[Guest Post] The Best Exercises Your Not Doing

Hey All,

Real quick here. I was fortunate enough to be featured on an awesome collaborative blog post earlier this week on The Barbell Physio.com along side some pretty big movers and shakers in the industry.

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CLICK HERE –> http://www.thebarbellphysio.com/2016/04/11/great-exercises-you-are-not-doing/

It was a great honor to be featured on this list. Make sure you check out all the other great coaches and see what crazy exercises they are throwing our way!

Thanks again to Dr. Zach Long over at The Barbell Physio for this great opportunity!

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Back to the Basics: The Barbell

Sure, it’s not neon colored or made of a ultra-durable rubber coated shell and have 5 attachment points for accessories on it, but the barbell can still be super adorable (see above again).

*Lately it has started to make a comeback with the help of Crossfit workouts and their high usage of barbell lifts, especially the Olympic lifts.

With this being said, I still feel that full size barbells still are kind of kicked aside in a lot of gyms for “cooler” things like kettlebells, BOSUS, and even their little brother the dumbbell. Not saying these other implements are inherently worse than the barbell (I could argue against one of them), but the barbell has its huge upsides over the previously mentioned tools of the gym

Not these tools of the gym…

The benefits of using a barbell for any given exercises include:

  • Very simple, minimal complexity of exercises. Easy for newer exercises to learn some of the essential strength exercises.
  • The weight is fixed and stable. You usually are holding the barbell with two hands, thus have more control over the weight, as opposed to holding two dumbbells.

These benefits lead to the biggest benefit of the barbell:

  • You can lift some heavy weight, and get much stronger.deadlift

***OMG SHE IS LIFTING A TON OF WEIGHT, BUT SHE ISN’T BULKY!, WTF?!?***

(Click here if you don’t get my sarcasm) 

The barbell isn’t perfect and some of the downsides include:

  • You must be able to lift 45 pounds to use a full size barbell.
  • The only way to progress a barbell exercise is to add more weight, and everyone has their limits.
  • Because you can go heavier, there is more risk for injury without proper technique or through overload of the muscles and joints. Train smarter, not just harder.
baby-weightlifting

Getting swole at a young age…

With these pros and cons out of the way, I still feel like the barbell could maybe get more love than it does at a lot of gyms. You can train any and every muscle in the body with the barbell, so why not give it a shot? Before you jump in a try every single exercise you can think of with a barbell, I recommend the following:

  • Make sure you have a spotter/trainer with you, especially if going heavy or unsure of form or weight being used.
  • Just because a squat or deadlift looks basic, they are NOT basic lifts. Get proper training on technique and how the lift should FEEL.
  • Olympic lifts are even more advanced and are not for your everyday gym goer. These lifts include the power clean, the jerk, and the overhead snatch. I would say if you have never heard of these lifts, then don’t bother trying them, as they are very advanced.

Now that we have that out of the way, lets look at some of the basic movement patterns that can be worked with a good, ol’ fashioned barbell (lots of videos here):

Horizontal Push:

Bench press (chest, arms)

Close Grip bench press (chest, more tricep emphasis)

Skullcrushers (triceps)

Vertical Push:

Shoulder press (shoulders, duh!)

Horizontal Pull:

Bent over row (back)

Bicep curls (biceps)

Hip dominant lower:

Deadlift (glutes, hamstrings, lower back)

Romanian Deadlift (same, with bigger hamstring emphasis)

Hip Thrust (glutes, glutes, and more glutes)

Knee dominant lower:

Back squats and front squats (quads, glutes, and hamstrings)

Split squats (glutes and quads)

Step ups (quads and glutes)

 

Next time you are looking for the next crazy thing to do with your workout, maybe you don’t need something more advanced, but need to look to the lonely barbell in the corner of the gym, and give it a little love. It’s not just for the muscle heads and powerlifters, it can be your friend too!

Golfers Are Athletes, Too!

