5 KEYS TO IMPROVING YOUR BENCH


5 KEYS TO IMPROVING YOUR BENCH


 

Here are some cues that can help you improve your benchpress!

1) Wrists are in a neutral position stacked on top of the forearms. – common error = wrists back. Wrists back is a weaker position, it can also slow down the bar speed off of your chest because the position of the wrist can change to neutral when the weight isn’t entirely on the wrists in your bottom position.
.
(2) Shoulders are pulled back and down. This position is the safest position for your shoulders when benching.
- common error = refusing a lift off. Some people get into the perfect position but refuse a lift off from someone else. When you lift the bar off yourself you are forced to remove your shoulders from that locked, back and down position.
.
(3) Arch allows you to get into the safest shoulder position. It also creates an optimal position for leg drive. – Common errors = (a) thinking arching is cheating… don’t be that person, it’s a matter of safety, longevity in the sport and lifting the most weight. (b) Overarching – this is something only you can decide, there is no standard rule but if its comfortable to you, you’re not overarching, only arch less if you’re experiencing discomfort.
.
(4) Bar Path is UP and BACK. We want a slow, controlled descent where the bar lands on your nipple line. When you drive up the movement should be diagonal, up and back so your top position is wrists over elbows over shoulders.
.
(5) Leg drive starts the upward movement. IT ALL STARTS FROM THE FLOOR, remember that. Drive diagonally up and back with your legs and body. Use the momentum you create to drive that bar off of your chest as aggressively as possible. Bench is a whole body movement and that’s why it’s included in the sport of powerlifting.

 

Written by Coach Hayden Bowe

SHOULD YOU BE SQUATTING WITH LIFTING SHOES?

SHOULD YOU BE SQUATTING WITH LIFTING SHOES?

 

Here’s an easy test to find out. The goal is to determine (1) if you have mobility limitations and (2) where those limitations are coming from.

Part A – do a squat in bare feet. Stand so the side of your body is facing a mirror. Put your hands either out in front of you or cross your arms so your hands are touching opposite shoulders.

Perform a squat where hip-crease reaches just below parallel. If you can only reach below parallel by flexing your lower back i.e. a butt wink OR you can’t reach depth at all consider “Part A” = Failed.

Part B – Now perform the same test with a 3 inch platform under your heels. Again, buttwink or inability to reach depth = a failed test.

HOW TO EVALUATE YOUR RESULTS:

Fail + Fail = limited hip mobility. A lifting shoe will not provide immediate help.
Fail + Pass = limited ankle mobility. Weightlifting shoes will provide immediate help with your form. It doesn’t mean, neglect ankle mobility and just get lifting shoes, but it is a good indicator that an elevated heel will help.
Pass + Pass = do whatever feels best for you, you’re not limited by lower body mobility while trying to achieve depth.
Pass + Fail = should not occur.
Written by Coach @hayden.bowe

MY 5 TIPS ON OVERCOMING ANY INJURY


MY 5 TIPS ON OVERCOMING ANY INJURY


 

 

Trust me when I say, I’ve been there. I understand the frustration that comes with being injured and not being able to train to your full potential. Being a high level athlete and a physical therapist gives me a unique view, and has allowed me to come up with strategies to overcome injuries in a way that won’t only get you back in the game, but will get you there stronger than ever. So here are my five cents:

1. STOP DOING WHAT HURTS, NO PAIN= MORE GAINS: If you have pain when you squat/deadlift/snatch/press- don’t do that! Just as important as what you DO is what you DON’T DO. We hear this from healthcare professionals all the time, yet we almost always chose to ignore this simple advice. It doesn’t mean don’t do it forever, it just means avoid it for now.
2. TISSUE ADAPTATION TAKES TIME: Injury occurs when LOAD> TISSUE TOLERANCE. Between load and tolerance there’s a margin of safety. If you’re coming back from an injury, that margin of safety is smaller. You need to give your tissues time to adapt by progressively loading them so they are strong enough to withstand the load.
3. HABITUATION: Turn off the pain alarm. Whatever movement is causing you pain, expose yourself progressively to it. For example, if you have back pain when you bend forward, begin with OTHER movements that involve spine flexion like cat/cows, segmental flexion, sitting down in a chair with your head down. The second portion of this point is to begin loading under your CURRENT pain threshold, never above and increase volume and intensity slowly.
4. ISOMETRICS and high rep, low load: There is a big body of evidence that suggests that isometric contractions have an analgesic effect. Stuff like bird dogs, dead bugs, side planks, wall squats, etc. These exercises also increase muscular endurance, which improve stability. I’m talking about 8-10 reps 30-60second hold multiple times per day.
5. MOVEMENT CORRECTION: Sometimes it isn’t as clear cut as simply avoiding a movement. We can do that for a short period of time, but if that doesn’t take care of the issue we need to identify the biomechanical fault and target it with corrective exercises.

