Explosivelyfit Strength Training

Explosivelyfit strength training builds powerful bodies!

Archive for the category “Exercise form”

120917 Engram development; the vital component to success

120917 Engram development; the vital component to success

Exercise technique is something most professional trainers preach. But does anyone ever wonder why? After all it is common knowledge that more weight can often times be lifted if it’s ‘cheated’ up, and more reps can be performed if some of them are ‘cheated’ at the end of the set. So what is the big deal about technical proficiency? The big deal is this: ability, longevity, and injury free movements result from learning and practicing good habits.

Instructing and practicing proper form in all aspects of exercise will enhance an individual’s ability in the long term. Technically correct exercise movement patterns decrease the risk of injury due to poor body mechanics, and improper muscle substitutions.

‘Practice makes perfect’ only if it is truly perfect, consistently, time after time. With proper instructions from the coach/trainer, the activity should become more accurate as the athlete makes the adjustments in form. The effort used to complete the movement tends to decrease and there is “less chance of overflow to the wrong muscles”(1) in the process. However, this pattern must be repeated many times to establish the neuromuscular pathways.

A technically correct and repetitive exercise movement effectively develops a pattern of movement called an ‘Engram’. By definition, “an Engram is an effect or performance that is imposed upon the Central Nervous System through repetition.”(2) The advantage of developing these pathways translates into the activity becoming an automatic unconscious process.

Exercising under a heavy load without having to think about ‘how to lift’ allows the subconscious to take over when the going gets rough. The athlete no longer has to think where their feet are placed, how to begin the move, when to breathe, which muscles to tighten and which ones to loosen in order to make the lift.

It is automatic IF the Engram has been previously developed.

(1) Therapeutic Exercise for Athletic Injuries Houglum. P.A. Human Kinetics 2001

(2) Ibid

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290817 Moving the curve

290817 Moving the curve

Power is developed according to the formula which is the mass moved divided by time it takes to do it. If, for instance, you are moving a two hundred pound barbell from point A to Point B in one second during your early training phase and you decrease the time it takes to move this the same distance then you have increased your power output.

This is important to any lifter as the ability to move massive amounts of weight depends on rapidly and almost instantaneously increasing the force necessary to move the bar from the starting position. This is termed moving the curve to the left. It is also one of the most basic concepts in developing a powerful athlete. You must apply all of your possible force immediately against a heavy weight or an opponent if you expect it to be influenced to any positive degree.

Explosive force is separate from starting strength

180717 Stable and unstable surface bench pressing

180717 Stable and unstable surface bench pressing

Research scientists in Norway examined the electromyographic activity of the muscles used in the bench press on both stable and unstable surfaces. They compared 6 repetition maximum loads on three different surfaces. One series on a bench press bench, another on a balance cushion and a third on a Swiss ball. Admittedly, the volunteer numbers were small, at only sixteen; however, the results showed that a more stable platform insured greater EMG activity, which relates to greater strength development.

The EMG probes monitored the biceps brachii, deltoid anterior, erector spinae, oblique external, pectoralis major, and the rectus abdominus muscles.

In relation to using the stable bench, this 6-repetition maximum was approximately 93% greater than when doing it on the balance cushion and approximately 92% greater than for the Swissball. In fact the contribution of the pectoralis major was approximately 90% using the balance cushion and only 81% using the Swissball, triceps activity was approximate 79% use the balance cushion and only 69% using the Swissball.

The relationship to the balance cushion, the EMG activity of the pectoralis major, triceps, and erector spinae, when using the Swissball was 89% and 80% respectively. However, the activity of the rectus abdominus showed more involvement when using the Swissball when compared to both the cushion and stable bench.

The researchers concluded that the stable bench produced a greater 6 repetition maximum than was achieved with either the cushion or the stability ball.

Unless there is a specific medical reason to be doing bench presses on a cushion or stability ball you are going to get more out of it on a stable bench than a cushion or stability ball. If, however, you insist upon using unstable surfaces to bench on, the next best option is the cushion with the stability ball being used as a last resort.

060617 Mechanical load consists of the following:

060617 Mechanical load consists of the following:

Magnitude of force

Magnitude of the load density or the intensity of the load will generally be above eighty to ninety percent one to ten repetition maximum in order to see improvements in the tissue response.

Speed of force development

The rate or speed of loading means how fast the force is being applied to move the load in a concentric muscle contraction (force applied against a weight with the muscles shortening). Think speed during the lift.

The direction of forces

Varying the direction and pattern of movement will stress the bone and the attaching musculature. Full range of motion in all exercises ensures to a certain extent that the forces are applied as required.

Volume of force applied

The first three mentioned above are primarily responsible for bone mineral improvements. Typically the repetitions do not need to exceed thirty to thirty five to see improvements IF the load is within the correct intensity zone (80%-90% 1-10RM).

