Explosivelyfit Strength Training

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010817 Alternate Bench Press Training Methods

010817 Alternate Bench Press Training Methods 

By Danny M. O’Dell, M.A. CSCS*D

Most everyone has heard the saying that if you want a ‘big bench then you have to think big’. Just ‘thinking a big bench’ is NOT going to cut it. Instead, you have to analyze your current bench technique. Look at the strong points, the weak and the in between ones as well. Examine how the bar is traveling. Is it fast and sure or slow and tentative? Where does it go fast and where does it go slow? Is it going straight up or angling back toward your head? Where are your elbows when the bar slows or is moving quickly? Where does your strength lie? Is it in your pectoralis major, your anterior deltoids, your triceps or maybe in your upper back? Once you have closely examined the way you lift, then you have the information necessary to chart a course of improvement.

Many bench press practitioners are relying on the false belief that simply by doing more benches their lift will become stronger. Clearly, there is an error to this premise. If it were as easy as this, the world would be witnessing more 800-pound benches.

Making your strong points stronger and improving upon the weak portions of your lift by practicing variation in exercise selection is the key to progressive development toward heavier loads. If you have difficulty in locking out the weight then more triceps work is needed. If you cannot stabilize on the bench and remain in the groove then more upper back work is evidently necessary. In time, using the same exercise becomes stagnant and unresponsive to your needs. Variety truly is the spice of lifting progress.

Just as the palate becomes tired of the same food so does the body become tired of the same tools of exercise. If you consistently use the barbell as the single training instrument, your nervous system will eventually quit responding to the training and you will have reached the infamous ‘plateau. Use dumbbells in place of the barbell for a change. Use bands or surgical tubing for added speed or resistance elsewhere in the strength curve. Begin doing various types of push-ups (see the Push up power for more ideas) and you can positively stress your bench press muscles in a variety of different ways.

The use of stability balls, asymmetrical loading and camber bars adds even more dimension to the exercise options just as will changing up the range of motion (ROM). Instead of a full ROM, do fast partials from three to four inches below lockout. Or, from three to four inches off the chest to the lockout. Use dumbbells to increase the ROM but be very careful in using this method as it will be extremely stressful on your shoulders at the low (below chest level) point. Floor presses and board presses are also very handy to practice when going for the big bench press.

The utilization of these exercises at differing times in your training schedule will elevate the strength and power throughout the entire curve.

Stress placed at the natural sticking point will eventually change the position of that particular point of resistance. It will not eliminate the sticking point. It will only move it elsewhere up, or down, the path. Adding chains, bands or tubing will change the sticking points depending on the attachment points selected.

For example, attaching a band to a point above the bar will reduce the load off the chest, thereby making the ‘starting strength’ weight lighter. This in turn helps to improve the speed of the push off the chest. Additionally, the high band attachment will help to contribute to the overload during the explosive strength phase of continually increasing the force production on the bar.

Conversely, attaching bands at a point lower than the bar will develop starting strength and further change the location of the sticking point lower into the movement pattern. It also contributes to helping increase the top end of force the production strength curve due to the added resistance on the bar resulting from the tension of the stretched bands.

To learn more about how to increase your bench press you may want to consider getting your copy of the Ultimate Bench Press Manual. It is jammed full of incredible information designed to get your bench up where you want it to be!

An instant download version is available here at Amazon for your eReader device.

020417 Strengthening the deep lower back muscles

Strengthening the deep lower back muscles

Sports scientists and strength coaches are well aware of the importance of a strong back. One of the exercises that will contribute to strengthening this often times injured area is simple to do and can be done nearly anywhere.

Position yourself up against a wall so that your head, shoulders, upper back, buttocks and heels are all touching at the same time. Now while maintaining this contact, try to push the lumbar area of your spine against the wall. Keep the pressure evenly distributed throughout the lumbar area and hold it for four or five seconds at a time for five to six good repetitions.

If this seems too difficult then do it supine on the floor. Once you’ve figured this out on the floor then move back to the standing version.

300117 Starting a weight training program

Starting a weight training program.

Are you just beginning to lift weights? If so, then seeking out a knowledgeable coach to guide you along may be the first and most important thing you should consider doing. Check their credentials. Are they certified by a recognized organization such as the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) or the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)? Do they care about you or just your money and the gym membership? Ask them for references. After all, it truly is a buyer beware situation when you are trying to get stronger and are paying out good money for the results you desire.

Maximum lifts are to be avoided in any new weight training program. If this is the case then how are you expected to lift heavy if you don’t know how to lift in the first place? The answer is you can’t. So don’t be intimidated into adding more and more on the bar in your first sessions. Learn how to lift, build up a base and then gradually start adding the weight.