 

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Golfers are Athletes, So Treat Them Like Athletes

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Okay, maybe not all golfers LOOK like athletes, but you can be sure that the successful ones are doing more than a few cable twists and 12 oz. curls at the 19th hole.

Before we start ripping weights off the floor, and throwing medicine balls around like the pros, we need to establish a strong base of proper range of motion, stability, and mobility; all in the right areas.

Serious golfers want one thing: to play more golf (better). They can’t be playing more golf if they are constantly dealing with injuries. The big three injuries seen in golfers are: low back pain, golfers elbow and general shoulder pain.

Low back pain is by far the most common, as the golf swing is a pretty complex and explosive movement. However, the lower back is rarely the cause of the pain. More times than not, lower back pain is from a lack of mobility in the hips, thoracic spine or shoulders. Because these areas cannot move as much as they should, the lumbar spine tends to inherit some of the mobility to pick up the slack – which shouldn’t be happening.

lbp

The pain could also be from a more serious issue, bulging disks, arthritis or even bone fracture – which would call for a referral out.

 

Golfers elbow (pain on the medial epicondyle, or the inside of the elbow) tends to be more of an overuse injury of inflammation and should be managed accordingly. Icing, resting, and avoiding a lot of heavy grip work should be advised while the elbow is inflamed. If the elbow is feeling good, incorporate some basic forearm/grip strength exercises to aid in increasing forearm strength.

 

elbow

 

Lastly, shoulder pain is most common in the lead shoulder (left shoulder of a right handed golfer) of the golfer. This is typically from the golfer lacking thoracic rotation range, or hip rotation range of motion, and thus bringing their lead arm too far across their body in an attempt to get a bigger backswing. General shoulder pain may also stem from a lack of scapular stability in both shoulders.

shdl

The bigger swing should come from increased hip mobility and t-spine rotation, not lumbar rotation or excessive horizontal adduction at the shoulder.

 

The following exercises are some of my favorites for increasing thoracic spine mobility, improving forearm strength, and improving scapular stability…

Thoracic Mobility

 

The first exercise is the t-spine open book/windmill/side lying thoracic rotation dynamic stretch/I’m sure there are 17 other names for this one. The key is to keep your legs stacked, lower back at neutral, and give a big birthday boy exhale as you open up your chest. Repeat for 6-10 reps on each side.

WINDMILL STRETCH (video) –

 

The second exercise I like is the kneeling thoracic extension dynamic stretch. This is a great one for golfers who set up with their shoulders rounded forward, or in C posture as we TPI-ers call it. When the thoracic spine is stuck in a flexed position, it makes it pretty hard to rotate.

cp

 C-POSTURE

 

Kneel on a pad while placing your elbows on a flat bench. While holding onto a dowel or even a golf club with a shoulder width palms up grip, sit the hips back while maintaining neutral lumbar spine. Exhale as you sink the hips back, and pull your hands back over the back of your head. Repeat for 4-6 reps.

TSPINE EXTENSION STRETCH 

 Forearm Strength

 When working with golfers elbow, remember to base your exercises off of the current symptoms. If the elbow is currently aggravated, first ice and try getting some soft tissue work done. After this, try doing banded flexion and extension exercises, without closing the fist. I like starting with a light band, for 10-15 reps.

 

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BANDED FLEXION/EXTENSION w/ OPEN HAND

 

If the elbow feels good, you can incorporate some more grip work, with a focus on building up the forearm muscles. Have your client try some basic forearm curls, hammer curls, or my personal favorite, farmer carries.

Scapular Stability

 

Speaking of farmer carries; these are a great way to incorporate grip work WITH scapular stability. The one aspect I like to change in the position of the dumbbell or kettle bell. Try moving one kettle bell up into a rack/waiter position and locking the scapula down and keeping the elbow directly under the weight.

Want to kick it up a notch? Have the client try the 1 arm – bottoms up kettle bell waiter carry (this can easily be regressed to a bottoms up carry in the rack position). This will really work the grip strength as well, so avoid it if your client is dealing with forearm or elbow pain.