Exercise prescriptions for bone growth stimulation*

  1. Volume 10 reps for 3-6 sets
    2. Load 1-10 RM at 80%-90%
    3. Rest 1-4 minutes between sets
    4. Variation Undulating periodization patterns
    5. Exercise selection Structural, multi-joint, large muscle groups

    *Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning
    Baechle, T. R., Earle, R.W. Human Kinetics 2001

Summary:

The greater the magnitude or intensity, the higher and faster the power output, and the direction of force all contribute to the successful laying down of new bone growth.

130317 Posture-dynamic and static

130317 Posture-dynamic and static

Posture, just the word brings to mind standing at attention with your head up, shoulders back and chest out. In reality it is more than this.

Body posture is both dynamic and at the same time a static action. In fact balance and posture are closely intertwined and in many cases are the same.

Posture affects not only how tall you will grow and how well your internal organs function but your activity and sports performance as well.

Briefly stated, posture can cause positive or negative alterations in the structure of your bones. Problems with your posture cause muscle imbalances, flexibility issues and damage to your joints if continued long term. The results of these changes are back, shoulder and neck pain, all of which, if caused by poor posture, can be alleviated with a conscious awareness of maintaining good posture.

Early on in a person’s life when the body is still developing is the ideal time to establish good posture habits. Doing so allows the body to build a strong useful platform for daily activities and participation in sports.

Good posture means your internal organs have room to grow and be healthy. Improper alignment in the structures of your body puts undue stress on the rest of it causing chronic strain which translates into chronic pain. Some study results have associated chronic pain as being a contributing factor to arthritis later in life.

The spinal column is the supporting base for your entire body and as such needs to be strong and powerful to endure the stresses placed on it throughout the day and for the remainder of your life.

The spine should be solid and flexible (within normal range of motion) while at the same time maintaining the four natural curves at all times. Strengthening the spinal column and the muscles that attach to it will help keep your posture correct and you feeling good about yourself.

110317 Posture and the relationship to strength

110317 Posture and the relationship to strength

The display of strength is influenced by the joint angles of the operating links in the chain. These angles, as would be expected, change with movement. Because of this change, the length of the muscles varies throughout the movement, as does the angle of attachment to the bone.
This means the muscles ability to produce more, or less, force is determined by the angle as the leverages and “moment of muscular force changes the mechanical conditions of work.” This postural condition may benefit strength output if the “force potential of the muscles is used fully” but it can also be “hindrance when only part of their maximal tension can be used.”

Based strictly on observation it is clear that strength is affected either negatively or positively by various postural changes. As an example, most athletes are able to lift more weight in the dead lift than in a straight leg dead lift. This is a classic case of minor changes in the positioning of the links in the chain leading to tremendous strength advantages. In other words if the legs are bent and allowed to participate in the lift much more is hoisted up. It only stands to reason that the more muscles involved the more will be lifted.

Maximal force output at the working joints is truly dependent “upon the position of the system’s links relative to the proximal joints.” For example, the force developed in extension or flexion of the knee joint is determined by the angle at the hip joints. Thus, maximal force in hip extension in the seated position was found to be at an angle of 160° in the knee joint.

“In the leg press (lying on the back)” there was no difference “in knee extension force”…found at hip angles of 100° up to and including 140°’s. “Knee extension strength increases by 10%-12% if the torso is inclined 20° to 25° backward from the vertical with the subject seated in a rowing position. Thus, to produce maximal force in a movement, one must consider anatomical stability and ensure that at crucial moments posture enables the muscles to develop maximal external force.

Summary

Try different stances, different hand grips, and different joint angles during your lifts to increase your power output capacity. Just because Ed Coan or Fred Hatfield squats, a certain way does not mean it will be as effective or efficient for you to do likewise.

Postural changes, however slight, may make big differences in how much maximal force you are able to produce. Try it and see for yourself.

Final note: If you are considering a personal trainer or are training in a local health club, ask about the certification status of the staff. The qualified trainers will be happy to show you their credentials. Remember, it’s your money and more importantly your body, so go with the qualified instructors so you get correct guidance.

* The source of the information comes from the American Physical Therapy Association book entitled BODY MAINTENANCE AND REPAIR. The authors are Marilyn Moffat, PT, Ph.D., FAPTA and Steve Vickery. It is an excellent book that discusses the many systems of the human body.

060317 Shoulder posture

060317 Shoulder posture

An ideal alignment will have the line of reference passing midway through the shoulder joint as it travels downward. The arm and shoulder position depends on where the scapulae and upper back positions are. In a normal, i.e. correct alignment, the scapulae will be lying flat against the upper back. This position is roughly located between the second and seventh thoracic vertebrae with about four inches separation. Even this separation depends on the size of the person.

