Archive for September, 2012

If you were to take a poll of the general public trying to find the #1 excuse they don’t workout on a daily basis, I would bet the answer would be “Because I don’t have time”. While this is a poor excuse for many reasons, most of us don’t have the luxury of 2 hours set aside every day for us to devote to some type of physical activity. So when we do get to the gym, we want the most bang for our buck. This is also true for most college teams. With hour restrictions and coaches wanting to get as much time in on the field as possible, the time in the weight room gets whittled down.

The good news is there are ways to get a really good workout in with limited time, and still hit a wide range of muscle groups. Let’s look at a few exercises that demonstrate this point:

1. Overhead Step Up- The main point here: Anything you do single leg/arm and anything you do overhead should automatically turn the exercise into a core stability exercise along with the main muscle group you are trying to work. One leg is clearly less stable than two so it causes us to brace more during a rep (although you should be bracing your core during any kind of squat, deadlift, etc). An overhead exercise moves the weight farther away from the center of gravity making us less stable. This causes our shoulders and our core to constantly adjust to the weight moving so we don’t tip over. Shoulders, core, legs. BAM! 3 birds with one stone. If you want to go super crazy try going 1 arm and holding a dumbbell or kettlebell over your head.

2. 1 Arm Farmer Walks- After reading the above exercise, you immediately recognize the 1 arm part and think core, and you would be correct. Make sure your shoulders are level and not tilted down towards the side the weight is on. If done properly, you will feel this in your lateral core. It also is great for grip strength. This is a great exercise for a sport like baseball or lacrosse where grip strength is important, and much more useful than just doing wrist curls. For those of you that have never heard of a farmer walk, it is very simple. You pick up a weight in one hand (probably a DB or plate), hold it by your side without any shoulder tilt, and walk. I like to try for 40 yards of walking for one set and do that 3 or 4 times.

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3.  Jumping Rope- I wanted to make sure and include something for the cardio lovers out there. I have always liked jumping rope as a warm up as I could feel it get my shoulders and lower legs loose, along with breaking a slight sweat. You are forced to maintain proper posture and it has an explosive element to it. It also forces you to land on your toes which reinforces proper running technique.

4. Push-ups- I’m going to save an in-depth look at push ups for a post of its own, but it’s definitely worth mentioning in this article. If you do a lot of push ups in one day, either your back (poor technique) or stomach (proper technique) will be sore the next day, along with your chest of course.

Workout out smart, and hard, and you can get a solid workout in a limited amount of time. This list is by no means exclusive. If you are strapped for time, find exercises that target multiple muscle groups that you want to work on a given day instead of just sticking with the single joint exercises on the machines.

I have to give complete credit for this article to Bob Alejo, director of strength and conditioning at NC State. We had a discussion one day this summer about hypertrophy and general strength gains and this is the method he suggested. I am on my last week now and have seen significant gains, especially for my chest. So here it is:

4 weeks of sets of 12-10-8-6

1 week of active rest

4 weeks of 3 sets of 8

Before you scoff at the simplicity, think about it. For the first 4 weeks you are in a hypertrophy rep range, but still hitting somewhat of a strength aspect with the set of 6. You also have 22 reps before you get to your set of 8, so you should be pretty fatigued by that time. When you switch to the 3 sets of 8, there should be a significant jump in the weight you are using because you are now doing the set completely fresh. This jump should be large enough to provide a different stimulus to your muscles.

So for my upper body workouts (I did something different for lower body), I would use this rep scheme on a DB Bench, vertical and horizontal pull, and 1 set of biceps and triceps. I would also add in a push-up (1 and a half push-ups or pause push-ups) of  higher set/rep scheme (3×12 or 4×10) for an auxiliary exercise before my single joint movements (bis and tris).

When doing the sets of 12-10-8-6, make sure each weight is challenging, but there is no chance of failure. If you fail a set, it’s really hard to go up in weight and complete all of the reps. Try to pick a weight where the last two reps are tough, but doable.

Also, the active rest week is imperative. It so happened my active rest week fell on the week I was at the beach so I was able to a few workouts on the beach that were completely different from what I was used to. I felt great when I got back in the gym and was ready to get after it. I will go into more detail another time about active rest. To keep it simple, do something like you are used to, just much lighter weight and much less volume.

I am now using dumbbells for sets of 8 on bench press that I might have used for sets of 2-4 previously. I am thrilled with the results because I have always had a pretty weak chest and have tried many different periodization methods to help improve it. I have seen improvements in other methods, but this has by far given me the best results in the shortest amount of time. Give it a try and let me know how it works for you.

