out of their way to examine topics as thoroughly as possible. This truly helps any individual to be able to read it without being left confused.
Squat Rx by Boris Bachmann
  • First, if you're not familiar with his comprehensive Youtube series on squatting, go watch them here. Not only does Boris make bad ass "Skwat" t-shirts - which I'll be wearing proudly around school - but he writes in a style that is able to connect training and philosophy creating something marvelous. He's the only one from this group - from what I can tell - who also uses kettlebells.
6 quality blogs. I hope you all enjoy reading the authors' posts.

Maybe one day my own writing, after much fine tuning, will be as good as theirs.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

When Not to Exercise (Beside the Obvious)

Calm down Lou!

When should you not exercise? The answer seems pretty obvious and I'm sure you're thinking "If you're feeling ill or are injured."

Correct! But, should that be the only instance? I would have to say no.

I'd like to add another time you should forgo exercising and it isn't because of any physical debilitation.

What kind of mood are you in? Angry? Sad? Frantic? Negative feelings in general? Then either calm your mind or skip the workout and deal with the current state you're in.

How come? If you don't then you're bringing those emotions to your training session. And honestly, how attentive are we when a strong feeling is bothering us? Hardly at all. The emotion is too distracting and we're never quite at 100% capacity.

Likewise if a particular emotion is constantly experienced and brought to your workout, then you'll be associating it with your training sessions. It may be subtle, but it's there.

You don't want exercise to be a downer, but instead a good experience. Lift with a calm mind that's at peace.

Make exercise a positive part of your well-being.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Greatest Thing to Have

"I may not be clever, but I have a good heart.
That's what my mom use to say."

I was watching Futurama last night and Fry said that line at the end.

I have met many smart, brilliant, and clever people, but they don't impress me like the person with a genuinely good heart.

It is not marked by intelligence, but instead intention.

Have a good weekend everyone.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Going It Alone

I won't lie.
It's first.

If there's one thing people don't like it's being alone. Some activities are flat out awkward and cause anxiety. Examples such as going to the movies or restaurant alone are not imaginable by individuals.

But the most difficult journey of all is fitness. Embarking on it is scary, frightening, and full of unknowns. Admiration and support should be shown to people who take mindful consideration of their health.

However, how many times has a friend or family member negatively commented on that lifestyle? If there hasn't been a disheartening comment, was there a lack of support?

It isn't easy.

Stepping into the gym for the first time without a clue on what to do. You're so new and everyone around you seems to know what they're doing. (although the truth is a good majority don't)

What do you do?

Ignore it. Everything. Don't give a damn about what or whoever is around you.

Sounds harsh? Possibly, but does that matter? If they're not supportive, cut'em loose from that aspect of your life. You signed up to work hard, not tolerate other people.

Show them what true determination really is. Keep your fitness life yours and share it only with those who have a genuine interest in it.

Let yourself be a positive model and let your habits rub off on to those around you.

Exercise & food are an extension of your body and are intimately connected to it & your life.

No matter what comes your way,
don't ever give up.

"First, they ignore you, then they laugh at you,
then they fight you, then you win.
" - Gandhi

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Improving Training Sessions

Olympic lifter Shi Zhiyong.
Bad ass video of him here.

I was originally suppose to post Tuesday or Wednesday, but didn't get around to writing (wrote this Wednesday night actually). Sorry if anyone was expecting a post earlier in the week!

The title is pretty self-explanatory, but how do we go about improving our training sessions? I'll share a few ways I use to make workouts flow smoothly.

This is aside from all the proper progressions, programming, dynamic warm-ups, warm-up sets prior to work sets, and workout nutrition. Those are all straightforward - at least to me - and can be found through one's own research or consulting a professional/someone not an idiot.
1) Mindset: Calm

I picked up this from a training video of Olympic weightlifters (which I can't find). Although, the difference is they do it between sets of maximal lifts.
  • You're lifting today at noon. Ok good, but before you start your routine go lie down somewhere peaceful for 10-15 minutes. Relax your mind.
  • You don't need to close your eyes. Simply leave the hectic-causing aspects of your life away from exercise. Keep the stress outside the weight room and get mind & body in ready-mode to lift.
  • If it's nighttime or you're so tired you'll fall asleep as soon as you lie down, better skip it and just listen to a little music.

2) Recognizing: Anxiousness
  • Busy day? In a rush? Chances are your workout for the day will seem like a chore or time consumer more than anything else.
  • Lifting in a rush sucks. I prefer my summer sessions opposed to during the school year because I don't have to worry about being somewhere right after I'm done. Don't look at the time when you're working out. You want your attention in the weight room and not worrying about other matters. Exercise is stressful enough on the body as it is, don't add more to the fire.
  • If you have more important priorities then either skip working out altogether or cut down on rest times, reps, sets, or exercises.
3) Awareness: Execution
  • It's easy to make each exercise a mindless repetition of movements or to do it just for the sake of being done. The problem? We ignore producing clean crisp reps and instead get sloppy execution that reinforce poor movement patterns.
  • Ignore/ditch the music player and the mirror: They distract more than you think. Feel how your body is performing the exercise and if it hurts, is awkward, or can be improved upon. Make small adjustments to see how they change.
  • Having trouble targeting what needs to be worked on? Close your eyes. Now you've eliminated any visual distractions and can focus solely on how your body is moving.
There you have it. 3 tips to incorporate and improve your own training. If you try them out, let me know how it goes.

As for myself, excuse me. I'm going to go lay down.
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