Slow down

You’re probably rushing. You’re probably busy. You’re probably in a hurry to do something.

Or maybe you’re not? Maybe you’ve just convinced yourself that you’re all important and that you need to be all kinds of things. You really don’t and besides, what good is having all the treasures in the world, if you’re not present in the moment to notice them? If you’re always busy being busy, you’re probably rushing through life, missing half of it.

In lifting, a great way to focus on quality and mastery instead of quantity is to slow things down deliberately. Instead of always focusing on moving more weight faster, try to change your approach on a lift you’re struggling with for a period (4-6 weeks) – I guarantee you’ll see good results.

There are many ways of manipulating tempo, the most common ones being slow eccentrics and paused reps. While I’m a big fan of pausing, slowing the movement itself down is a better tool for improving the movement.

Applying a 3-4s down, 3-4s up tempo on one weekly squat session will dramatically improve your positional awareness throughout the movement and probably add some muscle mass as well. For the strength trainee I think the 2-6 rep range works very well.

A word of warning though, slow eccentrics is the best way to make yourself incredibly sore, so start out real easy and allow yourself to adapt to the new stimulus before you go nuts.

Stay strong friends.

<3

 

Control tempo to master movement

Must-read book on physical fitness

The sun’s out in beautiful Copenhagen and I’ve been hanging out with the baby and a good book. My wife works every other Saturday which means I’m at home with the baby. I pretty much always go for a long walk and as soon as Laura falls asleep, I sit down with a good book. Great way to spend a morning.

Recently I’ve had this puppy in my pack:
Fit is authored by Kilgore Hartman and Lascek – names you may or may not recognize, so I’ll give you a (very) brief bio on them.

Kilgore: Wrote Starting Strength and Practical Programming with Mark Rippetoe.

Hartman: is a doctor in Exercise Physiology

Lascek: Studied under Rippetoe and worked for him for a couple of years and runs 70sbig.com. Has written a small handful books.

These guys are not just random bums, they know which way is up on a barbell for sure.

What ties them all together in a way is their connection to Mark Rippetoe, though they’re very far from being mini-Rips. You’re not gonna find any “YNDTP” statements in this book, and you’re not gonna find any insults. These guys are very nice and the book is great and informative.

What really sets Fit apart is the parts on cardiovascular training and specifically multi-modal or cross training. This book has none of the “DO STARTING STRENGTH OR BE AN IDIOT”-bravado, but instead focusses on meeting the reader at a common ground. For most people, simply squatting, deadlifting and pressing all the time is not gonna get them to where they want. Most people want something that gets the heart beating a little faster now and then.

This books describes in a detailed but readable way how to implement different kinds of cardiovascular training or even (*gasp*) CrossFit into your training without killing your precious GAINZ.

I’d recommend it to anyone interested in strength, health and fitness. Check it out here:

You become what you do

Humans are creatures of habit. We have a very sophisticated system, that helps us automatize tasks that we perform regularly, allowing us to focus our attention on other, more challenging, tasks.

This process is called long-term potentiation and is one of the primary mechanisms behind learning.

Imagine a river flowing through the landscape. The more water that flows in the river and the longer it keeps flowing, the deeper and more “set” it gets. This is essentially the same that happens in your brain, when neurons form neurological river beds.

What does this analogy help us understand?

The more ingrained a movement/habit is, the more effort you have to put into changing it.

This can obviously be applied to any kind of behaviour you want to change whether it’s dietary or personal – changing an old habit requires a herculean effort.

It also applies to training though, and actually writing this post made me realize the natural link to another post I was gonna make.

One great way to work on movement patterns in lifting is by slowing down. This can be by stopping the movement at specific points or by simply slowing down the entire movement. This will help you understand exactly which positions you need to hit during the different parts of a lift, as you can’t use momentum to overcome bad positioning the way you can when you’re going full speed.

A very common way to look at for example a weakpoint halfway through the benchpress is to generate more power out of the hole, so the speed can help overcome the sticking point. This can work, but slowing down the movement to the point where you’re using a 3-5 count up and down can work wonders for your technique. It’ll also take some stress off you by forcing you to use a lighter load.

BUT! Start out light and low in volume. Slow eccentrics in particular can cause really bad muscle soreness.

Back on the original topic:

If you want to make a significant change, you need to invest in it. You also need to be ready to invest in it. This requires time, effort and willpower. For lifting it can be as simple as doing a training cycle with a lower max and slow eccentrics or it can be done simultaneously to your normal lifting as an assistance lift or on a separate day.

Also, there is some carry-over between similar movement patterns, which explains why many have problems using two very similar movement like low and high bar squats in the same cycle. Same goes for deadlifts and cleans really.

I would suggest that you try to avoid confusing your body by having these very similar movements in your program. Make a decision to go with either and stick to it. As for cleans and deadlifts – if you want to get good at cleaning just deadlift like you  clean, even if it’s not the best way to deadlift big weights. Simply to form strong neural pathways and avoid confusion.

How big is your crack?

We all have cracks.

As soon as you step off the platform, it’s time to assess and identify your cracks. This is what “off-season” is all about.

Last Friday I trained with one of the guys from my gym and followed his program. It was painfully obvious I have a huge weakness. More on that later.

I spent Saturday on a squat, bench press and deadlift workshop with my good friend Jacob of Maxer.dk, where I primarily focussed on how Jacob teaches the lifts and how he interacts with people. But as usual – just being around Jacob sends my brain into overdrive, and I identified a couple of things I need to work on going forward.

