Results tagged “posture”

Was chatting with a friend over the weekend about these 'posture warning' devices (this one's the 'Upright Go' - more here). Love the idea of constant monitoring - would be great if it were possible to export that data.

Curious : has anyone here tried anything similar, and do you find yourself straightening your back even when not wearing the device?


NB : We first looked at this one in the weekly Strength & Fitness Newsletter (part of the Strength Kit). If you'd like to have it sent to you automatically (free!) each week, just add your email here.

We also discuss a number of training-related books. If you're looking for the full list of the ones I recommend personally, swing by Goodreads. Great site.



Remember the iPosture? The Poze is a similar idea (which is definitely a good thing). I'll let the video explain :



Sounds great - the Poze



NB : We first looked at this one in the weekly Strength & Fitness Newsletter (part of the Strength Kit). If you'd like to have it sent to you automatically (free!) each week, just add your email here.

We also discuss a number of training-related books. If you're looking for the full list of the ones I recommend personally, swing by Goodreads. Great site.


I'm currently checking out the 'Forward Head Posture FIX' program, which aims to tackle the areas that the name suggests - the slightly slouched posture commonly seen in office buildings. If you've ever been told to 'stand up straight', you know what I mean.

The program takes the form of downloadable (or physical, if you prefer) videos and books; outlining a series of exercises and movements which address the posture issue. For a full rundown of everything being offered, swing by the main site :

http://forwardheadposturefix.com

Looks great.



NB : We first looked at this one in the weekly Strength & Fitness Newsletter (part of the Strength Kit). If you'd like to have it sent to you automatically (free!) each week, just add your email here.

And if you're looking for the full list of the training-related books I recommend, check out the complete lists on Goodreads.



During the past week we've discussed a number of great links; on Google+, Twitter, the Daily 'Paper' and so on. Here are a few of my favourites.

Looking At : Oct 5, 2014 - SttB Articles


During the past week we've discussed a number of great links; on Google+, Twitter, the Daily 'Paper' and so on. Here are a few of my favourites.
Binoculars at Echo Point
Echo Point, Blue Mountains.

During the past week we've discussed a number of great links; on Google+, Twitter, the Forums and so on. Here are a few of my favourites.
Binoculars at Echo Point
Echo Point, Blue Mountains.

During the past week we've discussed a number of great links; on Google+, Twitter, the Forums and so on. Here are a few of my favourites.

stretching-for-bodybuilding-206x300.jpgI recently visited the chiropractor's office because I had lower back pain, which I thought was brought on from sitting in my office chair 8 hours a day. Well, after the chiropractor analysed what was wrong she noticed my hips were slightly misaligned, she said it could be due to a tight muscle, which was probably in my legs, boy was she right!


She said the most common area for tightness is the hamstrings, so she started stretching and massaging mine. She started with the left hamstring, which was fine, then moved to the right, at that point I almost jumped from the mat. It was so painful and she informed me it was very tight, when she asked do you stretch I said yes, of course.

What I didn't realise is that I don't stretch enough, so I decided to create this post to help others understand the importance of stretching.

Over the past week or so I have gotten into a groove of watching youtube videos of strength and conditioning coaches training their athletes. One thing that has come to my attention is that in this day and age of training with all the "innovative training" and "functional training" methods out on the market today, it has really taken away from the fundamental development of athletes. What I mean by this is that trainers have outfitted their gyms with all these new training tools/fancy toys that supposedly give them an advantage over the competitors.

However, I see these tools becoming the standard to training which is extremely concerning for me considering that the use of these tools takes away from building a solid foundation of movement and strength.

If you are unsure about what I am writing about I will give you an example; the use of sleds, parachutes and other resistance running or even accelerated running tools on the market today should NOT be used on athletes that still need to learn how to run! You do not need anything but space to teach an athlete how to run properly, and even run an effective training session that will have excellent results. The truth is, only a very small percentage of people become 'experts' in movement (running, lateral movement, etc) and until someone becomes an expert the growth, development, and improvement of an athlete's running mechanics can and will improve immensely with just the training without the use of any tools.

