Short Lesson on Foam Rolling

Foam rolling has become very popular over the course of the last 5 years or so. The simple theory behind foam rolling is that it helps repair your myofascia (or muscle fascia, fascia being a type of connective tissue that wraps around muscle and most other structures of the body) to a more normal functioning state. This is why foam rolling is a form of stretching known as self-myofascial release (SMR).

 

As useful as the foam roller is, it’s easy to use it incorrectly and possibly cause injury. Here is a short video on some of the important spots to hit while rolling:

 

 

Starting from the beginning, first we’re rolling out the tensor fascia latae (TFL, a hip flexor which connects to the iliotibial tract) and the lateral side of the quad, or the vastus lateralis. Rolling the TFL and lateral part of your quad may be a better way to relieve iliotibial  (IT Band) pain than rolling the IT Band itself. This is because the IT Band is much more dense and has much less plasticity than a muscle, therefore you are less likely to effect its function by rolling it. Next is the medial part of the quad, vastus medialis, and the hip adductors.

 

When we roll over we’re going to roll the gluteus maximus, then cross our leg so that we can pin point some deeper hip rotators such as the piriformis, which is known to be a cause of low back pain. Finally, on your back we’ll roll out the thoracic spine, lats and posterior shoulder muscles, all of which can be problem areas especially for those of us that sit too much (which is basically everybody!).

 

These, by no means, are your only options as far as utilizing the foam roller. The movements demonstrated in the video are simply the ones that will help you hit the areas which generally are effected most by everyday life.

Adding Mobility Work into Your Day

mobility

Staying mobile as you get older is something that we all have to fight. Considering that most of our jobs consist of sitting in a chair hours a day, becoming immobile early in life is easier than ever. But, when you only have a finite amount of time to get your workout it, finding time warm up can be tough, essentially pushing all the necessities for mobility away. Luckily there are a few ways to implement mobility work without taking up any more time at the gym.

 

1) Do your stretching and mobility separate from your workout

 

Common knowledge seems to be that the only time you can stretch or do mobility work is while you’re at the gym. Luckily for us, the only thing we really need for this kind of work is our bodies, and we tend to take those wherever we go. Doing 15-20 minutes of foam rolling and static stretching first thing in the morning or at night when you’re watching television is a great way to get keep yourself mobile while not having to worry about taking up more time at the gym. Also, it’s just extra movement that you wouldn’t be doing otherwise and, in this day in age, any time we can get some extra movement in is time to take advantage of.

 

2) Use stretching/mobility as fillers between sets

 

We all know that, for a lot of us, going to the gym is not a only for exercise, but for a little social time as well. Between sets we spend time talking to our gym buddies instead of taking that extra time to do something productive. Throw in some static stretching or mobility work next time you find yourself chatting it up….after all, you can still talk and stretch.

 

3) Use your training as mobility work

 

 

Resistance training is generally thought of as a way to either get stronger, more powerful or build muscle mass. All of this is true, of course, but it should be thought of as more than that. Good training should also be mobility work. Performing a variety of bilateral and unilateral exercises in a proper range of motion is just as effective (if not more effective) than most static stretches or mobility work can be. The key, again, is using a full range of motion (ROM). Most squats, benches and even arm curls that I’ve seen are done with 3/4 ROM or worse. If you’re using heavy weights, which is fun to do at times and helpful for anybody (if done properly), really concentrate on a full ROM during your warm up sets.

Good Reads for the Week 10/26/2014

I’m sure everybody missed the good reads last week, but now it’s time to get back on track. Heading into November, nutrition will be a big deal trying to figure out what we can do to keep the Holiday weight off. We’ll do our best to get some good info out there for you to stay lean over the winter.

 

http://thrive4strength.wordpress.com/2014/10/22/not-comfortable-squatting-try-these-out/ – Wrote this last week giving a few tips about implementing unilateral lower body exercises into your workouts.

 

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/barefoot-running – I’m a huge fan of minimalist shoe wear, or really going barefoot any time you can. This is a great article covering the benefits and giving you little background into the uprising of the modern running shoe.

 

http://robbwolf.com/2014/10/09/5-reasons-switch-pastured-pork/ – Scared of bacon? You shouldn’t be, you should only be scared of where it was raised. Check this article out to find out where you should look for good pork.

 

http://www.tailopez.com/blog/why-you-have-to-be-patient-if-you-want-to-be-amazing – Good article from Tai Lopez, giving you some insight on being patient in your endeavors.

Not Comfortable Squatting? Try these out!