Excessive initial loads contribute little to becoming stronger but do expose you to an increased likelihood of injury. A new lifter will do quite well with a load varying in the range of 60-80% of a muscles force generating capability. You may be wondering how this is determined. One of the safer ways is to simply estimate a conservative load and try it out.

Another more frequently used method is to do a set amount of repetitions, i.e. ten, five or three, and then use commonly available charts to determine the percentage weight to use based on the outcome of the multi repetition test. Once the percentage has been figured out then the sets and reps will be a matter of professional knowledge and experience for your coach.

Using lighter weights for more repetitions is generally wiser for the inexperienced lifter. Selecting loads that allow ten to fifteen repetitions for two to four sets in each exercise helps build a strong base to continue future training. This repetition and set scheme will not place an excessive load on the bones, ligaments, muscles or tendons of the new lifter. More importantly it will not cause negative disruptions on the nervous system.

Certainly if the lifter is able to easily lift the selected percentage load for the chosen repetitions then more weight can be added the next session. A minimum of twelve repetitions is the determining factor in this decision to go to a higher load. This process will be trial and error for the first two to three sessions unless the coach is highly experienced.

Once the weight has been figured out then it’s time to set up the training load schedule in one of several ways: Progressive, over load, or step loading.

Progressive is effective for the new lifter for a short time then becomes less productive. The schedule will appear in this fashion. Three to four sets of various loads with a certain number of repetitions. For example, a warm up followed by one set of eight reps, then one set of six and finally one set of four. This schedule is followed for the rest of the training time.

The overload scheduling scheme leads to over training which in turn will lead to staleness, lack of interest and even injury. Many coaches like this as they believe the athlete benefits from the extra work. Not so. The athlete becomes disinterested and fatigued. In this system the load progressively increases every week or even every session. There is no rest built into this loading program and the constantly increasing intensity quickly leads to overtraining and its attendant problems.

The step load seems to be the best alternative for the new trainee in that one load is used throughout the entire sequence of one exercise. In the step load the warm up is completed and then one load is chosen which has been determined by the previous testing. This load then remains for three to five sets until it is no longer a challenge to the lifter. This is co-determined by both the lifter and the coach’s observations of the lifters speed and bar path.

An able coach will also start out the exercise session with a dynamic warm up such as riding a bike, skipping rope (my favorite warm up exercise) or some other active motion type of movement. If your coach starts out with static stretches then it’s time to find one more knowledgeable in the field.

Depending on the sessions some will begin with the larger muscle groups first and gradually work their way to the smaller ones such as the arms or calves. On other occasions the exercises will begin with the targeted muscle groups and work from this point onward.

One final note or two; keep a log of your progress in the weight room it will show you how well you’ve done…or not. If the or not is taking place it’s time to find another coach and begin to make some progress.

280117 Maximum power output

Maximum power output, as many strength athletes already know, results from using loads in the intensity ranges of 30-40 % one repetition maximum. But the maximal coefficient of reactivity will be obtained by utilizing weight loads in the 30-33 % ranges.

Strength training will increase explosive power. But training cannot be confined exclusively to strength regimens, some of it must be in the power percentages.

230117 General Upper Torso Stretches

230117 General Upper Torso Stretches

Shoulder front

Standing upright with good posture put your hands together behind your back, keeping your arms straight raise them slowly upward to the rear. Hold for a moment then lower back down and begin again.

Shoulder rear

Continue standing with good posture in an upright position. Take one arm and hold it horizontal and parallel to the ground. Now move it across your upper chest so the hand is on the opposite side. With the opposing hand hold the elbow of the horizontal arm and begin pulling in a gentle manner toward your chest. Hold the stretch for a moment and release then repeat.

Favorite shoulder stretch

Stand facing a wall with outstretched arms. Lean into the wall and rest on your hands now look between your arms and lower your head toward the floor. Feel the nice stretch in your shoulders. This can also be done by placing your fully extended arms onto a bench or chair and leaning downward toward the floor.

Floor stretch

Get on your hands and knees. While keeping your arms straight set back on your calves with your buttocks touching them. Put your head between your arms and touch the floor with your head.

Towel stretch

The old standby for working the shoulder range of motion is the towel stretch. Starting with a bath towel or dowel rod slung over your shoulder and dropping toward the floor hold the top with one hand the bottom with the other in your other hand. Now you can go one of two ways: either pull down with the back hand or pull up with the hand at the top. In both instances, the pull should be gentle as your shoulders are in a vulnerable position and easily damaged. A soft pull is what you are looking at achieving, just enough to stretch the shoulders. The ideal is to be able to touch your hands together in the middle of your back. This may be nearly impossible if you are heavily muscled.