Nike SPARQ eyeReact Ball
Nike SPARQ eyeReact Ball.
There are several reaction balls on the market today that all do the same thing, however, I have chosen the most commonly known one for the analysis.
Nike SPARQ eyeReact Ball claims
"Designed to improve your hand-eye coordination, reaction time, depth perception and first-step acceleration, the Nike SPARQ eyeReact Ball is a performance-enhancing super-tool that will benefit athletes of all sports." (Nike Store, n.d.)

The SPARQ eyeReact Ball is a tool used to help athletes improve their ability to detect an unpredictable stimulus due to the ball's unknown bounce pattern, and react to it in an organized and efficient movement pattern. This develops what we call "Human Information Processing". First the person is exposed to a stimulus, in this case the SPARQ eye React Ball, then the individual proceeds to Response Selection where translation occurs. The person chooses how to respond to the stimuli, in this case depending on where the ball bounces the person makes a choice to step in that direction, possibly with a specific foot leading, and reaching with a specific hand, while maintaining a low athletic posture. After the response selection has been identified the next step is Response Programming where the central nervous system organizes an appropriate response and begins the movement. The purpose of using this SPARQ eyeReact Ball is to successfully develop an appropriate, and time efficient; stimulus identification, response selection, and response programming. This is called Reaction Time.

The type of reaction time used while training with the SPARQ eyeReact Ball is called Choice Reaction Time. Choice Reaction Time is very receptive to improvements if practiced. This makes the use of this training tool effective in aiding athletes in their training. The use of this tool in the development of Human Information Processing as mentioned earlier supports Nike's claims of improving reaction time and first step acceleration.

However, Nike's claim to improve depth perception is not entirely valid. As stated in the journal article Training Perceptual Skill by Orienting Visual Attention (Hagemann, N., Strauss, B., & Cañal-Bruland, R., 2006). The benefits of training programs that claim to improve general abilities such as depth perception, visual acuity, and peripheral vision lack empirical confirmation and the benefits of such programs are doubtful. In fact in a comparison between novice and expert athletes it was found that there was little to no difference in those general skills listed above. The major contributing factor to experts performing better was in their ability to better anticipate and react to given stimuli (Hagemann, N et al., 2006). Hand-eye coordination and depth perception are not actually motor skills, but hand-eye coordination can improve from improved Human Information Processing (Aparo, L. ,n.d.).

Hand-eye coordination is a task that requires accurate judgement of timing based on what the person interprets from the visual stimulus and translates that to an appropriately timed response. For example: a football player reaching out to catch a football moving at a very fast velocity with proper placement of his hands to successfully catch the ball. Improving choice reaction time allows the player to see the football (stimulus identification), select when to reach out for the ball and how to place his hands (response selection) and have the central nervous system organize the information and begin the action (response programming). Hand-eye coordination first starts by the detection of the stimulus. As mentioned already visual acuity cannot be improved however, effective anticipation can drastically reduce the time it takes to process the stimulus and give the athlete more time to be accurate with hand-eye coordination. Spatial anticipation can be improved through practice and when used effectively makes a big difference in both hand-eye coordination and information processing. (Bredin, D. S., 2011)

Therefore it can be concluded that the Nike SPARQ eyeReact Ball can effectively improve Human Information Processing, which results in improved choice reaction time. Developing a fast choice reaction time directly supports Nike's claims to improving first step acceleration and hand-eye coordination based on a faster response to the stimulus. However, the claim to improve depth perception is not directly benefited through the use of this training tool.

Bibliography

Aparo, L. (n.d.). Influence of Sport Stacking on hand-eye. soeedstacks.com. Retrieved October 5, 2011, from http://www.speedstacks.com/groups/benefits/thesis_luca_aparo.pdf

Bredin, D. S. (Director) (2011, September 20). Information Processing Parts 1 & 2. Class Lecture. Lecture conducted from Dr. Shannon Bredin, Vancouver

Bredin, D. S. (Director) (2011, September 29).Information Processing Expert vs Novice. Class Lecture. Lecture conducted from Dr. Shannon Bredin, Vancouver

Hagemann, N., Strauss, B., & Cañal-Bruland, R. (2006). Training Perceptual Skill by Orienting Visual Attention. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 28, 143-158.

