Posts Tagged ‘strength’

“Bro, when you tack on mass, you sacrifice flexibility. That’s just a straight up fact.” -Mac, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

This is one of my favorite quotes from the show, and one of the bigger myths in the fitness industry today. I also thought it was appropriate after the Strength for Athleticism series that hopefully gave you a better idea of what I mean when I talk about functional strength.

We’ve all seen guys in the gym or pictures of Ronnie Coleman or Arnold Schwarzenegger that are huge and basically waddle when they walk. While they might be strong in the sense of the numbers they can put up in the gym, but I don’t see them being able to do much in any athletic setting.

Unfortunately, many athletes train in a similar fashion to body builders. They want to see how much weight they can put on a bar and sacrifice technique and range of motion (ROM) to do so. In this case, Mac would probably be right. You would add mass at the cost of your flexibility. This causes the muscle to shorten over time, which would put you at greater risk for injury.

When performing a high-speed movement, think of your muscle as a car. You want to speed the car up to go as fast as possible, but at some point the car has to slow down. Your ROM is the distance the car has to slow down. If you have a greater ROM, then you have a greater distance to decelerate the muscle. If the muscle is short, you have to slam on the brakes, putting more stress on the muscle fibers during an eccentric motion. Chuck Wolf mentions this in part 3 when he is talking about a pitcher’s biceps. The biceps contribute to the deceleration of the arm after release of the baseball. If the biceps is shortened, the window for slowing the arm down becomes smaller and the chance of an injury (probably biceps tendonitis) increases. The same idea applies to the legs for running or jumping. Long and strong is much preferred over short and tight.

So how do you lift weights and not decrease flexibility?

There are several answers to this question, but I believe the most important factor is concentrating on going through the full ROM while completing your lift. This might require you to lower the weight. No one is impressed with your 400 lb quarter squat anyways, or half biceps curls. Get your butt down to parallel so you are working your hamstrings and glutes instead of just your quads, and try extending the elbows all the way instead of keeping them at 90 degrees and swinging your shoulders.

Another suggestion would be modifying exercises to create a larger possible ROM. An example of this would be to take a reverse lunge and turn it into an elevated reverse lunge. Start by standing on a stable, elevated surface (only needs to be a 3-6 inches high) and proceed to step backwards in a lunge while your front foot remains on the box. Your knee will have a further distance to travel which will increase the difficulty and should get a better stretch in the hip flexor/ quad of the leg stepping back. Make sure to keep your chest tall or that stretch will be negated.

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Whether you are a weekend warrior or a professional athlete, train in a manner that will give you the best results and keep you healthy. Try out these tips and let me know what you think.

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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.