LOG CLEAN MECHANICS: TO HINGE OR SQUAT?

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The Strongman Log seems to be one of the most underutilized pieces of SM equipment out there. I think that there are several reasons for this but mainly, it's un-weildly and intimidating to those that are uninitiated. Often, the athlete that is using the log for the first time will associate it to the barbell or even the KB Swing and end up frustrated when, time after time, the athlete misses reps. The truth is, the log is much more similar to the stone than the bar and should be approached in the same manner.

For those that don't really have much experience with either, let's break it down to some of the fundamental components: the hip hinge and the squat. 

In the video below, you'll learn (and see) the difference between what a log clean looks like when performed with a hip hinge and when it's performed with more of a squat-like action. You'll also hear some other basic cues along the way that will definitely make the learning process much more successful and fun - so pay attention to the details in the set up and demos.   


GOT BIG STONES? HERE'S HOW TO MOVE'M

I think it's fair to say that Strongman is becoming more and more popular thanks to increased exposure at events like The Arnold Classic, The CrossFit Games and hell, even NetFlix docs and TV commercials!



But like with most things that gain popularity in a relatively short period of time, there will be those out there that jump on the bandwagon because some IG influencer picked up an atlas stone and made it look cool. This is fine and all, and we do want the strongman movement to grow and flourish, but it's important to note that Strongman has literally been around since the dawn of time.

IT IS THE WAY WE ARE PROGRAMMED TO MOVE AND INTERACT WITH OUR ENVIRONMENT.

If something heavy was in our way, we moved it the best possible way we could while limiting the possibility of injury. This is called self-preservation, BTW, and it's one of the many beautiful inherent characteristics of strongman movements. But I digress.

Look, the point is that just because it's becoming cool to do strongman doesn't mean that you should simply jump right in to it. It's true, learning this stuff, or rather, remembering it doesn't take much time at all. Becoming competent at properly loading an atlas stone is literally a matter of seconds. But, as is the case with all things - there is a right way and a wrong way to do it. And in the case of strongman, it really boils down to "right" being efficient and safe, and "wrong" being inefficient and high-risk.

At TCS we do implement strongman....A LOT! It's kind of our bread and butter and what sets us apart from the vast majority of gyms. And in our time utilizing strongman movements we've seen millions of reps performed and know what the most common faults are in each movement. In the video I have posted below, I'll share a couple common mistakes that you'll probably make or see someone make and how to easily address and correct those faults. Check it out. I hope it helps y'all move those big stones!  


POSITIONING FOR MORE POWER IN YOUR BENCH PRESS/PUSHUPS

I think we can all agree that the push-up and bench press are both some of the most commonly performed movements in the gym. And, if we're being honest, most people need to spend more time working on their "pushups" and less time worrying about how many plates they load on the bar - but maybe that's just me.

In either case, we all know (at a fundamental level) that you need to be able to properly position your body and activate the appropriate muscle groups to get the most our of each rep. Unfortunately, many people go into auto-pilot and do the same ole' shitty movement for every rep only ingraining poor patterns. Being conscious while performing seemingly simple movements is incredibly important and often neglected.

In an effort to assist y'all in your quest for better movement and bigger numbers, I spent a little bit of time in front of the camera explaining a very simple concept that I think will really help y'all out when performing any type of horizontal press. Check it out below and let me know if you find it valuable. 


STRONGMAN = REAL LIFE

There's no disputing the fact that here at TCS, we fucking love strongman! I'm sure that is abundantly clear at this point, right? 

I've previously written about all the reasons we love this training method, but let's just cover all the bases by restating that strongman provides a massive ROI and is an absolute blast! So if we have this training style that's extremely effective and delivers big on the fun factor, why don't people jump all over it?

Intimidation. 

Strongman gets a bad rap as being "extreme" or "unsafe" because until recently, the only exposure the sport/training method got was from the TV show, World's Strongest Man. And, of course, if someone is sitting on their couch watching a 400lb man pull a fucking jet, they automatically discount it as "not for me". 

Nothing could be further from the truth. The real truth is that Strongman can be for everyone.

What you see on WSM is the very pinnacle of the sport and does not accurately represent what Strongman is on a basic level. Strongman, simply, is movement. Push, pull, drag, squat, carry, throw, etc. It's really that simple. And because Strongman is movement, it then places itself squarely on top of the list of "functional training methods".