NikeStore. (n.d.). NikeStore. Shop the Official Nike Store for Shoes, Clothing & Gear. Retrieved October 3, 2011, from http://store.nike.com/us/en_us/?l=shop,pdp,ctr-inline/cid-1/pid-304449/pgid-304449#l=shop,pdp,ctr-inline/cid-1/pid-304449/pgid-304449

I've never heard a Powerlifter speak about how they were going to hit barbell training for their workout that day. At the same time I've never heard an Olympic lifter talk about their success in barbell lifting. While both use barbells the emphasis is not on the barbell rather how and why they lift them in the context of optimizing their training.
Novel idea, but we should have that thought process with all training tools we utilize in our training programs. When I first began using sandbags I made the mistake most people make. I used sandbags primarily because they were awkward and difficult to lift. I really didn't think why or how what I was doing was really impacting my overall training other than I might be hitting stabilizers or strengthening my core.

In the last seven years of using sandbags I have found they can be one of the most powerful training tools in increasing performance, mobility, strength, and conditioning. The trick is you have to understand why and how you use them to maximize their benefits. Creating a systemized approach changed the way I saw "sandbag lifting" and just as Powerlifting, Bodybuilding, and Olympic Lifting have definitive methods and techniques I believe sandbag training deserves the same : more accurately it'd be getting away from "sandbag lifting". Let's change what the implement is and focus more on what we are trying to achieve; thinking in terms of Dynamic Variable Resistance Training (DVRT) helps us get started.

Rule 1: How you hold the sandbag means EVERYTHING!

Watching most programs and videos of people lifting sandbags, I know they have never given thought to the impact holding the sandbag has on the exercise or performance of the movement. However, determining how you hold the sandbag dictates everything in regards to what you wish to accomplish by performing the movement.

The barbell has four standard positions (possibly 5 for some of the odd lifts), kettlebells are similar, but sandbag training in the DVRT system has NINE! This means we can manipulate how the body perceives a weight, stability, and challenge both at once if we want.

Looking at the first three positions in sandbag training (Bear Hug, Zercher, Shoulder) they are significantly different upon their use and effects. The Bear Hug position aligns the weight with the lifter's center of gravity making it the easiest position to add load upon. The Bear Hug position can also be seen as the basis for teaching correct movement patterns as the weight of the sandbag will act as a counterbalance allowing for a more upright position and deeper squat position. This equals less unnecessary stress upon the low back and the deeper squat position allows for maximizing glute and hamstring activation while opening up the hips as well. All of a sudden what appears to be a simple exercise can be a foundational lift of any program.

The Bear Hug Squat :

Because sandbag training does not lend itself to incremental loading we first change the holding position of the sandbag and then change body position. Moving from Bear Hug to Zercher changes the center of gravity and creates more stress upon the trunk and upper back; providing what can be perceived as a larger load even if the actual weight of the sandbag has not been altered. Looking more deeply at the movement we see that the Zercher Squat in sandbag training not only is more difficult but becomes a powerful trunk anti-flexion exercise. You can see the similarity of the Zercher position and the common plank exercise, except now we are adding motion to the plank!

The third sandbag training holding position is Shoulder. Unfortunately, this is the very place that most people begin! If the Zercher position is related to the front plank Shouldering is closely related to side plank. The stress of large frontal plane loads make the Shoulder position the most challenging to move while maintaining correct posture alignment. The Shoulder position in our DVRT system is known as one of the most difficult asymmetrical loading postures. Experts agree that asymmetrical loading is one of the most important "unused" aspects in training.

"The longer I'm in this industry and the more people I train, the more emphasis I seem to place on asymmetrical loading. For decades, we worked to get people off machines and into doing more free weights because of the stability benefits they afford."
- Eric Cressey

Like many misunderstood aspects of sandbag training, the value of sandbag shouldering in providing asymmetrical loading is very undervalued; especially with the load being applied directly on the body, causing more of the smaller stablizers of the spine and trunk to be active then more common variations of holding a weight to the side of the body. If we understand the role of these patterns then we can also create proper progressions and regressions so we can see continual progress in the training.