A more traditional scapular stability exercise is the prone one arm low trap/Y-Raise. Laying on a table or a bench, have the client raise thumbs to the ceiling in a “Y”. Make sure the client is retracting from the scapula, and not shrugging up the traps. The main goal is to activate the lower trap area, and get a slight upward rotation in the scapula. Start un- weighted, with 2 seconds hold at the top for 6-8 reps.

 

 

Here is another fantastic video breaking it down by the one and only Eric Cressey.

 

Try these exercises if these three common problems show up in your clients, and re-screen after a few weeks of work. Once these mobility and stability issues have been cleared up in your golfers, then it’s time to start training for power!

 

POWER TRAINING

swing

 

Just because golf is a rotational sport, it doesn’t mean that all exercises must be rotational cable chops. Doing heavy weighted cable rotations may make your core area stronger, but not necessarily more explosive.

 

When the swing is broken down, we see hip rotation, hip extension, and the upper body follows suit. Powerful hip extension is one of the big keys for a powerful golf swing.

 

 

When it comes to training golfers to improve their power from the hips, there are two factors to look at: relative strength and speed strength. For the purposes of this article, relative strength is choosing weights based on a percentage of the golfers bodyweight.

 

The reason I prefer relative strength is because golfers come in many ages, shapes, and sizes, and I have seen some 145-pound golfers that can crush the ball further than my 215-pound Adonis like frame. 😉

 

Also, the Titleist Performance Institute has worked with tens of thousands of golfers and has found strong correlations between weights lifted relative to body weight and the best golfers in the world.

 

The second type of strength to work on is speed strength. This involves explosive, dynamic movements with medicine balls, bodyweight jumps, and kettle bells. The point of emphasis of these exercises is accelerating as fast as possible with some, but not a ton, of resistance.

jump

 

The speed strength exercises are where the more rotational work comes in. By using med ball throws, we can easily work on powerful hip extension and rotation, without being confined to a cable station.

The first exercise for increasing hip extension strength is, you guessed it, the deadlift.

 

There is no better way to get more strength off the tee than building some uber strong glutes that can power the hips through the ball. There are many variations of the deadlift, but my preference with most golfers is either a lower rack barbell deadlift, or a dumbbell deadlift from a bench. I do this to decrease the range of motion (especially for my older clients who may have history of low back problems) and because this range of motion is often easier on the client in general, while still allowing good hip extension and glute firing to occur.

For a strength goal, I like to see my golfers lift 100% of their bodyweight for 4-6 reps per set with perfect form. This is also usually pulled from a position just below the knees. (Example – a 160-pound golfer should be able to lift 2, 80-pound dumbbells from a flat bench for 4-6 reps.)

My second favorite strength exercise for creating powerful golfers is the dumbbell split squat. This is a great exercise because not only does it work the glutes, hams, and quads, but also serves as a great lower body stability exercise.

The Titleist Performance Institute has set the relative strength standard of 50% of body weight for 8 reps in the dumbbell split squat. (Example – a 160-pound golfer should be able to lift 2, 40-pound dumbbells for 8 reps on each leg)

 

Now, your functional training brain may be thinking, “Mike, the golf swing is a multi-planer movement and these exercises are only training in one plane – how is this functional to the golf swing?”

 

Settle down “brofessor”, that’s where the speed strength work comes in.

 

The first exercise I include in almost every golfers workout programming is a rotational medicine ball throw. These should be done from both sides, and using a medicine ball that is roughly 1 pound for every 20 pounds of body weight. (Example – a 160-pound golfer should be using an 8-pound medicine ball). Make sure the client is using their whole body, and especially getting the hips around and facing the target at finish.

These throws should be done with maximum effort, lower reps, and at least 60-90 seconds between sets. If you have antsy clients, use this resting time to incorporate filler/corrective exercises.