Strongman is the shit that you do and encounter in your daily life. 

A sack of groceries in each hand is a farmers carry. Picking up a box of old books is nearly identical to picking up an atlas stone and moving it from A to B. Pushing your lawn mower up the steep hill in your back yard might as well be a heavy sled push.

Get it? You already do Strongman, you just didn't know it. 

Here at TCS, our contention is that if your life is going to demand these things from you, why not get really good at this stuff and have some fun along the way? You'll be amazed at the correlations you'll draw between the lifts and tasks programmed for you in class and the shit real life throws at you. To say that you'll become a more effective and efficient human being is an understatement. 

So, besides being informative(I hope), I guess this is all just a big long invitation for you to come experience Strongman at Travis County Strength. We have a passion for this stuff and love sharing it with people. Your next opportunity to join our Strongman Saturday is 3/25/2017 at 10am. You can reserve your spot today on the Class Calendar.

And, if not, I at least hope that you'll see those correlations we spoke of earlier. 

Hope to see you there!

NOW YOU HAVE A SANDBAG. HERE'S WHAT TO DO WITH IT!

Out of the endless sandbag exercise possibilities, there are three exercises that are crucial for developing your grip strength, mid-line stability as well as providing you with a massive ROI. The sandbag clean, Zercher squat and get-up are those BIG 3.

Once you've read through each of the brief descriptions of these sandbag exercises, check out the video at the bottom to really drive each movement home. We recommend you start putting in to your programming as soon as possible. And, as always, have fun with these exercises! Feel free show us how you performed your sandbag exercises or drop us a line with any questions you may have.


THE BIG 3


1. SB Clean
This exercise teaches the lifter to generate power. It starts just like a Deadlift. Back flat, midline tight, and arms locked out. By quickly extending your hips and driving your feet through the ground, pop the sandbag up and drop into a receiving position to catch the bag.

2. Zercher Squat
This exercise is great for midline control, building leg strength and requires that you maintain proper posture while squatting, which will keep you safe and efficient. Support the sandbag with your arms forming a "basket" in front of you with palms facing up. The sandbag should be placed in the crooks of your elbows as you engage your lats in order to keep the bag close to your body as you perform your reps.

3. Get Up
This exercise can be performed any number of ways, but we encourage that as you start out, that you take it slow, hit each progression with intention and find good positions throughout the entire range of motion. When done in this fashion, the sandbag get-up recruits nearly all major muscle groups with the completion of just one rep. To say that there's a big return on investment with this movement would be an understatement.


3 COMMON FAULTS TO AVOID WHEN DOING RDLs

The Romanian Deadlift, commonly known as the RDL, is one exercise you definitely need to incorporate into your training if you're looking to increase posterior chain strength. But like all movements, doing it properly will provide the most bang for your buck and keep you healthy for the long-game.

The  most common faults that occur while performing RDLs are:

  1. Rounding the low back
    This usually occurs because the athlete does not have control of their mid-line position or the athlete is attempting to go lower than there hamstring mobility will allow.
  2. Bar drifts away from body
    This fault can be seen when the athlete is not properly engaging their lats to pull the bar back against the legs in an active position.
  3. Too much knee flexion
    Again, this often occurs when the athlete attempts to go further than their mobility allows. But it can also be related to a poor understanding of pushing the hips back to stretch the hamstrings. 

An overarching concept that you'll find to be helpful is to only go as far down as your body will allow while maintaining proper positioning and activity. Everyone's range of motion and body mechanics are different, so don't get caught up forcing ranges of motion that aren't there yet. This will only lead to injury. Give it time and some solid effort to move as perfectly as possible and the benefits will soon follow.  not there to keep from possible injury.

Be sure to check out the video below. Joey Chapa, TCS's newest intern, breaks down the RDL and the concepts we've talked about above with some of the very best demonstrations ever performed by some dude with a great beard. HA!
 


 

 

 

 

 

 

LET ME INTRODUCE YOU TO YOUR MID-LINE.

As a coach, one of the most valuable things we can teach our athletes is how to control their mid-line. All too often, athletes and general fitness enthusiasts are exposed to physically demanding movements and positions without first establishing proper control over the musculature that is responsible for keeping their pelvis, low back and rib cage in safe, solid and efficient positions. Obviously we want this safety and efficiency present when moving our body through space, as well as when we move external objects through various ranges. As you can imagine, not having this control is a recipe for poor, potentially harmful, movement patterns to develop, which will eventually lead to injury. It's just a matter of time.