The Shouldering position is also ideal because we can use it as an assessment for core and pelvic stability. As one performs a more stable lift (eg. Shoulder Squat) we can watch for movement of the hip and body towards one side or the other during the exercise. This tells us a compensation pattern and inability to stabilize by the lifter is causing such negative movement. We know as coaches now about how to then regress the lifter so we can fix those instabilities and make them a better athlete, lifter, or flat out just healthier.

Asymmetrical sandbag loading :

Rule #2: Role of Body Position

Understanding the role of body position while performing sandbag training is vital in increasing performance. Because sandbags never will (and shouldn't) come close to the loads of a barbell we can make lighter weights feel heavier by changing body position. This accomplishes several goals.

Because sandbag training does not lend itself to incremental loading, we can alter body position to make a lighter weight feel heavier as a form of progressive training of heavier sandbag loads. Sandbag Training should be more about maintaining posture under unstable loads and unstable positions. This ensures more strengthening of the more commonly missed stabilizers and patterns. The result? Such training can enhance strength and stability in the more common gym lifts, but the reverse isn't true!

We can more accurately identify weak links because in these more unstable environments we see true movement skills.

Such training involves progressively moving to more single leg stances. Not just doing single leg exercise in their normal setting, but trying to produce power and resist load and movement in these positions.

Hi, my name is Jedd Johnson, and I bend steel with my hands.

That's right, I take steel bars, wrap them in suede to prevent a cut to my hands, and bend them into a U-shape.

"Why the hell would he want to do that?" you might ask...

I'll tell you straight up...

Because it makes me feel like a friggin' animal.

It makes me feel like I am a 800lb rainforest gorilla that can destroy anything put in front of me.

And I like that feeling...

Maybe that description is too wild, and you can't identify with it, so let me describe it a little differently...

A PR Bend is like adding 50 lbs to your deadlift, and holding it there while you scream before dropping it back to the platform like a bomb from an airplane.

Completing a bend you never were able to do before is like hitting 100 snatches in 5 minutes for the first time ever, and letting out a warrior cry because it took so much hard work and determination to get there.

Much like the landmark feats described above, I love taking a perfectly good nail or bolt and making it completely useless.

Some people think this is ignorant, but they don't realize that BENDING IS THE PERFECT COMPLEMENT to movements such as the kettlebell snatch and the deadlift...

Now, you're probably thinking: What!?!? How in the world could bending steel complement my snatch and deadlift work?

The answer is the principle of Antagonistic Balance.

"Antagonistic" means opposite, against, contra-indicative.

Think of a Broadway Play. The agonist is the main character and the antagonist is the character that plays opposite him or her. Many times these two are enemies, or their views are somehow contra-indicative of one another - they are opposites; they disagree.

So what is Antagonistic Balance, then?

Well, your body works the best, improves its performance, and is at its healthiest when the antagonistic muscle groups in the joints and opposing sides of the body are within a reasonable balance.

Think of the shoulder. If you do too much bench pressing and not enough rowing, pull-ups, retractions and other opposite movement patterns, you can really do harm to your shoulders, messing up the posture, pinching off nerves, and thus ruining progress on the bench.

You've heard of this before probably a hundred times and you are well aware of it in your training, right?

And you know, if you do too much pushing and not enough pulling, you could be setting yourself up for a serious fall down the line.

Now, where does this come into play with respect to the relationship between steel bending, the kettlebell snatch and the powerlifting deadlift...?

To fully understand this, let's look at the movement patterns of these movements individually.

KETTLEBELL SNATCH

The Kettlebell Snatch is marked by Extension throughout the body.

The athlete starts in a flexed position with the knees, and hips bent. The bell is swung back through the legs, loading the hamstrings.


The momentum of the bell is reversed with controlled violence and then extension begins throughout the body. The hips and knees extend to give momentum to the bell. The spine is lengthened.


And finally, the arm punches itself into a straight, extended position.


DEADLIFT

The Deadlift is very similar.

The lifter starts out in a crouching position, grasping the bar as it sits on the floor.


From there, the lifter pulls the weight up along the body, extending the knees and the hips.


Once the bar is pulled to its highest point, the lifter further extends himself, pulling the shoulders back into a position of pride.


COMMON THREADS

Upon analyzing both of these movements, the action that is repeated time and again is extension: extension in the knees, hips, shoulders and arms.