 

The reason we want to train from both sides is to create balance across the body. Golf is such a one sided sport, that we need to make sure we balance out all the right to left swings with some left to right medicine ball throws.

 

The second explosive rotational exercise I love is the rotational jump. Obviously, this is an advanced exercise and should be used with the right type of client. The rotational jump can be a stand alone 90, 180 or 360-degree rotation, or used as a 90 degree with a jump up to a box. As with the medicine ball tosses, use maximum effort and minimal reps.

 

 

Rotational jumps are awesome for training explosive, rotational power, especially with an emphasis on separating the lower body from the upper body, and thus getting them to fire in proper golf sequence.

So how would I put this all together for a client looking to increase power in the golf swing? The following is a sample basic template that can be used:

 

Dynamic Warm-up – work mobility, speed, core activation/stability and incorporate corrective exercises

 

1 – Medicine Ball Side Throws – 3 sets of 3-4 throws – each side

Rest 60-90 seconds (incorporate fillers for core stability, scapular stability, hip mobility, during rest periods)

 

2 – Box Jumps/Rotational Jumps/Lateral Bounding – 3 sets of 3-4 jumps

Rest 60-90 seconds

 

3A – Dumbbell Deadlift from Bench 3×6-8

3B – Low Cable Single Arm Row 3×8

3C – Anti-Rotational Ab Exercise 3×10-15

 

Rest 1 Minute – Repeat twice more

 

4A – Dumbbell Split Squat 3×8

4B – Single arm cable or bench chest press 3×8

4C – Anti-Extension/Flexion Ab Exercise 3×10-15

 

Rest 1 Minute – Repeat twice more

 

Finish with any additional correctives and mobility work.

 

 

 

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Stay healthy my friends,

Do You Deadlift? You Should…

Taking a break from writing about my super fantastic interesting SNAP food challenge, I would like to take a moment to discuss the king of all lifts… the Deadlift. The deadlift got its name in ancient Rome, when soldiers were taught how to properly lift their fallen comrades up and off of the battle field. Interesting huh? Anywho, I recently made a huge mistake and have neglected to deadlift for almost 5 months now…shame on me. This is mostly because I am used to doing it with bumper plates and in more of a “intense” gym then the current one I train at at my university. The deadlift was always my favorite lift, and essentially became a necessity at one point in my life. In high school I got up to “pulling” (what the pros call it) 500 lbs. In college my deadlift got up to about 550 lbs…then tragedy struck…

My second semester of freshman year I found a small lump on my tailbone. It continued to bug me for a while but I never thought much of it. Until it ruptured… I’ll spare you the gross details of everything else, but needless to say I had to have a cyst removed from my tailbone over that summer. Thankfully it was just a cyst and not anything worse like a tumor. 001-0919195404-Its-not-a-tumorThis surgery set my back quite a ways. I had to stop lifting for a month, and avoid heavy lower body or bending movements for about 3 months while the tissue healed. I quickly found that my lower back muscles became very weak and my lower back was chronically sore. I was finally able to start bending movements again, but had to start back at square one. I remember feeling so crappy about my 135 lb deadlift my first time back.

I eventually worked back up to about 450 lbs, this is where I was a few months ago.

Now since neglecting the holiest of the holy lifts, I started to find my lower back getting more and more sore all the time. This Monday I finally decided to start deadlifting once a week again. On Monday I did 5 sets of 10 reps with 215 lbs. My back, butt, and hamstrings are incredibly sore…in a good way.

How to do it:

The deadlift is a relatively simple move. You load a bar on the ground, squat down, and pick it up (essentially). Now there is much more to it then that.

  1. Get your shins as close to the bar as possible.
  2. Stand with a shoulder width stance, toes forward.
  3. Grab the bar, just outside your knees.
  4. Lower your butt, keep your back straight.
  5. Push “through” your heels, keeping your abs braced, or tight (like you are about to get punched), and shoulders back.
  6. Extend your legs by standing up, and drive your hips forward, and pull your shoulders back.
  7. Repeat the same movements in reverse to return the bar to the floor.