The good news is that we have ways to turn this trend around and build beneficial movement patterns and habits. It's not too late.

The video below is designed to help you introduce the Dead Bug Extension in a way that will be extremely valuable to both your newbs and seasoned athletes. This is one of those things that will only make you better - as long as you and your athletes pay attention to the details and move with intention. 

Check it out.


INTENTION & THE SWING

The Russian Kettlebell Swing is a seemingly simple movement - much like an air squat or pushup. But, these movements are key to the foundation of any person's ability to perform quality work in the gym and out.

The trouble begins when people think that because it's a basic movement that they can afford to simply go through the motions rather than making each and every rep as effective as possible. I know I'm guilty of this at times, but it's important that, as coaches, we convey a message of intention to our athletes. On the other side of that coin, the responsibility to carry that task out on a consistent basis - each and every rep - lies in the hands of the athlete.

So this video is for everyone. Coaches and athletes, take a few moments to watch the video and then apply these concepts and movement patterns into your reps. You'll find that intention tends to change everything


3 TIPS TO MAKE YOUR TIME ON THE AIRBIKE A LITTLE LESS SHITTY

We all know that any time spent on an airbike(airdyne, assault bike, xebex, airfit, etc.) is probably going to be miserable and end horribly - It's the nature of the beast, but that's why we do it. There's not much out there that can create that type of suck. That being said, there's no reason to make it worse than it has to be!

In the video below, I share a couple quick tips on how to properly set up your bike so that your time in the saddle is a little less shitty. 


A JUMP IS A JUMP, RIGHT?

You see it all the time: a viral video of some absurdly "springy" human that takes off from the floor and somehow floats to the tip top of a stack of bumper plates precariously placed on a tall box. Kinda like this ridiculousness...

There's no doubt that this is an incredible feat. This daring effort surely captures or attention and admiration, but there should also be respect given to lower jumping efforts that accomplish large displacement.

Let me explain...

With massive box jumps like the one above, the effort is comprised of two Important parts:
1. Power production and explosiveness.
2. Mobility

As you can see from the video, there's a tremendous amount of explosive power production as he jumps, but equally impressive is the "catch" position. Pause the video at the moment that he makes initial contact with the top plate. What do you see?. I see one helluva deep squat! This position would not be possible without some serious mobility.

So again, nothing should be taken away from these types of efforts. All I'm saying is that it shouldn't always be about max height. And here's why...


dis·place·ment

disˈplāsmənt/
noun
1. the moving of something from its place or position.


I know it's not nearly as impressive, but watch my video below. I want you to compare the first two box jumps to the second two. What do you notice? HINT: Keep in mind that this entire blog is concerning the concept of displacement. You may also want to establish a focal point, I suggest my hips....they don't lie.

I hope that my hint made this fairly obvious, but if you missed it, the first two jumps had far less overall displacement than the last two jumps. Again, if you were watching my hips you would've seen that the last two efforts showed a much great elevation than my first two attempts. Therefore, it's safe to say that I created more power during those final jumps.

The end result is the same - you end up on top of the box. But now it should be clear that there are two different ways to train the same movement that elicit different responses. I don't think that one is better than the other.  You can perform jumps in a manner that delivers a cardio response, or jump (for displacement) to improve power and explosiveness. Either way, I think that consciously training both styles is important and should implemented in to your training routine.

ATLAS STONES: SMOOTH IS FAST


As strongman training methods become more and more popular (YAY!), newbs are being exposed to implements and movements that they've never done before - which is AWESOME! However, just like any new skill, you must understand the concepts and techniques, then apply quality practice - especially when first introduced.

In an effort to help some of you strongman newbs dial in your atlas stone technique, this video is all about performing the stone shoulder smoothly rather than rushing through it with reckless abandon.

In general, it is my opinion that performing any movement with fluidity will increase your overall speed. This is especially true with the atlas stone. Just remember: Smooth is Fast! 


ATLAS STONE TECHNIQUE: Keep Those Biceps Happy & Healthy

The cool thing about strongman movements is that whatever gets the job done is a viable option and should be considered. Of course there are some considerations that need to be made like safety and efficiency, but there isn't really anything that says you MUST lift a stone a specific way.