So, what is the natural antagonistic balancing action for the movement pattern of Extension?

There has to be some kind of contra-indicative movement pattern that essentially will negate these two big lifts, right?

The answer is Flexion.

To repeat, we are looking for an antagonistic, or opposite movement pattern, and we already said that KB work and Deadlifts involve a lot of force into extension, so the natural antagonistic movement pattern would be flexion.

BUT WAIT - I thought that, just like the ghost busters crossing the streams, having your "body in flexion" was bad!?!?

Sure, sitting at your desk all day in flexion is BAD. It can have a huge toll on your body over the years, so let's try to avoid that...

How about Crunches?

SCREW THAT! BORING!!!

There has to be some other exhilarating strength training practice that involves flexion, while also requiring the same level of dedication, the same level of discipline, and the same level of technical precision in order to succeed that the Kettlebell Snatch and the Deadlift require. But what is it???

The answer - STEEL BENDING.

Don't believe me? Let's look at steel bending, now, and the movement patterns involved.

The Pistol Squat - SttB Articles

Al demonstrating the Pistol Squat.
The first time I ever tried to do a pistol squat, I remember thinking it seemed impossible - my leg quivered, my abs hurt, even the other leg hurt just trying to keep it in the air! There were a lot of reasons why I couldn't do it right away, but regardless of the fact that my legs were too weak and my core stabilization was sub-par, the bigger problem was that I lacked the proper neurological capabilities. I know I might be starting to lose you there, but stay with me.
You probably don't remember what it was like when you were first learning how to walk, but I'm sure that at some point you've watched a baby try to. They really have to concentrate and even then they always wobble and fall down a lot in the beginning. This was like me trying to do that first one legged squat. This is how you'll probably feel the first time that you try it too. However, just like that baby who eventually learns to walk, if you keep at it, one day you will able to do a one legged squat relatively easily.

The reason for this, as I mentioned earlier, is as much about your brain as it is about your body. Whenever you try to get your body to do something that it isn't used to doing it has to build a new neurological pathway to make it happen. Your brain has never had to send that specific message to your muscle before so it must blaze a new trail in order to arrive there. It is also psychological in the sense that you might be a bit intimidated by the exercise itself. If this is the case, hopefully you can avoid falling into the "I can't" trap. Don't defeat yourself before you've even tried - when you believe, you can achieve!

However, before you start working on learning the pistol squat, there are a few prerequisites that you ought to have out of the way to ensure a solid foundation. You should be able to perform a proper two legged squat with resistance that is equal to your body weight (ladies this goes for you too!), or if you aren't into going for one rep maxes, you should be comfortable squatting at least 65% of your body weight for multiple reps.

Additionally, maintaining good posture, keeping your knee (on the squatting leg) from tracking forward in front of your toes, and achieving parallel depth are all essential components of any safe, effective squat - regardless of if you're using one or both legs.

Now that we've gotten that taken care of, there are a few ways to approach training your body to do a one-legger. One method is to start from the bottom up. While sitting down on a bench, lift one foot off the ground. Lean forward and use the heel of your other foot to push into the floor while squeezing your abs tight, puffing your chest out, and reaching your arms out in front. Once you get to the top, try to lower yourself slowly and repeat. You will likely lose control during the lowering phase and wind up plopping down onto the bench at the bottom. That's fine for now. In time your control will improve to the point where you no longer need to sit on the bench.

Another method to employ while practicing towards doing a one legged squat is to practice from the top down. Stand on a bench, a bit off to the side with one foot hanging off the edge. Squat down so that one leg drops below the level of the bench. Make sure you stick out your hips and butt, and lean forward a bit - otherwise your balance will be off. If you are having a hard time balancing with this, hold onto something to guide you. A resistance-band that is securely in place or a cable machine balanced with a full weight stack are great options. A broom handle works well too if you are doing these at home. If you have a training partner, have them assist you by either holding your hand or standing right by you so that you can grab them if you lose your balance. This is an exercise that I will literally hold my client's hand through the first time they try it!

