Because of my limited mobility and ability, I have been taking more rest than usual these past few weeks. I can definitely feel it in my training. No worries, though, I got my mind right, and will be back on track in no time. Here is a video of some of my first leg training since my MCL tear. Its boring, but its what I am doing, among a few other things. I will track everything I do to rehab this thing and keep you informed. I know its not sexy, fun, or monstrous, but it might help someone.
Being a strength fanatic, I understand that true strength is found in things unseen. Strength of character far outweighs any bench press PR. But we aren't getting into that today, We are, however, talking about other kinds of strength "less seen". Everybody wants to look good in the mirror, and rightfully so. So we build the chesticles and strive for washboard abs. What many people fail to realize is that real physical strength is found behind the scenes. When combined with adequate mobility, the muscles of the back and the muscles found deep in the trunk are the keys to insane power, strength and longevity. It has been said that you are only as young as your spine is flexible.
Acquiring massive back strength will take a long time, and will require years of hard work. During this time of intense training, if you fail to balance your heavy back lifting with bodyweight drills, efficient mobility exercises, and full body exercises, you will surely be temporarily side lined, if not permanently forced to cease training due to chronic back pain from poor movement and musculature imbalances. Thats not good, because no one ever achieved their goals by quitting, voluntarily or otherwise.
Having a really big, strong back does not guarantee that you will not have back pain or suffer from other nagging issues. In some cases, a super strong back can actually exasperate the problem. If certain parts of your body are much stronger in relation to other parts, you will be imbalanced and your system will be in a constant struggle for dominance. The stronger muscles win and pull the antagonist weaker muscles all out of whack and usually create some sort of poor posture and nasty alignment issue.
What needs to be done to assure a safe, comfortable and effective journey of super back strength training is having a balanced approach of strength training in conjunction with flexibility and mobility work. Regardless if your lifestyle consists of sitting at a computer chair for 10 hours a day or bending over to pull a loaded barbell from the floor like you're trying to rip the head off a God damn lion, these techniques I'm about to address will insure that your back will feel better, you will perform better, and your life will less likely be derailed from tightness, pain and discomfort.
Never underestimate the power of a few minutes of basic stretching. If you're too busy to get down and stretch yourself out for a few minutes a day, then you're most likely just going to have pain forever because you refuse to take action and be accountable for your own destruction. Below is a video of some basic stretches to get your back and all of your surrounding muscles mobile and moving well. Remember, your entire body is interconnected and the source of the pain is rarely where you feel the pain. It is usually the manifestation of some other deep rooted problem, as simple as sitting on a wallet under one cheek all day, wearing certain kinds of footwear, or even having one leg a half inch shorter than the other, causing bad alignment. Both of which we don't really see or think about. Also, tightness of one muscle group can cause pain above or below the restricted area from overcompensation. If everything is stretched out effectively mobilized, there will be less of a battle for muscular dominance, and thus, less pain and more pleasure.
Some basic static stretches include, but are not limited to:
-lying hamstrings stretch
-prone press up/ hang
-iliotibial band stretch
-it should be noted that foam rolling and various other forms of self myofascial release and massage therapy can have huge benefits with muscle relaxation and pliability
Once you're stretched out and feeling good and able to hold better positions, we must apply this new found range of motion by always maintaining good postural alignment. If you have poor lifting technique or regularly find yourself slouching throughout the day, there's a good chance that your training regimen could make your issues even worse. Maintaining good posture means your body will function more efficiently, which means you'll be able to lift more weight and get stronger muscles, among other things. There are a few things to consider to keep your alignment in check.
Try to keep your head in a neutral position as often as possible. I have a friend who developed serious pain and requires regular treatment due to holding a phone to her ear with her shoulder for hours a day at work. Your ear, shoulder and hip bone should be stacked over one another in the frontal plane. Your head should not tilt forward and your shoulders should not round forward and sag. This should be obvious, but its amazing how many people you see walking around looking at the ground with their shoulders collapsing forward. The more time you spend staring at your computers and smart phones, the more likely you are to develop back pain due to poor alignment. Also, when performing heavy exercise in an unsupported position, such as a deadlift or clean, activate the deep muscles of the trunk by drawing the belly button towards the spine.