-By Dr. Stefanie Cohen, DPT

SQUAT STANCE IS SUBJECTIVE!

Body proportions can affect torso positioning in the squat, stance width and angling of the toes, this is why there is no “one size fits all squat”. Textbooks are great at teaching us proper technique, but what they don’t take into account is the role our anatomy can take in the way we move. Hopefully the images above and this explanation will help further clarify these points. Dr. Ryan DeBell of The Movement Fix (@themovementfix) wrote a great article discussing how hip anatomy changes squat mechanics and inspired me to make this follow up post.
Screen Shot 2018-05-21 at 3.22.33 AM_______________________________________________________
Besides mobility, anatomy differences can explain why some people can easily squat deeper than others, why some point their toes out and some don’t, why some have a harder time keeping their chest up, why some squat wide and some squat narrow. Anatomical differences will dictate form and comfort of the athlete. Pic 1- the orientation of the acetabulum (hip socket) varies greatly
Pic 2- the angle between the shaft and the ball is greater in one femur than the other
_______________________________________________________
Trying to force a movement pattern upon someone who’s anatomy isn’t conductive for it will lead to less than optimal movements . If the athlete is uncomfortable in their stance despite how much mobility work they do, take a step back and look at their anatomy. As long as their technique follows basic rules and they aren’t putting themselves in a compromised position, their form should be dictated by comfort rather than the textbook. Here we see the perfect example of two very different- yet very effective squatting techniques by @hulksmassh and @phdeadlift; depth is good, movements is coordinated and controlled, no major knee caving and spine remains neutral.

-By Dr. Stefanie Cohen, DPT

STRONG GLUTES, STRONG LOCKOUT

STRONG GLUTES, STRONG LOCKOUT

The lockout in the deadlift can become problematic to a lot of lifters. In this post I’ll explore some faults that may lead to issues in the lockout and recommend a few exercises that might help you with it. Struggling with lockout makes people think that what they need is to isolate this particular portion of the lift by practicing supra maximal rack pulls. While this is not a bad idea, it’s important to identify some other areas that may be contributing to this.

EARLY KNEE LOCKOUT puts the bar too far away from your center of gravity, in order to counter act the weight of a heavy deadlift you need to keep the bar as close to you as possible. Ideally you want to lock out the knees when the bar is at the mid thigh to ensure your leverage is optimal. STANCE WIDTH too narrow or too wide will result in suboptimal length tension relationship of the hip extensor muscles. Avoid RUSHING when the bar is at the hip because you’re desperate to lock out. If the bar made it all the way to the top of the thigh, squeeze your glutes, lean back and relax. Don’t rush.


Finally, weak hip extension or over-reliance on the back to complete the movement. As you know after the bar passes the knees its up to the glutes to complete the job. Above are my favorite exercises to build explosive hip extension strength that will undoubtedly lead to a strong lockout in the deadlift.

By: Dr. Stefanie Cohen, DPT

TRAINING TIP: BANDS and BAMBOO BARS- do they improve stability?

TRAINING TIP: BANDS and BAMBOO BARS- do they improve stability?

Our friends over at @evidencebasedmvmt did an amazing job at searching the literature to find out whether or not unstable loads alter bar path and muscle activation during the bench press. The belief that bands and unstable loads increase recruitment of stabilizer muscles is under scrutiny.

They found that studies conflict when pointing out exactly which muscles are increasingly activated, or if there is even an increase in EMG activity of smaller stabilizer muscles during this type of training. Ostrowsksi et al found that there is increased activation of the biceps and middle deltoid during unstable benchpress. Lawrence et al found there is increased activation of the rectus abdominis and external oblique during unstable load bar squat. However a study by Dunnick et al found NO difference in muscle activity between unstable and stable training. So, what are some other benefits if any?

In the context of iron sports, training with bands and bamboo bars may be a helpful way to teach athletes to improve body awareness and control in situations involving unstable loads, for example if the bar is misloaded, a plate falls, or you encounter a similar unpredictable event.

They point out that “it is also a fantastic exercise to train specifically for the demands of contact sports, since the athlete is having to control their body in the context of changing and unstable external forces (think of a lineman blocking, or a basketball player scoring through contact). This may lead to a decrease risk of injury!”

Dealing with The Crab Mentality While Dieting

Dealing with The Crab Mentality While Dieting

“You’re a health FREAK” “Ew, that look probably tastes disgusting” “You look miserable eating that” “You are so obsessive” “I can’t even enjoy my meal watching you eat that.” “Eat this, it won’t kill you!” “You looked better when you were heavier, you look thin and unhealthy” “Come out and drink, you loser!”