Results! That is the one thing that all of us care about, whether as a coach, athlete, or fitness enthusiast. This is a large reason that so many people have turned away from the supposed "high-tech" training tools and have sought out some of the time tested training that the strongest humans in the world used. This has given rise to grip training, stones, logs, kettlebells, extreme bodyweight training, and most recently sandbag training.
As a strength coach for the past fifteen years I have found myself in a similar position as many who want to find the fastest ways to strength. This led me down the road of examining many different training methods, and one that has always intrigued me was sandbags.

For years sandbags were used by athletic programs that simply could not afford to supply large amounts of athletes with strength training tools. Tell an athlete they have to lift a sandbag and they already know it is going to be more difficult than a bar or dumbbell, their heads sink as they know they are just flat out hard! Yet, even if something is difficult, it doesn't automatically make it beneficial.

I found it intriguing that sandbags had no definitive system of training. It appears that EVERYTHING from medicine balls, body weight, to kettlebells have a system of training. Having a system is important in developing meaning behind training and exercises, without it things remain random and training is stagnant and without purpose.

Why sandbags? Having competed in team sports for over a decade, and iron sports such as Strongman and Olympic lifting, I found sandbags provided some unique benefits for all types of athletes.

The Bridge into Strongman

Having lifted stones, logs, and lots of odd implements, sandbags still remain one of the most challenging implements to train with because of the constantly shifting load that makes sandbags so difficult. I first used sandbags when access to standard Strongman tools were impossible. It just seemed obvious that sandbags hit the body in a different way than your standard weight room tools, it was as though sandbags hit all our weak links. Then when I actually got to train with Strongman tools and events, nothing compared with the challenge that lifting heavy sandbags provided on the back, hips, arms, legs, and abs...YES, truly the whole body! There seemed to be something there that could be more applicable to people beyond Strongman, but what was it?

Strongman is known for lifting odd objects, but the angles and movements that could be created even go beyond the standard Strongman protocols. One of my greatest disappointments with the renewed excitement of sandbag training is the lack of innovation people are using in their training.

Olympic Lifting Excuses

Hang around strength coaches long enough and you will undoubtedly get into the "should or should not" Olympic lift argument. For those that are typically in the "do not" camp, it is the fact that Olympic lifting is a very specific sport and technique is challenging to pick up. Some coaches are fearful they will spend more time teaching technique than receive the benefit of Olympic lifting.

Sandbags remove that concern as cleaning, jerking, and other Olympic "style" lifts can be performed quite easily so more time is spent training than practicing. Some may argue that kettlebells do the same, however, kettlebells are different as they typically don't hold true to the triple extension that occurs in Olympic lifting which is what makes it such a powerful training tool for athletes. Sandbags do hold true to the triple extension and offer more variety in exercises that can be created that can replicate the unpredictable nature of sport itself. We now can not only perform the standard pulls and explosive exercises but perform them in rotation and other angles that happens in many sports!

I was recently fortunate to get my hands on a copy of 'Functional Correction'; a manual written by Tim Hull, a man who has worked in the Health and Fitness Industry for over 15 years. He has specialised in Personal Training, Massage Therapy and also Physical Therapy. This hands-on experience, combined with his understanding and theoretical knowledge, has resulted in a manual which I believe is not only an important resource for beginner to advanced level trainees, but also an invaluable resource for Trainers and Coaches alike.

Introduction

Sadly, in recent years, we have all become more sedentary, definitely at home and often in the workplace. This increasingly sedentary lifestyle has caused poor posture and movement patterns and has seen a gradual decline in strength and flexibility levels in individuals. This leads to a higher risk of injuries which negatively affect performance and quality of life. But it doesn't have to be this way!

If you want to prevent future injuries, recover faster from an ongoing injury, or simply improve your general function and performance, then you MUST read this manual! I've had a chronic history of both lower back and neck pain and I wish I'd known about these corrective techniques earlier! I have tried these exercises and I like them. They have been beneficial for me and I will continue to incorporate them into my daily routine.

The Muscle of the Manual

I'll call the main body of this book the 'Muscle' of the Manual. It's meaty. By that, I mean it contains a great deal of volume and is strong in both explanations and instructions. This Manual explores in depth, some of the reasons why we are more prone to injury. It discusses a common cause of injury; muscle imbalances.