Chest
In a standing position interlace your fingers on top of your head. Now move your elbows and hands to the rear.

Chest favorite

Standing next to the wall, a door frame or better yet a power rack, reach behind and hold onto the surface. The stretch begins as you turn your shoulders and upper torso away from the wall, door or power rack. This works really well with the power rack.

160117 Is your heart on top of your training?

160117 Is your heart on top of your training?

Do you know if you and your heart are training at a sufficient level to make progress by encouraging the heart muscle to get stronger? If not then the next time you train try counting your heart beats and find out where you stand. This is a quick and dirty way of finding out if you are on track to achieving higher levels of fitness.

To begin the test make sure you have the right equipment on hand. You will need a clock with a sweep hand or a digital one with an internal stopwatch or better yet an actual stopwatch. As soon as you are finished exercising take your pulse. Do not wait even two to five seconds to do so or the results will be misleading. Now that this figure is noted take your pulse again in exactly one minute; not a minute and two seconds but precisely one minute. If for example you decide to count right after your exercise is done and do so for one full minute then the second minute would begin immediately with not interruptions between the two.

The next step is to subtract the second reading from the first and then divide the answer by 10. The resultant answer is then compared to the following chart to determine your level of cardio overall physical fitness.

If your calculations come up less than the number 2 then you are in poor shape and need to work out a bit more and a bit harder by upping your cardiovascular workouts. Raise the target heart rate percentages up into the 70% HR for your age and gender.

Numbers between 2-3 indicate a fair fitness position but it definitely could be improved with higher workout intensities.

Good readings start to appear between 3-4 and get even better at ranges of 4-6. Superior fitness is indicated when the numbers are above 6.

If you are already in superior shape then the dividend number changes. In this instance take your pulse immediately after exercising as before and then again at the thirty-second mark. Now rather than dividing by 10 you will divide by 5 to arrive at the answer.

If you are concerned about overtraining take your pulse three mornings in a row as soon as you wake up. If by chance you are entering the overtraining phase of things your pulse may be up higher than normal. Some of the literature suggests these higher pulse rates can be as much as ten beats more per minute than normal. If this is the case then it’s time to lower your level of training until your body has a chance to recover.

140117 Maintaining range of motion

140117 Maintaining range of motion

Strength training and stretching go hand in hand towards increasingly better fitness levels. A loss of flexibility brings with it a loss of functionality in daily living activities as well as in the weight room.

Stretching is not meant to hurt unless you are in the active stages of recovering from a surgery to one of your joints or muscles. In which case the stretches will hurt, but a successful outcome depends on regaining the lost range of motion.

This involves loosening up the areas around the surgery and daily motion of the joint or muscle. It should not swell afterwards because if it does, then you have pushed it too far, too fast. Back off and get the swelling under control and then work the movements again being careful not to cause swelling again. Ice and compression are important tools to use after surgery and after exercising the area.

Prevention of the loss of joint range of motion depends on following a pattern of stretches that follow these minimal guidelines.

1. Static or Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation general stretching programs involving the major muscle and tendon groups such as the shoulders, chest, upper and lower back, and the legs.
2. Do your stretching two to three times a week or after each strength training session.
3. Hold each stretch to a point of mild discomfort unless working past a surgery limitation then it will be a bit tougher and deeper into the discomfort zone.
4. Each stretch needs to be held a minimum of ten seconds for each static stretch and up to six seconds for each PNF contraction and then immediately followed by the assisted stretch.
5. Perform each selected stretch for three to five times each.

A little bit each day will produce amazing results in a very short time.

090117 Progressing towards strength training

090117 Progressing towards strength training by Daniel Pare

You have been working out for a while and you need a change of pace! You have heard about strength training and you are wondering what it will do for you! My objective is to help you make gains relatively quickly.

Most trainees are involved in a regular exercise program and or in a bodybuilding-type training program. Not too many are involved in strength training. Let’s go through some basics first. There are 2 different kinds of muscular hypertrophy. One is for muscular size and the second one is for muscular strength and size. We are going to focus on gains in muscular strength and size or strength training.

High repetition sets relate to muscular size and low repetition sets relate to muscular strength and size. You have been training for years or you are just starting out and you are regularly doing sets of 10 to 15 reps per set.

One question that arises is how can I get results with fewer repetitions? Let me explain. For example, let’s take the bench-press. You are used to doing 10 repetitions per set. You are training towards becoming bigger and not necessarily stronger. Why is that? You chose a weight that will permit you to complete 10 reps with proper form and technique and you are going to repeat that for approximately 3 sets. That is very good, except that you are training to increase size and strength suffers. Now let’s take the same exercise and let’s focus on a maximum of 5 reps per set with proper form and technique. The muscles remain strong and this brings good strength gains and this is followed by good quality muscular size. This is a win-win situation.