The Crab Mentality or Crab in a Bucket Mentality, something that people who diet, follow a healthy diet or lifestyle, are in shape or who are trying to get in shape and improve their health and quality of life deal with far too often. This negative verbal vomit is something that I have dealt with for years ever since I started lifting weights way back when I was 14 years old and something in more recent years I have dealt with nutrition and improving my diet.

The metaphor Crab Mentality or Crab in a Bucket/ Pot refers to and comes from a real-life situation where a fisherman has a bucket of crabs. The fisherman does not need to put a lid on the bucket of crabs even though the bucket is not deep enough to keep the crabs from escaping. As long as there are multiple crabs in the bucket, no crab will ever escape due to the crabs clawing at the crab that is closest to the top and closest to escaping the bucket. Individually any of the crabs could easily escape and get free but since they constantly pull each other down they will never escape which leads to all their demise. The analogy in human behaviour is a negative person with this negative mindset that when seeing another person succeed, especially when it is something that this negative person wants to succeed in, they attempt to diminish or pull that person down just because they are becoming more successful than themselves. They achieve this or try to achieve this by making negative comments, inflicting self doubt and reducing self confidence just based on spite, jealousy and resentment. This can be summed to the phrase “If I can’t have it, neither can you.”

In the past I have had co-workers go out of their way to buy the unhealthiest food they could think of for lunch and make sure they ate it in front of me while I was in the middle of a strict diet, cutting down. Describing every small detail about how good it tastes and how ‘happy’ they are eating it, and this was all while making nasty comments on what I was eating trying to make it sound as unappealing as they possibly could. Every single time something like this ever happened to me, the person who was going full crab mode was extremely unhealthy, over weight and had shown very clear insecurities in the past and present.

This negativity that some people spew out when seeing others make positive changes to their own lives with improving their fitness, diet, health, etc. is just a direct representation of how they feel about themselves and their own insecurities. What is so stupid is that if these people put as much energy towards improving themselves as they did attempting to pull others down, they would likely be just as successful if not more successful than the individual they are jealous of.

So how do you deal with these people? Depending on your relationship with this individual(s) it may be very easy or very difficult, but the same general rules apply. 99.99% of the time the answer is to quite simply ignore them. This can be easier said than done, especially if this individual(s) are unavoidable in your daily life whether it be a co-worker(s) or a family member(s) but always remember to NEVER let them see that what they are saying is bothering you, because it shouldn’t. All you are seeing is just how negative and upset this person is with their life and their choices that they have made and continue to make, rather than working towards improving themselves they would rather drag you down to their level, so they can feel better about their lack of discipline.

Combat this negativity with a giant smile and when they confront you, tell them how great you feel since implementing these positive changes in your life. One of three things will likely happen; they will see that you are actually happy and flourishing and ask for guidance themselves (rare), they will realize you are mentally tough and cannot be broken and leave you alone, or you will watch their blood boil when they continue to see you succeed in what they wish they could. Use their negativity to fuel your motivation and drive towards reaching your goals. Make the choices that these people could not, CHOOSE to be positive and CHOOSE to better yourself. Do not let someone who is clearly so negative and spiteful deter you from your goals and your dreams.

Be happy, be positive but never be satisfied.

CRUNCH NO MORE- A BETTER APPROACH TO TRAINING THE CORE

CRUNCH NO MORE- A BETTER APPROACH TO TRAINING THE CORE

Most people think of crunches, planks or sit ups when they’re looking to strengthen their core.  The reality is that isolated abdominal training has little carryover to functional movements and sports, and thus play a small role in injury prevention and performance. If your goal is to train for stability, then you need to enhance motor patterns that incorporate many muscles, rather than just targeting a few.

Crunch

ANATOMY OF THE CORE

Panjabi et al (1992) wrote an article about all the components that play a role in providing spinal stability:

  1. Lumbo-Pelvic structure
  2. Neural activation or motor control*
  3. Active stability from muscular forces: local musculature (inner core) and global musculature (bigger muscles)

As you can see, stability of the spine is affected by several components of our bodies not just the “strength of your core”.

*What the hell is “motor control”?

Motor control has to do with the constantly changing distribution of intrinsic and extrinsic muscles, and ongoing central nervous system mediation. It refers to the ability of the brain to turn muscles on and off depending on the demands of the task, in order to achieve stability, or coordinated movement*

Isolated core exercises have their time and place. They are a great tool to gain initial activation and control of the inner unit. But what happens once we’ve already mastered that? There must be a line of progression to standing and dynamic movements where you are using a combination of the inner unit (your deep core stabilizers) and the outer unit or prime movers (like your glutes, hamstrings, quads etc). Even if we increased the strength of the inner unit, if we don’t make the connection between the two and correct erratic movement patterns, strengthening the core can only take us so far. Because of this, we need to think about it in terms of integration and how we actually create movement.