Positions of the scapulae, other than that described, will negatively affect the position of the shoulder. This particular misalignment of the Glenohumeral joint will in many cases set the athlete up for an impending injury.

040317 Checking your posture

040317 Checking your posture

Did you notice irregularities in symmetry from side to side? Perhaps you have one shoulder lower or one hip higher than the other, maybe there is more space between one arm and the body compared to the opposite side. Do your knees turn in or out? If you answered yes to any of these, then here is a short self-check for you to examine your posture a bit closer.

Stand with your back to a wall, your heels about 6 inches from the wall. Place one hand behind your neck, with the back of that hand against the wall. Place the other hand behind your lower back, with the palm against the wall. If there’s enough space between your body and the wall to move your hands forward and back more than an inch the curves in your spine may not be in proper alignment.

If you found your posture lacking a bit here are three posture practices that just may help.

This exercise is a demonstration of correct standing posture. Try practicing it two to three times a day.

  1. Stand with your back against a wall. Place your heels about 6 inches from the wall and about 6 inches apart from each other. Keep your weight evenly distributed. Arms are relaxed at your sides. Keep your ankles straight, your feet pointed straight ahead and your kneecaps facing front.

    2. Bring your head back to touch the wall. Tuck your chin as if a string were attached to the middle of the back of your head; pretend the string is being pulled up. Pull up and in with the muscles of the lower abdomen, trying to flatten the stomach and bringing your lower back closer to the wall. Gently straighten your upper back by lifting your chest and bringing your shoulders down against the wall.

    3. Hold this position for 10 seconds, breathing normally. Relax and repeat three to four more times.

This exercise is a demonstration of correct sitting posture. Try practicing it two to three times a day.

  1. Sit in a straight back chair, with both feet flat on the floor and with your back resting against the chair. Arms are relaxed with hands on your lap or on armrests. Hold your head erect. Tuck your chin in as if a string were attached to the middle of the back of the head; pretend the string is being pulled up.

    2. Pull up and in with the muscles of the lower abdomen, trying to flatten the stomach. Gently straighten the upper back, lifting the chest. Bring the shoulders back and down against the chair.

    3. Hold this position for 10 seconds, breathing normally and keeping the rest of the body relaxed. Relax and repeat three to four more times.

One final practice is also the most old fashioned. Simply balance a small pillow or book on your head as you go about your normal activities such as walking, working or doing the dishes.

Lastly, as you lay in your bed try placing a small pillow under your knees if lying on your back or between your knees if you sleep on your side. Both practices help keep your spine aligned correctly.

 

270217 Checking your posture

270217 Checking your posture

While viewing an individual from the side, imagine a plumb line dropping from the middle of the ear downward to the floor. From the ear, the line will continue through the middle of the shoulder, down through the hips, mid knee and onto the ankles. Viewed from the rear this same line will be seen dropping from the middle of the head, middle of the back through the Gluteal cleft and between the knees and ankles to the floor.

This line divides the body into the front and rear sections with equal weight on both sides. This dividing line makes no effort to be symmetrical nor is it passing through any obvious anatomical structures equally.

Poor posture can contribute to low back pain, shoulder joint pain, and can even affect how you walk (your gait). If left unattended this pain could become chronic in nature and in a worse case situation could cause long-term damage to the body. This column will include suggestions to improve standing, sitting and lying-down posture.

But first off do you have proper posture? A quick check may offer a revealing glance at how you carry yourself day in and day out.

Begin by standing in front of a full-length mirror. Do you look even from side to side, are your shoulder’s straight across with both sides on the same level as the other side, i.e. one is not higher or drooping when compared to the other side. Imagine a straight-line beginning from the middle of your head through your nose, through the middle of your breastbone, down between your knees and feet. The spaces between your arms and sides are equal, your hips are level, your kneecaps face straight ahead, and your ankles and feet are straight.

Now stand sideways to the mirror and check that an imaginary line beginning at your ear lobe continues down your body. As it drops down it should be hitting the middle of your shoulder. It should pass just behind the hip joint and finally end up in front of the knee and the ankle joint.

Basically, that is how you should look. Do you?

250217 Introduction to posture

250217 Introduction to posture

Posture is an important part of our lives. Posture counts. It can make us feel good or bad, not only mentally but also physically. Imagine walking around slumped over all the time, how do you think you feel? When you notice someone walking like this what is the first thing that pops into your mind? It’s probably something along these lines-they look like they are carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders.
Compare that posture to the posture you have when you really feel great. You can see it in how you walk down the street can’t you?
Carry yourself high and proud. Remember the old saying behavior changes attitude and vice versa. If you are slumping, do yourself a favor and perk up!

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