You'll learn about particular groups of muscles which tend to be excessively strong or weak. You'll learn about areas which are often overlooked, yet which are important to address. You'll also be supplied with the fantastic '7 Daily Essentials', exercises which hit the majority of problem areas and help promote a more mobile and healthy body. This section in particular, is one you do not want to miss!

Through comprehensive explanations and photographs, you'll also learn the difference between Mobility and Flexibility Exercises and when the right time is to use each one. And by reading this manual, you'll also learn ways to activate weak muscles, loosen tight muscles and eventually correct problem areas.

The Manual continues on to discuss the aspects and importance of Recovery. Nutrition, various stretching methods and Self Myofascial Release techniques are all covered. By utilising these specific exercises, techniques and new found knowledge, you can then eliminate or reduce pain and work towards building a healthier, more functional body!

Training

The plan is to choose a few exercises to incorporate which are relevant to your current physical condition and abilities. As you become more proficient at these, you may choose to advance to some more difficult exercises.

You don't need to go out and spend lots of money to do these exercises. In fact, for most of the exercises, you don't need anything but yourself and some dedication. If you fancy some exercises which require equipment, they're not complicated pieces of equipment, they're all simple accessories and are easy to find or order.

Final Thoughts

The mobility and flexibility aspect of training is often neglected. Put your new found knowledge into practice! Incorporate these exercises every day and find time for them in your training program and you might just be surprised at the positive impact they'll have on your strength and your overall performance.

This manual is best used in conjunction with the Author's featured YouTube Channels, which offer Exercise demonstrations. The reader will also be provided with a free initial email consultation to help set-up an individualised program and answer any questions they may have about the Manual.

We all want to feel relaxed, move more freely, improve our performance and avoid injuries. If you think you're at your peak without reading this manual, it may be time to think again!

This is an invaluable resource and is certainly worth a read.

Review : Vibram FiveFingers - SttB Articles

I absolutely love these.

When it comes to footwear for training, the Vibram FiveFingers are ideal. Not only are they flat (and the absence of a heel will have an immediate impact by itself), they encourage your feet to really engage themselves in the running, lifting and climbing.

It really is like a controlled barefoot training session.


Once your feet become used to them (and this could take hours, days or weeks depending on your current footwear), there are several long-term benefits. Improved posture, balance and so on. It really does get better and better.

Where To Get Them

This is one type of footwear that I'm entirely happy buying online. The sizing depends on the length of the foot (details here), and is flexible enough to cope with minor variations from person to person.

In Australia, they're available from :

Professional Whey

NB : this is where I bought mine, and the service is superb. Overnight delivery; no problems at all.

In the US, swing by the main Vibram Five Fingers site. I've also received good feedback on stores like Kayak, and of course, Amazon.

Outside these countries, your best bet is either a local shoe store, or a major online retailer (such as Amazon, or the main Vibram site). Whatever your experiences, I'd love to hear them.

Frank and John
Band Suspended Weight.
You may have heard of the "Crazy Bell" bench press exercise made popular by Louie Simmons of Westside-Barbell with the use of a bamboo bar. Instead of having the weight slide onto the barbell like a typical bench press exercise, the weight is suspended by bands; this suspended weight bench press method is excellent for training stability in the upper body and shoulders. The weight bounces creating pull in different parts of the motion making for a very challenging exercise. The bamboo bar has a higher modulus of elasticity than the standard Olympic bar, meaning it has a greater flex to it, which causes the bar to be more challenging to stabilize through the range of motion required for the exercise.
Now that you understand what the "Crazy Bell" bench press is and how it works, I would like to introduce you to a range of exercises for the lower body that this same method can be applied to. There is no reason that this excellent stability method cannot be transferred to the lower body as long as it is done properly with safe technique. As you can see pictured below, this method does not require expensive kettle bells or fancy bamboo bars; it can be performed with standard plates and barbells. 


Intermediate Lifts

I have intermediate athletes perform both the Zercher Squat and Zercher Good Morning from pins or a "racked position" to give them stability at the bottom of the lift. It may be difficult for an intermediate athlete to perform these lifts safely with the band suspended weight through the full range of motion without putting their knees and/or back at risk of injury, as an intermediate athlete may not be able to maintain proper technique though the full range of motion.