Now we need to learn how to properly train for a strong back. This is best done by performing compound joint movements that integrate the whole body, keeping the musculature in balance. Basic bodyweight exercises are something almost anybody can do virtually anywhere, so there are few excuses to not perform them. Kettlebell and sandbag exercises require minimal space and a little investment, but are invaluable and arguably superior exercise tools, depending on which coach you listen to. Barbell training has been my favorite method for quite some time, but I do not entertain the thought of training with only one tool vs another. I have the choice to train with multiple tools, therefore I will continue to do so on a regular basis. Lots of people ask the question, "If you could only do this, or only use that, what would it be?" I say screw that noise. Maybe for a brief period of time I will choose one tool over another, but as a guy who is interested in strength and quality of life, I will use the right tool for the job, or make adjustments and adapt as necessary. And if things aren't perfect, I'll keep my mouth shut and make the best out of the current situation, and continue getting stronger with a minimalist approach. No matter what happens, I'll always have my body and my mind. You can take my barbell, but you can't take my creativity.
Specific exercises that should be used to strengthen the back, the trunk, and surrounding musculature are deadlift variations, squat variations, swings, cleans, snatches, row variations like one and two arm bent over row, renegade rows and seated rows, supine bodyweight rows, pull ups, extensions, bodyweight levers and plank holds, and sprints. Carries are an excellent way to building trunk strength and stability, they are fun and the options are endless. You could carry a sandbag in front of you, hold a kettlebell or two overhead, at your shoulders, or by your sides as in a farmers carry. One arm variations are great for stability and imbalances. Also, various pressing movements to balance the anterior muscles with the posterior is critical. Isolation movements do little to prevent injury or build muscle and are rarely, if ever, performed in our daily lives. So I wouldn't waste too much time or energy doing any.
Some rules to consider when organizing your workouts are to perform the fastest, most technical movements with the greatest range of motion early in your training, while you are freshest, eg. snatches before deadlifts, and cleans before squats. If mixing bodyweight exercises with weight training, perform the exercises with an external load first, before the bodyweight training, eg. bent over rows before pull ups. Novice trainers should never pre-exhaust their muscles before compound exercises because it will usually break down technique and make the exercise potentially injurious, eg. hanging leg raises before squats could cause trunk fatigue and rounding of the spine, NOT GOOD under a load.
When selecting exercises you must focus on a balanced program. Last year I had severe back pain temporarily and it took a while to find the culprit. Thinking about it now it is obvious. I was doing a training program which consisted of high volume squatting with heavy weight. I got up to 368 lbs for 20 reps at a bodyweight of 198. I made it a goal to do 20 reps with double my bodyweight, or 405 lbs. But the pain and intensity was so bad that I had to derail my training and I haven't yet achieved the goal I set out for, due to other more urgent training needs. The problem wasn't necessarily from squatting, as I already mentioned squatting is a great exercise, arguably the best exercise actually. The problem was that it was so hard to perform just one set of high rep squats at that level of intensity that it left me all but unable to effectively perform enough supplemental exercises to balance the work I was getting from squatting. Thus I developed tightness in some areas and weakness in others in relation to the strength that was gained from squatting. Had I continued to perform double kettlebell swings, deadlifts, cleans, rows and other bodyweight drills, and not neglected my mobility exercises, I know I wouldn't have been forced to take a step back from my goal. But, it was a lesson learned and with the knowledge I gained through the experience I am sure I will be successful in the future.
Core conditioning is imperative, and consists of more than training the abs. The core involves all the muscles of the trunk. I use the terms trunk and core interchangeably, and couldn't care less of buzz words or what its called in the magazines this month. Like I stated above, if you train one side of the core musculature and neglect the other, you will fail to build a functional, balanced trunk. Therefore, we need to spend more time on the muscles that we don't see as opposed to the muscles that are staring at us in the mirror. Remember, the trunk of the tree supports the branches, and there is no front or back of a tree, it's just a tree trunk all around. Our trunk serves the same purpose to our extremities. Our arms and legs can only get as strong as our trunk will support. So, whether you want bigger more jacked up guns, a faster 40 time, or simply a more comfortable morning, start with your trunk, as the core serves as a foundation for the extremities. Keep in mind the primary function of the trunk is to stabilize the spine, so the majority of your core exercises could consist of holds and positions that prevent the spine from moving.