Back squat and front squat can be tricky exercises to master. Go into flexion too much during back squat and you end up with a bad back. Don’t get your elbows high enough during front squat and the weight will end up tumbling to the floor. For those of you who may already have some structural issues (back pain, knee pain, hip pain) and can’t squat, here are a few exercises you can utilize to help get the same results. Also, I’ll give you a few ideas on how to implement them into your routine without hurting yourself (after all, we always want to try the hardest exercise first don’t we….well, maybe that’s just me).

 

Unilateral lower body exercise is a great way to work around structural issues or discomforts you may have with bilateral lower body movements. The important thing is knowing to always start with the basics and work up from there.

 

 

The split squat is a great place to start when first beginning unilateral training. It’s a hard exercise to mess up and gives you a bit of support with your back leg to help with stabilization. Always start with body weight and make sure your front foot and back foot are not too close together. You front knee should create a 90 degree angle at the bottom of the movement. When adding weight, starting in the offset position (which is shown in the video) will add a rotational component to the exercise. Play with holding the weight in the hand of the front leg and in the hand of the back leg to see which feels better. The goblet position is the next step, which will add an anti-flexion component. Once you can comfortably do sets of 10 with about 25% of your body weight in the goblet position, it’s time to try our next exercise.

 

 

If you ask most of our clients what their favorite exercise is, not a single one would mention Rear Foot Elevated (RFE) squats (the most effective exercises are generally the ones you hate doing). This exercise takes the support from your back leg on the split squat and puts it up on a bench, allowing the front leg to do (much) more of the work. Again, you want to make sure your front knee is at 90 degrees at the bottom of the movement and that your back knee is not jammed in behind you. Start with body weight and move to the goblet or offset position. From there we’ll go to a farmer’s walk position with weight in each hand. Finally we can do the front squat position with a barbell if you’re comfortable. Once you can do sets of 10 with 25% of your weight in a goblet position, it’s time to try our final movement.

 

 

The true single leg squat is done with the off leg in an unsupported position. This means the working leg does all of the work. This may sound counter-intuitive, but starting with weight will actually make performing this exercise easier because it will work as a counter balance as you go through the movement. Start with farmer’s carry style (weight in both hands) and extend your arms out in front of you as you come down. Return them to your side as you come back up. Moving to the goblet position will make things a little more difficult, so work with two weights for a while.

 

Good luck putting these in to your program. Remember, start with the split squat and move up from there. No reason to get ahead of yourself and go straight for the single leg squats and hurt yourself. Start with 3 sets of 8, moving to sets of 10 after 3 weeks.

The Agricultural Revolution and mismatch disease

agriculture

 

The Agricultural Revolution was the beginning of the first time in history when energy sources (food) went from being seasonal and scarce to year-round and abundant. Without the Agricultural Revolution, our society would not have flourished the way that it has over the centuries. Without abundant food, population would be a fraction of what it is and our socioeconomic structure would look much differently. But with all the good things that the Agricultural Revolution did for our culture and economy, it created diseases and living situations which have wreaked havoc on our health and wellness over the years.

 

A mismatch disease is a disease that can be attributed to cultural habits and eating habits that have been adopted over the years which our bodies are not adapted for. Mismatch disease actually accounts for the majority of disease that plagues us today, and about 70% of them are preventable. This can really be a wide range of things, so let’s look at a couple specific examples to get an idea:

 

Type 2 Diabetes

 

There are a bunch of metabolic disorders that have take over our country as of late: obesity, hypo and hyperthyroidism, diabetes to name a few. Type 2 diabetes, or adult on-set diabetes, is typically (but not always) accompanied by obesity. This form of diabetes is defined by the inability of the pancreas to produce insulin in response to blood glucose. Simply put, when you each carbs your body releases insulin to store it until it is released too frequently to the point that the pancreas essentially becomes burnt out. Up until the Agricultural Revolution, type 2 diabetes was essentially non-existent. The reason being? Humans had to really work for their food at the time, hunting for meat and foraging for fruits, veggies, nuts and seeds. So less food was immediately available for consumption, making it nearly impossible to over-tax the pancreas from insulin release.

