Good Reads for the Week 12/15/2014

Well, it’s the week before Christmas, so I can only assume most of us are running around like free-range chickens with our heads cut off. Here are a few good articles to help take your mind off the chaos:

 

http://thrive4strength.wordpress.com/2014/12/10/how-to-effectively-progress-pushups/ – I realize that sometimes it seems impossible to ever do a pushup, but all you really have to do is progress it correctly.

 

http://www.ericcressey.com/5-things-mobility-training – You can always count on Eric Cressey to give some good information about mobility work. By the way, make sure you’re doing mobility work, you don’t want to walk with a walker when you’re 70 right?

 

http://chriskresser.com/still-think-low-fat-dairy-is-the-healthy-choice-think-again – A little food for thought about low-fat dairy as we go into this Christmas season.

 

http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2014/12/obedience.html – Quick thought from Seth Godin about Obedience. Although Seth Godin’s writing mostly involves business marketing, he is certainly still one to follow for great career pick-me-ups.

How to Effectively Progress Pushups

Can’t do pushups? Don’t feel bad, most of the population can’t do a correct pushup, and that includes athletes. Walk into a high school football workout and you’ll see about twenty different variations of pushups: half pushups, quarter pushups, seal pushups with hips on the floor, the butt-in-the-air pushup, the push-with-your-dominant-arm pushup and maybe….if you’re lucky….the rarely seen correct pushup. And the problem isn’t that these athletes (or any adult population for that matter) aren’t strong enough…..heck, I know guys who can bench 400lbs and not do a proper pushup….how does that even make sense?!? The problem is they didn’t learn to control the rest of their body first.

 

You see, the pushup is glorified in high school for a good exercise to get your chest pumped up. Getting ready to head out on the beach? Rep out some pushups first, then you’ll be good to go! But this exercise is about more than getting puffy pecs, it’s about body control. As a matter of fact, it’s more about body control than it is about getting a big chest. How’s that you ask? Well, if you break down the pushup and you hold the top and bottom positions, all these positions are are varying plank positions. So, the first thing you want to do is work on planking in at different levels. First work on your top position, get to the point where you can hold that for 60 seconds making sure to stay straight with hips inline. Next move to half-pushup and finally to the bottom with your nose an inch off the ground. You should be able to hold these positions for 60 seconds.

 

Once we have worked on our plank variations, we’ll work on progressing our pushup.

 

 

The best way to start when learning how to do a pushup correctly is with your shoulder’s elevated. This will allow you to be able to control your body through a full range of motion while not having to push as much of your body weight. Once you can do 3 good sets of 10, move yourself closer to the ground. Slowly lower your shoulders lower and lower towards the ground until you hit the standard pushup position. The goal here isn’t to see how fast you can do a correct pushup, it’s to perform the movement correctly from the beginning and progress your way to the bottom. After all, if you start with bad form, you’ll always have bad form.

 

From here we can elevate our feet on to a platform. This will increase the amount of weight you are pushing. Once your body gets to about 45 degrees from the ground, stop. Much beyond this point and you’re getting into handstand pushup territory. You can also place your feet on an unstable surface such as an exercise ball or BOSU ball to challenge your midsection more.

 

The pushup is a great exercise to use in your training program, so long as you’re performing it correctly. Take the time to learn the movement and you will reap the benefits. And remember, if it’s important, do it every day.

Good Reads for the Week 12/07/2014

Well, we gave you a little reprieve from our good reads for a couple weeks but we’re back. Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving and that everyone’s cortisol levels are staying down while Christmas creeps up on us. Hopefully some of these articles can occupy your mind for a while so that it gets a break from the chaos:

 

http://thrive4strength.wordpress.com/2014/12/05/hanging-out-at-the-park-bench/ – A little follow up to an article we posted at the beginning of the year. It’s good to take it easy sometimes.