If you want to get stronger and keep performing at a high level, or just start feeling better, you must take a balanced approach to strength training as well as flexibility and mobility training. Pay particular attention to the hamstrings, hip flexors and the muscles that rotate the trunk. Maintain good postural alignment in the gym and in your daily life, at all times. Some say the best back exercise is sitting with perfect posture for long periods of time, try it. Train your body as one unit, not a collection of individual parts. Don't bother doing crunches on the floor, train smart with more functional core exercises. Never round your back when lifting weights. Train for balance and don't neglect your "unseen" muscles.
Be smart with your training and if you're interested in exactly how we train our athletes at TSS, want to learn better lifting technique, or are interested in general athletic conditioning, be sure to get involved with our private membership area and receive over 4 months of detailed programming, tutorials and Q&A's, all for only $50.
Also, if you are in or near the UK on May 14th, you need to check out the Strength & Conditioning for Athletic Domination Seminar I am co-hosting at Strength & Performance in Manchester with Zoran and Sean for only 100 British Bucks! It's definitely going to be a BADASS seminar with tons of knowledge being dropped for all those who attend.
Thanks for reading, now get working on that massive, functional back!
I come across some videos occasionally that I would like to share with you. I won't talk much about them, just share them and let you see if anything is of any value to you.
Boxer specific kettlebell training
Lose fat by optimizing insulin sensitivity
I'll routinely share more stuff as I see it.
Here is a sample day of strength training at TSS, every day is different, but the goal is the same... get stronger and better. If you are interested in learning more about our online training program, check this out.
1. Box Jump 12-15 single hits
2. Senders 3 sets of 6-10 hits
-you can hop over kegs, hurdles, paralletes, plates, or nothing at all, just hop in a controlled manner, make sure you add a flip at the end, its crucial, or you are a huge failure ;p
3. Sandbag bearhug squat 3x8-10
-sub goblet squat if necessary, this is for mobility only
-a second video of sandbag bearhug squats, they are a favorite of mine for mobility
4. Squat 5-5-5-3-3-3
-no guts no glory, but make sure you get appropriate depth
5. Hollow Rocks 30/30 x 6
-30 seconds on, 30 seconds off x 6 minutes, try to rock the entire last minute (or two) without resting
6. Sleds 5 minutes
Don't forget to check out my Strength & Conditioning for Athletic Domination Seminar in the UK coming May 14th at Strength & Performance in Manchester! Its going to be an amazing time with tons of ass kicking going on!! See you there.
I'm very excited to announce my first seminar outside of the States, in the UK, with my friends over at Strength & Performance in England! If you are in the UK, or nearby, you need to check this out if you're an athlete or coach!
Strength and Conditioning for Athletic Domination Seminar
You either get serious about your training for sport or you get crushed. You do not train slow and you certainly don't half ass anything! All the tools you will need to dominate will be presented in this 1 day seminar. We will be addressing the best bang for your buck explosive full body training techniques. These exercises build insane speed, power and explosiveness! Dozens of upper body and lower body strength building exercises will be covered. Incorporating kettlebells, bodyweight training, sandbag and dumbbell training and more into your program will be covered from all angles. All sorts of accessory and assistance exercises to balance your training and address your weakness will be presented as well.
Whats the best way to incorporate certain exercises for your particular sport?
Why train one way vs. another?
How can an integrated program enhance my overall athleticism?
These questions and so much more will be covered and you will discover the answers to the problems that have been holding you back from dominating everything you do in the gym and on the field! Even if you just want to be more fit, training like an athlete is the best way to burn fat, build muscle and live a happier, healthier life, IF you know how to train safely and effectively.
If you have any questions or concerns, ask me directly, or my buddies Zoran and Sean over at S&P.
If you want to dominate in life, you must be better prepared, stronger, faster, and healthier than your competition. And you need a clear path to success. This seminar will lay down the foundation for your continued success. DO NOT miss out on this opportunity if you live in or near the UK!
Athletic Domination Seminar
Saturday, May 14th at Strength & Performance with Me, Zoran and Sean for only 100 British Bucks!
Warming up has been a great topic in the fitness business lately, everybody has their opinion and their favorite exercises they perform preworkout. I don't care much for the debate between static vs dynamic stretching, either. I think you need lots of static stretching if you have a problem getting into certain necessary positions for the exercises you will be performing for the day. You also need lots of dynamic range of motion exercises to prepare your body for the challenges about to come. If you're an active athlete and play a sport like football, you know that at any second you could find yourself in any number of awkward positions. Being prepared will keep you safe and healthy and performing at an optimum level. If you feel good and are excited for the days training or performance, than it is an effective warm up. This video shows how we begin our warm up with a top down approach with a football team just before a big game. We hit all the major areas and do not waste too much time. You'll see how things do not need to be drill sergeant perfect choreography, but that does look damn cool if your team is disciplined enough to pull it off. But in an environment like ours, where the players practice just a few days a week, you need to spend your precious time on more important things than being in a perfectly straight line and synchronizing all of your movements. This is not life or death, just Polish Football, American style.