 

Osteoporosis

 

Your body has a great way of making sure that any bone that is damaged, is repaired, but not too repaired. You have cells in your body that help repair bone and break down bone. Osteoblasts are cells that repair bone, making sure that anything that has been broken or overstressed is repaired. Osteoclasts break down bone, regulating the osteoblasts work and also effecting anything that is not properly stressed. Here’s the thing….once you hit about age 20, if you don’t properly stress your bones, your osteoclasts will have a field day. When you overstress your bones, osteoblasts will add levels of support, helping to strengthen your bones to be able to sustain higher levels of stress. So when pre-Agricultural Revolution humans were hunting and foraging, they were constantly stressing their bones, never allowing osteoclasts to take over. Nowadays, we sit our desks for work, go home and sit on our couches and watch TV, sleep on our cushiony beds and wake up and sit at the table for breakfast. That’s a recipe for weak bones!

 

Here’s the great thing about these 2 mismatch examples I just gave you…..you don’t have to get them! As a matter of fact, it’s pretty easy! Simply by eating a healthy, nutritious diet and adequately stressing your bones through some form of exercise will prevent both of these from ever happening. Even better news? If you happen to have one of these mismatch diseases, there is a very good chance you can reverse your symptoms by doing the same. Studies show that high-intensity training can bring bone mineral density close to normal in postmenopausal women with osteoporosis (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16138787).  For type 2 diabetes, studies found that low carb nutrition lowered HbA1c levels (the form of hemoglobin that is measured to identify average plasma glucose concentration, which is predictor of type 2 diabetes) significantly (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24390522).

 

Of course, I’m not suggesting that you quit going to the grocery store and suddenly become Tarzan…..although that would be pretty cool! All it takes is a little TLC to keep yourself up and running for years to come!

 

 

 

 

Good Reads for the Week 10/12/2014

We’re about half way through October and running towards November. Here are a few articles to get the week going in the right direction.

 

http://thrive4strength.wordpress.com/2014/10/08/barbell-deadlift-vs-single-leg-deadlift/ – Just a little self-experimentation with some bilateral and unilateral lifts. I wrote a similar article at the beginning of the year which you can find HERE.

 

http://jillfit.com/2014/08/19/define-your-healthy/ – Good articles by Jill Coleman that will help you understand that, just because someone looks “healthy” doesn’t mean they are healthy. I can say I fell into this category at one point….although not quite to her extent.

 

http://chriskresser.com/how-resistant-starch-will-help-to-make-you-healthier-and-thinner – A little geeky article about resistant starch (resistant because it “resists” digestion”) and how it impacts our digestive system and overall health.

 

https://www.entheos.com/ideas/brian-johnson/1293/the-disciplined-shall-inherit-the-earth – Short and sweet. Written by Brian Johnson, who wrote a great book named A Philosopher’s Notes about simple, effective ways to change your life for the better.

Barbell Deadlift VS. Single Leg Deadlift

A while back I wrote an article about unilateral vs bilateral training (you can find that HERE). In the article I compared the bilateral back squat to the unilateral Rear Foot Elevated squat (or RFEs as they’re known at the gym). I was trying to show how humans are stronger on one leg than they are on two legs. Walking and running, for instance, are unilateral movements…if done correctly of course. If you’re ever in a nursing home, notice how the people there shuffle around, barely picking up their feet to get them from place to place. This doesn’t naturally happen, meaning we don’t slowly become shufflers as we get older. The shuffle is simply a product of not moving which leads to tight hips and shoulders which leads to bad balance which leads to….well, the shuffle. Anyway, I digress, back to the subject at hand.

 

The post I wrote up back at the beginning of the year shared the results of my self-experimentation, which led to a lot of disbelievers (most of whom subscribe to the bodybuilding style of lifting, one body part a day….more on this in another article). Without any video evidence, the only thing I really had were numbers. This time around, I decided to compare the barbell deadlift to the single leg deadlift (SLDL) and remembered to pack the camera for support.

 

 

The weight on the barbell deadlift ended up being 365lbs which I got for 4 reps. This was last week (9/29/14). This week (10/6/14 without video evidence) I tried 375lbs and stalled out at 2 reps. Cut this in half and my SLDL weight should be 182.5 for a set of 4 reps.

 

 

Today (10/8/14) was SLDL day and the weight ended up being 200lbs for 4 reps. Double this and my barbell deadlift weight should be 400lbs for 4 reps. Do the math and in this instance I’m about 10% stronger on one leg than on 2 legs.

 

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not writing this article to bash bilateral training. We do bilateral training with our athletes and general population clients. You can actually use more weight in bilateral movements, which will elicit a bigger hormonal response. Taking bilateral training completely out of your routine is not what I’m trying to accomplish. This article is meant to show you that unilateral training should atleast share, if not be the main focus in your strength training efforts. We’ve shown significant strength improvements focusing on movements such as the Rear Foot Elevated squat and SLDL, with less aches and pains. Find someone who back squats and deadlifts on a regular basis and you will find someone with back pain, knee pain, shoulder pain or hip pain (or all of the above). Some of this has to do with lack of discipline in their form and tempo, which if corrected would get rid of some of these aches and pains. It’s much harder to mess up a unilateral exercise than it is a bilateral exercise.