My Beef with Diets

Posted: September 10, 2012 in General Health

Our country as a whole has become driven by immediate gratification. This can be most easily seen by looking at our national debt and the percentage of the general public in debt. It can also be seen by looking at the girth of the general public. Over 1/3 (35.7%) of Americans are obese. I would go out on a limb and say most of the obesity is caused by poor eating habits. These poor eating habits occur because we want food now that taste good so we eat whatever junk food is available at the time. 

The instant gratification then leads us to want to drop the weight as fast, or faster, than we put it on with minimal effort. This has lead to the multi-million dollar industry of fad diets. It seems every year there is a new diet that everyone is trying. It seems to work well at first, then you plateau, then you get off of it and gain your weight back. 

I’m not against particular diets, I’m against the idea of dieting.

So you want to lose weight and keep it off? CHANGE YOUR LIFESTYLE. 

Doing the Atkins or South Beach diet might help you shed some pounds over 8 weeks, but these results are hardly ever maintained. Instead, commit to eating healthy and exercise on a regular basis. This isn’t easy or sexy, and you won’t drop 10 lbs in a week, but it will greatly improve your overall health and help you lose unwanted weight. 

Now to define “eating healthy”. The simplest way to think about it is eat like your grandparents. This means real food (not processed), self prepared, complete meals (meat, vegetable, starch). I would also add stay away from high glycemic foods except for immediately before or after a workout. 

If you really want to improve your health, jump in 100%. Be patient and stay committed. Being healthy is pretty important. 

Some people consider overhead lifting to be taboo in the baseball world. This doesn’t make sense to me at all. If you apply a logical thought process to lifting for any sport, you would want to strengthen the athlete during the most injury prone range of motion (ROM), right?

When a pitcher throws a baseball 90 mph, his arm is moving at 7000°/second. This is by far the fastest movement in sports, and also explains why a pitcher is so likely to hurt his arm. From the time the arm cocks to start moving forward until the ball is released, the pitcher’s hand is over his head. So the pitcher is holding a weighted implement (even though a baseball weighs only 5 oz) and moving his arm at the fastest speed any body part moves in any sport, but we shouldn’t train the pitcher in this position?

Since the ball is only 5 oz, I definitely suggest staying light and fast with the weights (or bands, manual work, etc) as opposed to heavy and slow. Two reasons for this:

1. We want to focus on the stabilizer muscles in the shoulder, mainly the rotator cuff, and a heavier weight tends to activate the larger muscles to protect us from injuring our smaller muscles, and

2. We want to train a pitcher’s body in a very sports specific manor.

I hesitate to lay out boundaries because each athlete is so different, but in general I wouldn’t go over 5 lbs when doing rotator cuff specific work, like internal/external rotation. The rule I use is as you increase ROM, decrease the weight. This is true for any exercise, but especially shoulder work because of how much ROM it naturally has. With the pitchers I work with, we will go as light as 21 oz on certain exercises. Error on the light side until you become proficient in whatever exercise you choose.

The shoulder is very different than any other joint in the body, so don’t train it like every other joint.

Good Excuse for an Off Day

Posted: September 4, 2012 in General Health

We’ve all had those days where we drag though our workout. Every rep is a struggle. The dumbbells feel 5 pounds heavier.

My advice for those days: take an off day.

There is a reason our body feels like that on certain days. It’s telling us that it’s not up to par and needs a break. There could be several reasons for this. You could be overtrained. Maybe you haven’t been sleeping enough, or your eating habits have been terrible over the last couple days and it has finally caught up with you.

Whatever the case may be, working out could actually be detrimental to you at this point. Continuing to push your body when it is in this state weakens the immune system. Make up the day later in the week if you feel up to it.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you shouldn’t push yourself every time you workout. If you feel like this 3 times a week, you’re just in terrible shape. Sometimes you need to tough it out, just be smart about it.

This principle can work the other way as well. If you are in a heavier phase of your program and there is a day where you are feeling really good and easily moving the weight, attempt a new max. As nice as it would be if our bodies were in sync with our lifting program and felt amazing for max week, it rarely (if ever) happens. Take advantage of the few days where the stars do align and go for a personal best on whatever you have that day.

We aren’t robots. Listen to your body and make the necessary adjustments. Push yourself when possible, but sometimes less is more.