Get on over to the private membership area to see the additional 11 minute video of the agility drills we do as a unit to prepare for the big game. Agility drills help prepare your body for all types of dynamic movements as required in sport. If you have played football before, you know what I am talking about. If you haven't, or are just looking for some new exercises to perform to increase your athletes or personal fitness and athleticism, you need to check this video out over at the private membership blog.
A quick video I made yesterday before the game while some of the team got together for a pregame meal as we discussed our thoughts on the game about to follow.
Here is a quick little video about the game I made, but most of the video I took is poor quality and unwatchable. Here is a link to the game highlights.
A few quick things I learned... everybody hates people from Warsaw, like they are shitty people or something, stuck up. But it's funny because after the war, Warsaw was totally destroyed, only a few thousand people lived here. Many people migrated here to help rebuild the city, now everybody hates Warsaw. So, it don't make no sense, ya know... The post office is not digitized, it's like Paul Revere is running the show all by himself. It takes months for shit to get delivered, so don't bother with care packages. I know you all wanted to send me cookies, but some fat bastard will literally open my box and eat my cookies. ***snickers*** That's actually a good line to use on my girlfriend.
Here is my roommates and me having fun around the way. None of them have much experience with these particular exercises, as you can see by our coordinated choreography, but we had a good time playing and having some fun with our training. Snatch, squat, press, pull... how can you go wrong? I'm limping because I tore my MCL recently. I have lots of rehab to do.
"There are two big forces at work, external and internal. We have very little control over external forces such as tornadoes, earthquakes, floods, disasters, illness, and pain. What really matters is the internal force. How do I respond to those disasters? Over that I have complete control."
-Leo Buscaglia, American expert on love, lecturer, author
Sometimes I am a real baby when things don't go my way. But we all know that it's impossible to always get everything you want, exactly how you want it and when you want it. It seems that some kids are always given everything to make their lives easy and comfortable, while others seem to always get the shaft. If your life has been made easy by your parents or your surroundings, your ability to deal with stress with by retarded. If you have always had to make hard decisions or grew up in a tough environment, then simple stresses, and even major problems, won't present such a disastrous dilemma to you. It isn't always the actual problem at hand that creates the pain and stress, but it is how we deal with said problem that is ultimately going to affect your behavior and the ultimate outcome of the situation. Not sure the exact source, but I recently saw an experiment that showed how some soldiers at war, in the mist of bullets and bombs, actually had lower stress levels than some housewives in Beverly Hills. We all know that seeing your best friends leg get blown off right in front of you is nothing compared to having to park your brand new special edition Escalade in front of your diminutive 15,000 square foot mansion and call the help to carry in the groceries. The point is, some people simply learn how to deal with stress, while others let their stress eat them alive.
Truly happy people find a way to be happy no matter what the situation, while others are always in a bad spot regardless of how good or bad their position is. Last Saturday I suffered a grade 3 MCL tear, which sucks because I was hoping to have a dominating football season. While that is impossible now, everything is not over and destroyed. I still have an amazing opportunity to have a great time in Poland and help a lot of people out while I am here. I have to take it easy on the leg for a few days which means my training has taken a nap temporarily, but now I am super hungry to get rockin again. I will be forced to put a bigger emphasis on particular areas of training that I may have overlooked before I busted up my knee. I was in pain, I was pissed and stressed, wondering how I was going to fulfill my duties as an athlete, a coach, a teammate, etc. But I shall do my best, with a smile and the type of charisma that gets people fired up and ready to kill shit! Hobblin', wobblin', or sprintin', here we go, guys...
Don't forget the private membership strength and conditioning blog is in full effect and is ONLY $50 for 4 months of detailed programming and personal on-line coaching. Most coaches out there are full of shit, can't teach half the shit I do in my sleep, and flat out suck balls. I get shit done, I know progressions, I can give you the path to real strength and goal achievement and give you the answers to all the questions that are plaguing you. Get off your ass and get on board. Check it out here...