Good Read for the Week 10/5/2014

Although it may be getting colder outside (pretty drastic change over the last week), we can look at this as more time we can spend making ourselves more knowledgeable with the extra time we are stuck inside. Here are a few articles that have a some good thoughts in them and may give you the answers to some of the questions you’ve been asking:

 

http://thrive4strength.wordpress.com/2014/10/01/tensegrity-how-your-body-is-held-together/ – An article I wrote during the week that helps explain how the body works as a unit, not as individual muscles.

 

http://strengthcoachblog.com/2011/02/15/is-doing-abs-a-waste-of-time/ – Short read by Mike Boyle, but does a good job of letting you know that doing abs for the sake of getting a 6 pack is, in fact, a huge waste of time.

 

http://chriskresser.com/the-3-step-process-to-determining-your-ideal-carbohydrate-intake – Interesting article that can help you determine what exactly your carb intake should look like, considering a few factors.

 

http://fourhourworkweek.com/2014/06/19/drawing-a-penny/ – Finally, a little Tim Ferriss. If you’ve never read his book, The 4 Hour Work Week, you really should. It can give you some great tips on saving time and eliminating some things that may simply be getting in your way.

Tensegrity: How Your Body is Held Together

tensegrity human

 

All things are held together by some combination of tension and compression. Some structures rely more on tension and some, more on compression. Tensegrity, a combination of tensional integrity, is a term coined by an architect named Buckminster Fuller. As we’ll see below, without tensegrity our bodies would not look the way they do….in fact, they would not look like bodies at all, they would simply be piles of bones, flesh, connective tissue and organs. Then we’ll understand how compression and tensegrity combine to create the human body as it is. Sound confusing? Awesome, let’s try and straighten it out.

 

Like I said, tensegrity was coined to describe architectural structures, not the human body. The biological use of this term is biotensegrity, but we’ll continue with tensegrity to make it simple. The idea of tensegrity is that a structure is held together by the balance of tension members, not compression members. To make this idea a little more clear, let’s look at a few examples.

 

To build a brick wall we must stack one brick on top of another, on top of another, on top of another, until we get to our desired height. These bricks are all acting in a compressive manner, from the top brick to the bottom brick which the compression is then dispersed through the ground. If a tree falls on half of the wall, the other half is left undamaged, so the half that was crushed was not helping the half that was not crushed to stay upright.

 

Next, check out the picture of the bridge to the right. The bridge has a concrete base, which is helping with the support of the structure, but the majority of the support itensegrity bridges coming from the matrix of cables running beside, above and across the bridge. If one of the cables breaks, the bridge is still left intact. The weight that was supported by the broken cable is now dispersed to the rest of the cables on the bridge, even cables on the opposite side. If left unfixed, other cables could potentially broke due to more stress than it is used to. This bridge represents the idea of tensegrity.

 

Our bodies are like the bridge. The difference being that our tensegrity structure is infinitely closed, meaning no outside structure SHOULD help support our bodies (I say SHOULD because we have braces and casts, but these are not normal for human function). Although most institutionalized education teaches the reductionist view of anatomy (reductionist meaning breaking the body down to individual muscles and their functions on the body), this is not the picture that we see in human movement. It’s true that when you dissect our bodies, there are individual muscles, and within their individual selves they function on certain joints of the body to help rotate your hand or extend your leg or lift your head. But the muscles of a living, working human do not function in this way, they function as a system. If a muscle isn’t functioning properly (in our bridge example, the cable snaps) then it will put more stress on other muscles or tendons causing them to take on stress they were not meant to take on. If the muscle is left unfixed, the whole body will constantly adapt and compensate all the way down the chain, from head to toe.

 

I write this article because most of us tend to go after the pain sight when we have discomfort in a muscle. The pain sight is very rarely, if ever, the pain SOURCE. The only real time there is an exception to this statement is with breaks. Even with muscle tears, the majority of the time the muscle tear was a product of being over used due to other weak or dysfunctional muscles. So when it comes to training your body, especially for athletics and every day life (which is what most of us train for), train the basic human movements, not the muscles. These movements will help you develop the strength and stability your body needs to function properly without the worry of getting hurt.