 

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/cost-of-getting-lean – PN always offers up great articles and this one is no exception. A bit about understanding what it takes to achieve your fitness and health goals.

 

http://www.t-nation.com/training/only-wimps-avoid-single-leg-work – I’ve written a couple of articles regarding my opinion on bilateral vs unilateral leg exercises (https://thrive4strength.wordpress.com/2014/10/08/barbell-deadlift-vs-single-leg-deadlift/ and https://thrive4strength.wordpress.com/2013/12/23/who-needs-back-squats-anyway/). Here is a good one by Ben Bruno that will also give you some good insight one unilateral leg work.

 

http://www.tailopez.com/blog/why-you-have-to-get-back-to-nature – Great article by Tai Lopez covering his book of the day Folks this ain’t Right.

Hanging out at the Park Bench

Hardwork

 

There comes a time during your training where you aren’t really feeling up to the task. Going to the gym and getting in your workout feels more like work than actual enjoyment. This is natural and isn’t something that you should fight. Most of us just want to push through it, go ahead and put the weights on and get it done. After all, that’s what we’ve been taught our whole lives, suck it up and do it. Well, while I wouldn’t suggest laying it down all together, pushing through it and trying to hit all of the same weights as usual isn’t the way to go either. This is when we enter the park bench workout.

 

This past Monday I woke with an INSANE headache (which I never get) that completely consumed my body. Chalk it up to sinuses or stress or whatever, it was awful and I knew that, odds are, I wouldn’t be hitting any PRs (Personal Records) this week. I also knew that I didn’t want to sit around and do nothing, that would just make me feel lazy and unproductive. So I decided to make this a park bench week. I’ve written about the park bench vs bus bench idea before, which you can find HERE. Basically, when you sit at a bus bench, you’re in a hurry and you’re trying to get where you’re going fast. Conversely,  while you’re sitting at a park bench you are relaxing, people watching and taking it easy. With a park bench workout, then, it is more about maintaining and practicing than it is about huge gains. Here a couple of things that you need to know to help implement your park bench workout next time you’re in a slump:

 

1) Longer Warm Up

 

Your body is equipped with an Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) which controls your body’s involuntary functions. The ANS is then broken down into two categories, the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. When you’re recovering from a cold or stressed out, your body is in a sympathetic state, meaning it is on high alert, ready for action at a moments notice. Taking the time to warm up with some good myo-fascial release, dynamic stretching and mobility work will help your body to calm down into its more natural parasympathetic state.

 

2) Grease the Groove

 

If you’re trying to building strength, there are generally two ways of doing this: 1) use more weight 2) become more efficient at the movement. I went over this with a friend this past week who was worried about their squat form. If your form is crappy, your body will reach its strength limits very quickly. The more efficient you become, and the less energy leaks that you have, the more weight you will be able to lift. Therefore, greasing the groove involves performing an exercise with very little weight in order to perform the movement better. I imagine you’ve heard the phrase “practice makes perfect”? Well, I think that’s a bit over stated, because, sadly, no one is perfect. A better way to think of it is “practice makes permanent”. You see, when you perform a movement over and over again, your body adapts through a process called myelination. During myelination, your body wraps myelin around nerve cells. Myelin is a fatty substance that enables your nerve cells to transmit information faster. So, the more myelin, the faster the information is transmitted, the more efficient you become at the movement, therefore, the more weight you will be able to move.

 

3) Steady-State Cardio

 

I never have been a huge fan of steady-state cardio, especially for those of us trying to put on muscle, get stronger, feel better or lose fat….I think this may include most everybody. This is one exception. Doing HIT training or any other type of metabolic training is not what your body needs when it is trying to recover from a cold. Shoot for 10 minutes of easy cardio to allow your body to heal the way it wants to.

 

I realize it’s hard to make yourself take it easy. I hate when I’m not using the weights from the week before. But when your body says it’s time to slow down, it’s better to listen then to dig deeper.