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Here is a great, short video of what it looks like:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_LhYspMFUmY

The deadlift is a great move for men, women, old and young. You dont see it much in “commercial” gyms, probably because a lot of people drop the weight after standing up, but putting it down nice and slow and controlled is just as important to the lift (working the eccentric contraction)

It primarily works your lower back, glutes, hamstrings, and middle traps (to some extent). So whether your looking to improve your lower back health, build some back muscle, get that booty (+ squats) or just pick something up and put it down…you should be deadlifting.

Are You Using Proper Form?

One of my biggest pet peeves in the gym is seeing people doing an exercise with bad form. Using proper form is the MOST important thing one can do when lifting weights. If you don not use proper form you are putting yourself at risk for injury and you aren’t working the proper muscles correctly. The two exercises that I see the most people doing wrong are the squat and the straight leg deadlift.

The squat is one of the best exercises for overall lower body strength and core conditioning. The squat movement is basically the same movement as if you were to sit back into a chair. The key to a proper squat is sitting back and not just down. The following are the proper steps to a perfect squat.

1. Stand with and even stance. Your feet should be at least shoulder width apart with your feet slightly facing out.

2. Keeping your shoulders back, and chest out, and head looking straight ahead of you,  bend at your hips and sit back into the squat. With younger athletes that I have trained, I always used the somewhat goofy analogy that you should pretend you have a bee stinger on your rear and you are trying to pop a balloon behind you. The hips should always bend/hinge before your knees.

The hip "hinge" at the start of the squat.

3. While keeping your glutes back, start to bend at the knees. Keep your knees out. Your knee joints should be pointing in the same direction as your feet all the way down. If your knees buckle in it normally means that the weight is too heavy. Your weight should be back on your heels, NOT on your toes. At the bottom of the squat you should be able to wiggle your toes freely.

Near the bottom of the squat. Notice I'm pushing my butt back, as if sitting in a chair. Shoulders are back, chest up, head forward.

4. Once you get to the bottom of the squat, think about driving your heels through the floor and pushing up using your glutes.

 

BAD SQUAT FORM: Knees are going forward at the start, hips and butt are not hinging back. This puts a lot of stress on the ligaments of the knees

BAD SQUAT FORM: Chest is down and back is rounded. This will put added stress on the lower back.

BAD SQUAT FORM: Back is rounded and my weight is on my toes, instead of my heels. My knees are also in front of my toes.

BAD SQUAT FORM: Knees are buckled in and weight is on my toes. This puts added stress on all ligaments in the knees.

The straight leg deadlift or Romanian deadliftis another great lower body exercise which works the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back muscles. The following are the proper steps to performing this great exercise.

1. While standing upright and holding the weight in front of you at your waist, keep your shoulders back and chest and head facing forward, unhinge your hips back, just as you did with the squat. Contrary to the name, you should actually keep a slight bend in your knees and never lock them out.

Unhinging of the hips, pushing the butt back, and letting the bar hang freely.

2. Instead of bending at the knees any more, continue to keep pushing your glutes back, while bending forward at the waist. It is important here to keep your shoulders back and entire back straight. Keep the weight (bar, dumbbells, kettebells, etc.) close to your legs. Continue to lower the weight without rounding your back! You can slightly look up, without extending at the neck too mush. Go down until you feel the stretch in your hamstrings.

Slight bend in the knees, back is still flat. You should feel a stretch in the hamstrings.

3. At the bottom of the lift, you back should still be flat, and how far you are able to go down will be based off of how flexible your hamstrings are. From the bottom, reverse the movement and push your hips forward and begin to raise the weight by extending at your back and actively squeezing your glutes.

BAD RDL FORM: Shoulders are rounded forward along with the upper back.

By following these proper technique cues, you can prevent future injury while also building strong and flexible leg and core muscles.