Friday, July 30, 2010

More Reasons Women Should Lift Weights

So, I was doing some reading, and came across Charles Poliquin's blog titled "Why Women Should Not Be Afraid of Gaining Muscle" and thought it would be a great follow up to my previous post with some additional information. 

The biggest take home points for me were these two things:

  • According to Tufts University, the greater your muscle mass the greater the longevity potential. It is, in fact, the number one biomarker of longevity. It is a far better predictor of longevity than total cholesterol or blood pressure.

  • The more muscle you have, the more strength you have. This, according to the same researchers at Tufts University, is the number two predictor of longevity. For women, strength is empowering.
Have a great weekend!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Girls should lift weights?

I have to say that the fitness industry is probably one of the most sexist industries out there. Walk into any “fitness” facility and you’ll see what I’m talking about. The men have the entire free weight section, while the women are told not to lift weights, that the weight lifting will make them bulky, or, if they do decide to lift weights, they are told to stick with the circuit machines and only do one set of twenty per body part with minimal weight. Anything other than this would turn them into the female version of the incredible hulk.

Obviously, this isn't the case.  Most of my adult clients come to me for two reasons - they want to lose weight and move pain free.  Basically, they want to look better naked and be able to pick up their child without having a disc explode.  So, what's the difference between men who want to look better in the buff and women who want the same thing?  Should there really be that much of difference in their programming?  No...sort of.  The biggest difference in programming women versus men is women are more likely to tear/sprain an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) or subluxate a patella (kneecap).  This is due to the Q - angle of the femur.  Basically, a typical females hips are a little wider and shorter than a males.  This causes a natural valgus of the knees.  Valgus knees are the primary cause of the ACL and kneecap injuries.

Another important thing to remember when working with females is that, in many cases, if they've had children, their abdominal and pelvic floor musculature may be weak.  You may have to take the core progressions a bit slower with them.

So, keeping these two things in mind, there is no reason why women shouldn't use resistance training to achieve their goals.  That is losing fat, maintaining or increasing muscle mass, and increasing bone density.  Girls lift weights too, check it out:

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Firefighter Strength and Why Crossfit Sucks!


The Firefighter Strength and Conditioning program’s primary purpose is to develop operational fitness for Firefighter and Rescue personnel. When developing a comprehensive strength and conditioning program, firefighters must consider the physical demands of operational related activities in order to optimize physical performance. Physical training for operational performance is not a new concept. In fact, throughout history warriors and soldiers physically trained by performing various strength and conditioning exercises that later evolved into athletic events, such as boxing, wrestling and many track and field events. However, unlike the modern day athlete, these soldiers were not training for specific sports. They were training to be stronger, and more powerful and agile than their enemies on the battlefield. Their superior athletic prowess was developed for the primary purpose of becoming physically prepared for battle. Ironically, the traits that we generally consider to be components of athleticism were requisite based on the demands of war. Thus, many of the first competitive athletes were actually soldiers.

The firefighter not only needs to devote time to improving operational skill but also must focus on improving operational strength, conditioning and/or nutrition. As with any professional athlete, a professional in the EMS community is obligated to maintain a certain level of “Operational Fitness”. By implementing the latest cutting edge training methods and fundamental scientific principles, the Firefighter Strength and Conditioning program focuses on enhancing athleticism for today’s Firefighters.

Click here to see the beginning of our progression for training firefighters.


Ok, before all the cultists start jumping all over me, Crossfit isn't THAT bad.  It just many flaws.  Too many for me to recommend anyone doing it.  Here's why I wouldn't recommend it:

No Progression - And sadly, no regression.  Crossfit doesn't have a progression or regression protocol for it's "coaches" to follow.  They just expect everyone to be proficient at the olympic lifts from day one. 

Doing Technically Challenging Lifts While in a State of Exhaustion - Many times the workout of the day (WOD) will have an olympic lift preceded by some long run.  It may be like:  run 200 meters then clean and press 135 pounds as many times as you can in 60 seconds.  My opinion, pre-exhausting yourself before doing a technically challenging lift is a recipe for disaster. 

Unqualified Coaches Teaching These Lifts - To be a Crossfit "coach", you must pay $500 for a one day workshop.  In this workshop, you spend the day learning to teach the methods and lifts in the Crossfit program (I use the term Crossfit program loosely, but more on that later).  Granted, they do have some of the best in the business at these workshops (Mark Rippetoe and Louis Simmons), but you can't learn enough in one eight hour workshop to be proficient at teaching these lifts. 

No Program - The slogan of Crossfit is "Increased work capacity over a broad domain."  To me, that sounds like be mediocre at everything and good at nothing.  It seems as though the WOD's are just made up on the spot with no thought given to periodization.  I think the people who write the WOD's focus on the workout and not the program.  The workouts just focus on being hard.  It's important for people to realize that just because something is hard, it doesn't means it's effective. 

Like I said earlier, Crossfit isn't that bad.  I am all for anything that gets people off the couch and moving.  I just fear that, with Crossfit, the risk far outweighs the reward.  The reason I made this a double post was that Crossfit really targets the Police/Fire/Military crowd and I felt as thought the two were pretty closely related.

  By the way, this is Crossfit's mascot, Pukie the Clown.  Sounds like something I want to be a part of. /Sarcasm

Friday, July 9, 2010

Jason, why don't we ever do situps or crunches?

This is kind of a follow up to my Core Training Progressions post.  For whatever reason, I've been asked several times this week by clients and others why we never do crunches, situps, or any other type of flexion exercise.  I've mentioned the fact that I threw these movements out of my training a couple years ago many times in this blog, but I guess I never really said why.  I've got a couple reasons for not doing these exercises.

My first reason goes back to the time when a guy named David Marmon hired me to be his graduate assistant.  I remember my first day on the job; I wanted to get my workout in.  Like a typical meathead, I went out and did some crunches, bench press, and bicep curls.  After my "gettin' swole" workout, I sat back down in the office expecting some praise and admiration for my superior workout skills, he greets me with "Why do you train that way?"  I was dumbfounded.  I thought I had all the answers when it came to things like getting stronger, fitter, leaner, and all around being more awesome.  He followed that with, "We train movements, not muscles."  I guess the idea of training movements, not muscles kind of stuck with me (even though we still did situps in our programming at the time).  Train movements not muscles.

So, taking the train movement not muscles approach, is bringing your sternum closer to your pelvis a movement you want to get better at?  Think about it.  When you squat, what are the coaching cues your hear?  Chest out.  Back flat.  Hips back.  Right?  Same thing with deadlifts and many other exercises.  Chest out.  Back flat.  The spine evolved to handle weight in the chest out, hips back position.  That's why we coach it that way.  Why would we want to get better in producing force in any other way?

We don't coach people to get better at being in the rounded back position.  So, why do they need to get better at it?

Secondly, the risk for injury when you flex the spine is high.  Dr. Stuart McGill has become famous for saying, "Wanna see a disc explode?  Keep flexing at the spine."  The torso musculature (rectus abdominus, transverse abdominus, internal/external obliques, multifidus, diaphram, and pelvic floor muscles) was meant to transmit force, not produce it. 

So, we train the limb muscles (ankles, knees, hips, shoulders, elbows, wrists) to produce force.  we train the torso musculature to act as a conduit and transmit force, not produce it.  Therefore, the stronger and more rigid we can make the conduit, the more force the body as a whole will be able to produce.