To follow this up, the type of workout you are performing also dictates how one would optimally move a stone. For example, some workouts are short and are designed to be completed as fast as possible. In this case, a movement with fewer stops and starts/phases would be ideal. On the flip-side, there are other work sessions that are longer in duration and will require more efficiency for the purpose of longevity. You see, performing a large number of reps using a "one-timer" technique or simply just using your biceps more will typically result in some inefficiency later in the workout and possibly even some minor to serious irritation at the elbow. 

In the video below, I breakdown how to tweak your technique so as to save those biceps and utilize the larger muscles of the posterior chain to more efficiently move that stone. Before we get to that video, it should be noted again that this technique is not the ONLY technique. There are situations where some variations of this movement are more desirable than others. Play with what works best for you. This is simply information for you to digest and use at your discretion.


1 THING YOU SHOULD BE DOING THAT YOU'RE PROBABLY NOT

Rather than leave you in total suspense, I'm going to just let you know that we are talking about band pull-aparts. There. Now you can rest easy and tune in.

It's very common for people who workout to neglect the posterior muscle groups - the ones that you can't see when admiring your sweet, sweet gainz in the mirror. This is unfortunate because the posterior chain is where we *should* be generating the majority of our power production from. Not just when we lift heavy shit in the gym, but when we take on everyday activities as well. So, let's just say those posterior muscles are important.

To compound the issue, most people greatly overdevelop their anterior muscles - namely the pecs and biceps - which cause some serious dysfunction if not attended to. Band pull-aparts are one of the most simplistic, user-friendly exercises that can be performed often to help turn the tides against anterior overdevelopment and build up that critical posterior.

Below is a quick video on HOW-TO properly perform band pull-aparts. Just like any other exercise out there, doing these with shit form will not produce results and can possibly lead to injury. So let's just agree to check this video out rather than assuming you know your shit based off the name of the exercise.

*NOTE: Let me apologize in advance for neglecting to shoot this video in landscape format. It's been a very long time since I've done a movement lecture/demo video using my phone and I totally spaced how ridiculous it looks when viewed in portrait. I'm sorry, and it won't happen again. Ha!

Hand-Release Pushups & Why

I'll share a secret with you.....

I am kind of a hard-ass when it comes to performing movements properly. This is a good thing...in my opinion. My athletes may feel differently. Just know that it all comes a place of love.  

Movements like the air squat and push-up are seemingly very simple and don't require a lot of thought or effort. ("Seemingly" being the keyword. Hopefully you caught that.)

These movements are intricate and demand your respect and full effort. So to help you develop these foundational pieces, let's discuss the Hand-Release Push-up.

WHAT & WHY

The HRPU is a movement that came about as a way to standardize the push-up so that it could be more easily judged in competition settings. This new standard worked well for it's intended purpose, but it also opened the door to a complete lack of body control. Athletes quickly discovered that as long as the ROM requirements were met, how it looked didn't matter. Watching athletes doing HRPUs looked more like a frat party where everyone was doing the worm. WTF?!?!

 Again, ease of judging was it's original purpose, but we can use this tool to eliminate one of the most neglected variables of push-ups: Full range of motion. In doing so, you must also reinforce the proper body position and activation(A) throughout the full ROM(B). See there? A & B, not A or B.

Listen. The push-up is not a push-up unless it's performed to the full standard of the push-up. This should be a very simple concept, but it seems as though people forget this fact when they claim that they can do absurd number of reps. Usually this mystery is solved when you see said super-stud perform his/her so-called push-ups. Again, reference the video above or the one below.

Ok. At this point we should all be on the same page and understand that we DO NOT want to be that guy or girl, right? I mean, who wants to be YouTube famous for shitty push-ups?!

THE EXPERIMENT

For the entire month of April, the athletes of TCS will be doing HRPUs exclusively. My hopes are that this complete eradication of sub-standard movement will result in one and only one way of doing push-ups. The right way. 

Not only will we be honing in on full ROM, but as we discussed above, we will also dial in on a locked-down mid-line throughout the entire ROM. Again, the right way!

I invite any of you out there to join us in our little experiment this month and send us you feedback. Feel free to add more push-up volume into your programming this month if you want, but the real focus will be on the highest quality movement when they appear in your daily workout. Simple.