If you have been training for a while with sets of 10 you will need a little bit of time to adjust to this. You are a beginner! Right from the start you will build a strong foundation accompanied by good strength and size. Remember that in order to get long lasting results in your quest to sports performance, enjoy daily activities, weight loss or whatever your objective may be, you need to train at the level at which you remain strong.

Daniel Pare, NCCP, CSO, CSPS, CSTS.
Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach,
St. Thomas, 519-633-0771,
Fax 519-637-1210,
Email Stsa1258@aol.com

070117 Following the Pro’s Routines by Jon Miller

070117 Following the Pro’s Routines by Jon Miller

I liked this post so much that a long time ago asked Jon if I could use it on my site and he gave me his permission to do it. It is still valid, thus the posting here.

I thought about all the people who go pick up bodybuilding magazines and base all they do from the information they find there. It’s a very unfortunate situation. I say this because bodybuilding magazines do have some good information. However, not all the information is good.

The main items that are not good information are the pro bodybuilder’s routines. You know what I’m talking about. Every single issue has more than one of these.

“Yes, yes, I know what you’re talking about, Jon. But what’s so wrong with them?”

To put it bluntly, the articles are full of crap. First of all, we have probably never seen one of these articles that lists a pro’s real training routine. I have even spoken with a few different people who told me of their days in California where people would look at magazines and say things like, “I know that’s not how he trains, I have trained with him before!”

The problem is that most of these articles are written by ghost writers. These ghost writers create the articles. Then the pro bodybuilder (who is under contract with the specific magazine publisher) is credited with the article. They throw in a few pictures, put their name at the end and voila! And the mags sell like crazy. Please believe me, I’m not making this stuff up. This is common knowledge in the bodybuilding world.

The main problem with these training routines is they will over train you big time. For example, a shoulder routine will usually consist of 12-16 sets of exercise for one muscle. Way too much! You could make it work by using 2 of the 3 or 4 sets per exercise as warm-ups, but most people do not know this. They just go into the weight room and start pumping out 12-16 hard sets (usually after too few warm-ups, if any at all). It will take no time at all until a person becomes over trained and probably injured. These routines would be able to hurt you even if you were pumping yourself full of illegal steroids.

Another problem is that now days these articles are written more to advertise some nutritional supplement products. Many times it’s more like an advertisement with a little bit of horrible training advice thrown in. People see that this huge guy claims to take this product and follow this routine. “Look, he’s huge; I better do it, too!” Yep, I’m sure there’s not a big money industry behind all this…

So, since I have ripped on these magazines, I will say that there is some good information in them as well. Usually the diet information is good. They push the idea of eating smaller, more frequent meals. They always tell the importance of high protein and moderate carbohydrate intake. Some are even getting better about accepting fat into diets. Just get past each magazine pushing its own product and you can see good information to use.

The point is to remember these magazines’ main objective. Keep a close eye on them. Remember that the articles are almost always just another ad for their products and/or their professional bodybuilder. Look past the stuff that you know is junk and absorb only the good basic information. Keep this in mind, enjoy the pictures and be on your way to a strong healthy life.

020117 Neurons and sarcomeres

020117 Neurons and sarcomeres

In the neuromuscular system, the neuron provides the link between the nervous system and the muscles. Without this interaction, no activity would take place.

The sarcomere is the smallest and most basic muscle unit. It contains all of the contractile and regulatory mechanisms necessary to function as part of the muscular system.

Muscle fibers contain hundreds to thousands of sarcomere. The muscles themselves are made up of numerous fibers.

Listening to your body

Your body tells you what is going on…if you pay attention to it. Sometimes it is obvious; a muscle tweak or worse, an injury. Often it is just a feeling that you can’t quite describe or put your finger on. In the latter case, it’s the status of your homeostasis being disrupted. You know it on a subconscious, internal sensation, level.

In order to recognize these inputs, you must practice paying attention to them. This observational attitude has to be developed. It is not easy, but can be done with practice. Notice how your body responds to different stimulate, or how the bar feels in your hand as you lift. How does it feel or what is your body doing during these activities that are creating these sensations?

With practice, you will become more and more aware of these ambiguous signs from within your body. You’ll be amazed at the detail provided by the movement and postures that take place during the exercise.

Learn to listen to these vague signals. You will be the recipient of valuable lessons and information. This will enable you to grow stronger and more powerful, both in body and mind.

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