Zercher Squat from pins


Zercher
Zercher Squat from pins.
This exercise is excellent for building core strength in an athlete. I found that performing this exercise forced me to engage my core more than I normally would have when I rigged up the weight using red bands and 35-pound plates, which provided minimal bounce. I used this exercise on my dynamic lower body day for three sets of ten. I also feel it would make a good supplemental exercise during a max effort lower body workout, to focus on the core and to give the legs a little extra work after performing a max effort lift. I experienced the effects of the exercise immediately after I racked the bar and felt swelling throughout my entire core. The next day I felt minimal soreness in my legs, however, I definitely felt the benefit in my core. This is an excellent supplemental exercise for core training on a leg day.

Zercher Good Morning from Pins


Zercher
Zercher Good Morning from Pins
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I had similar results to the Zercher Squat from pins with this exercise. The weight I used did not have an overwhelming amount of bounce to it - 35-pound plates with red bands. However, it did create enough instability to engage my core more than without the band suspended weight. I performed the exercise for three sets of ten as a supplemental exercise for my core and posterior chain on my dynamic leg day.
Overhead Split Squat
Overhead Split Squat
Some of the athletes I work with are fairly new to organized training. Many of them come in with bad or no habits. One of the primary issues they have is body positioning during leg training. The kids love to lean forward at the bottom and/or jerk back out of the motion at the top (lunges, reverse lunges, step-ups, Bulgarian split squats, squats, etc). I can't blame them, they aren't used to fighting pressure when they first start lifting. Their bodies naturally take the path of least resistance (or what they mentally perceive as the least resistance).

Over the last few months, I have been incorporating overhead holds while performing these lifts. By holding the weight overhead, as opposed to at the sides or on the back, the lifting posture drastically improves out of necessity. In other words, if you lean forward or swing back while holding something overhead, you will drop it. That's what we call "self-correcting!" Of course you should spot the lifter to protect them from dropping it straight down, even though the imbalance usually causes them to dump it forward (although I've never had the weight come straight down, better safe than sorry!)

The easiest and safest object to hold overhead is a light sandbag. Just in case the athlete drops the bag, it is soft enough and light enough that it does not present a large safety concern. A medicine ball also works well for the aforementioned reasons.

Foam Roller
Rory Hickman using a Foam Roller.
I've always considered recovery to consist of eating and sleeping as much as possible. Warm-ups involve a couple of sets of band good mornings and pull-aparts, then onto the first set with either 135lbs or just the bar, depending on the lift. I'm young, basically injury-free and these approaches always seemed to work fine. Thousands of people before me have gotten plenty strong over the years without any inclination to try 'self-myofascial release' or being overly concerned about their 'thoracic mobility'. So why the hell did I buy a foam roller 5 weeks ago?

Well, for a long time eating and sleeping as much as possible served me well - I was gaining weight and getting stronger - so I saw no reason why I couldn't keep doing this for a long time. However, as the weights I was using continued to climb and after a 4 month long 'dirty' bulk I was much stronger and 35lbs heavier - great, but now my joints were starting to ache and I felt sore for much longer after workouts. I figured this was just due to the weight gain and that I'd adapt after a week or two of maintaining the same weight.

The two weeks passed - I was still sore, and my left hip was almost constantly aching. This was getting increasingly annoying and it got to the point where I needed to at least try something to help me recover. After lots of reading on the internet I began to notice that foam rollers were mentioned with a much greater frequency than I had noticed a couple of years ago, and it was rare to see an article or training log that didn't mention their use somewhere.

I first read about foam rolling in Eric Cressey and Mike Robertson's article "Feel Better for 10 Bucks" on T-Nation but, whilst very interesting, it really didn't seem relevant to me 4 years ago. I was 17 - how much "soft tissue adhesions and scar tissue" could I possibly have accumulated in that space of time that needed to be broken down? Maybe in a couple of decades it would be something to remember, but at the time I couldn't see the point. A few weeks ago, as I re-read the article and many others on the same subject, I could see that in theory it might be possible to address a number of issues.

iPosture - SttB Articles

Via Gizmag : the electronic equivalent of your teacher telling you to 'sit up straight'. The iPosture.
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