Maximal muscle activity in the core musculature is observed during single-plane activities, but when performing functional tasks that demand multiple muscle groups to be activated at the same time, their activation is significantly diminished. This leads us to believe that isolated core exercises may not help us improve stability, stiffness and control in “functional multiplanar” tasks.

The purpose of this article is to introduce the concept of the Anatomical Slings and what their role is in stability and performance.

The anatomy slings are groups of muscles that work in an integrated fashion or in synergy to produce movement and create stability around joints. The concept of core stability can further be enhanced by increasing strength and motor control of these slings in parallel to activating the inner core.

THE SLINGS

The human body is a complex system made up of “slings” or “chains”. These slings are combinations of local/inner unit (transverse abdominis, diaphragm, pelvic floor, and multifidus) and outer/global unit that work in synergy to produce functional movements, and when trained appropriately can improve strength, speed and power output. These slings are commonly under looked as we tend to get stuck in the smaller picture when we experience injuries or weakness, and often focus only on specific muscles.

Slide1.jpg

The slings are composed of a combination of local and global stabilizers. Local stabilizers are mainly concerned with providing joint stiffness and segmental stability, while most of the strength and power is coming from the big global muscles. Together they form a very powerful muscle synergy. In order to maximize trunk stability, we can’t just target the local unit, as this will not significantly help improve core function if the body is not taught how to effectively use these slings.

  1. Anterior Oblique System: External and internal oblique with the opposing leg’s adductors and intervening anterior abdominal fascia.
  2.  Posterior Oblique System: The lat and opposing glute maximus and thoracolumbar fascia
  3. Deep Longitudinal System: Erectors, the innervating fascia and biceps femoris.
  4. Lateral System: Glute medius and minimus and the opposing adductors of the thigh

PART II of this article will cover common injuries related to these slings and my favorite exercises to strengthen each sling!

Stefanie Cohen, SPT

THE PEACHGANG ISN’T JUST FOR GIRLS

THE PEACHGANG ISN’T JUST FOR GIRLS

We all know chicks are all about the booty gains. But for some reason, guys don’t seem to care much about it at all. It mostly stems out of the ignorance and lack of knowledge  people have about the role of the glutes in strength movements and athletic performance in general.

2617984_serenawilliams3_jpeg80e11ffdcd95b033e68cba2efdabe0ec

The glutes are, or at least should be the primary muscle driving hip extension and leg abduction. However there are instances in which the glutes might not be performing their main role:

  1. Poor motor control: the glutes are inhibited and can’t contract properly mostly because we lack the ability to activate it at the right time in a synchronous manner.
  2. Overshadowed glutes: in this situation they do fire correctly, but they aren’t as strong as the other lower body muscles (like your quads, or back erectors), resulting in inefficient performance and often some type of pain. Whenever you perform a movement like a squat or a deadlift, or any exercise that involves multiple muscle groups, the majority of the work will tend to be done by the strongest muscle.
  3. Posture: Your hip flexors (psoas) attach from your hip to your femur in the front, and your glutes attach from your hip to your femur in the back, they need to be in balance and have proper mobility in order for you to be able to achieve proper glute activation patterns.
    • A posterior pelvic tilt (flat ass) for example will result in lengthened and weak hip flexors, which will negate good activation of the glutes.
    • On the other hand, tight hip flexors result in an anterior pelvic tilt (butt sticking out). However a slight degree of anterior tilt can put the glutes at a slight leverage advantage (See Shirley Sahrman’s book Movement Impairment Syndromes) and result in better activation of the glutes. Look at the difference between the Kalahari Bushman vs a typical western male in terms of glute development:

untitled

Still don’t think you need a bigger ass?!

Hip extension occurs when coming out of the bottom of the squat, and in the lockout of a deadlift. If you are a powerlifter that means that 2/3 of the competition lifts heavily involve hip extension, which is often one of, if not THE limiting factor of most lifts: failing to lock out a deadlift and being unable to stand up from a squat. You with me?

Glute weakness can lead to not only failing lifts, but to form breakdown. For example, in the deadlift excessive back rounding occurs not due to lower back weakness as most people think, but due to glute weakness. You should never use your back as a prime mover in a deadlift in the first place. Your erectors should contract isometrically and allow the king muscles to do their thing: the glutes and hamstrings extend the hips, and the quads extend the knees. So here we see that back rounding is not necessarily due to back weakness but due to glute weakness!

img

Click here to read an article I wrote on back rounded deadlifts 

Although we know that hypertrophy isn’t directly related to strength, we do know that by increasing the size of the muscle can lead to improved recruitment and strength. If you develop stronger glutes, you will depend on them even when the weight is heavy and will be able to preserve your form even at supra maximal attempts. Improving motor control and development of the glutes can also prevent muscular imbalances!

Stay tuned for my next article, in which I talk about my favorite glute accessory exercises for devastating strength and power!

Stefanie Cohen