Pretty much anyone who is serious about their training has a “B”. A list of goals they want to accomplish. A lot of people forget to establish the “A” (current level) first though. Without an A getting to B is almost impossible.

Using myself as an example, I want a bigger squat (who doesn’t). One of the things I realized on Friday is that I suck horribly at Bulgarian split squats. As I sat down and thought about it some more, I realized that my single leg strength is pretty poor. I like the big lifts. I like them a lot. I rarely (if ever) do isolation exercises and in general the smaller the exercises, the less likely I am to do it.

Anyways, increasing single leg strength is not the end all be all to improving your squat. But in my case it’s such a huge glaring weakness that I’ve  neglected for too long.

Bulgarian split squats are humbling and unpleasant, but it’s also a great way to bring up leg strength, while actively strengthening the hips through a full range of motion. It also stretches the hip flexors under load, which is tremendous.

The off-season is a time to take a step back, reevaluate your current position (and possibly method) and plan ahead.

What’s your crack?

 

Back on the platform

After a disastrous Danish Championship in 2012 I had to rethink quite a few thinks. I changed my approach to training and powerlifting in particular. Yesterday I did my first three lift meet since then. Here’s how it went down:

I slept like shit. Woke up several times feeling nauseous. Almost threw up at breakfast, but couldn’t mange to get anything in me. I managed to get in a nap before heading out to the venue. By the time I got there, I’d already take four dumps this morning and hadn’t really managed to get any food in me. A bit of oatmeal and an apple. Fuck that. I’m gonna lift anyways. I’d taken my precautions and packed babywipes and spare underwear – just in case.

Weighed in at a feather light 97,85kg and stuck to my planned openers – 170/120/210. All lifts I’d doubled or more in training. Conservative numbers.

Warming up I was very relaxed. Not really in the zone or anything. Wasn’t feeling it. Missed the first lift on depth and got PISSED. First time I’ve ever had a squat red-lighted and on an opener? Fuck that!

Killed 170 on second attempt and got 180 in the third. Not impressive considering my best is 197,5, but it was what I had in me.

Bench is always a weird one as you can’t really get super pissed at the weight and power it up. The lift that requires the least aggression for me. Opened with a solid 120, followed up with another solid lift and almost went for 132.5 in the third, but stuck to the plan. Perfect weight for me as I juuuust managed to get it up. Yay. Time for pulls!

As usual, pretty much any deadlift over 150 feels heavy and at the end of a meet you’re always gonna be a bit worn down.

Absolutely crushed my opener, went for 230 and got it convincingly. Solid and in good form. Went to 245 – a weight I’d missed about a year ago and had had my eye on since. I went totally apeshit.

The lift was a true last deadlift and it wasn’t pretty. I got it though and held it for a good bit at the top. Top end strength and grip is never an issue.

Total: 555 @97,85 which puts me pretty much at the same wilks score as my last meet. A nice place to build from. I think I took 7th place.

Returning to the platform was good fun and I managed to rub elbows with so many good guys. It’s also good to know that I can still get up on the platform and perform maximally, even on a shitty day.

In short: Except for the missed squat, all my lifts were planned ahead of the meet. I hit all the numbers I wanted. Happy with how it went down.

Also our host ER Equipment did a terrific job as did all the officials present. All those guys helped set the scene for a very smooth and well run meet.

Your questions answered part two

HEY NOW!

After posting this thread, I’ve received a small handful questions, so I figured it’s time to answer them. Keep shooting questions my way. 🙂

Daniel asks:
How do you become a personal trainer? Where to start? Fitness instructor classes? Certifications? Books? Something completely different? Where did you start?

I started training people whan I was 16-17ish. Back then I played basketball and coached a youth team. When I had my first PT client, I’d trained with weights for ~15 years and had trained CFers for a couple of years. I had no certifications or anything of that nature at the time.

I think it all starts with being a student of the weights. You start off by reading as much as possible and you try to play around with it in your own training. Gradually you learn more and more and at some point people start asking you for advice.

There are many PT-courses and to be honest I don’t know any of them personally. I believe in old-fashioned strength training, and none of the courses teach that. If anything, I’d look for a weightlifting club and try to get to some seminars that way. Most weekend seminars are meant as inspiration and upgrades for an experienced trainer.

In my eyes, nothing beats experience with what you’re trying to teach. No matter what it is.

Kasper asks:

What’s your position on TUT for a newb?

Short and sweet question.

To be honest I’m not really that concerned with TUT for a beginner. Weights should be controlled and that’s the main goal. For some very specific exercises in very specific cases, I’ll play around with tempo a bit, but for the most part, there are more important things to worry about (for the beginner).

Høkni asks:
What is your stance on steroids?
– Use of AAS in professional bodybuilding to retain a competitive edge. I think there are some fun philosophical considerations one could make here.
– Use of AAS by natural bodybuilders. Henning Kristensen.
– Use of AAS by fake natural bodybuilders on YouTube.
– Use of AAS by non-competing and competing hobby bodybuilders.
– The anti-doping policies in Denmark. Do you think it’s fair that non-competing hobby bodybuilders are prosecuted.

Yoinks!

My stance on steroids is pretty simple – as long as you’re not competing in a drug free sport, I don’t care what you’re doing. If you however lift under the IPF for example, I think you should be clean. Not “able to test clean” but clean.

I don’t really care about pro bodybuilding. They’re massively juiced and that’s just how it is. As for Youtube-bodybuilders and Henning I have no opinion on that. I don’t know who’s natural, “natural”, NATURAL or not. In general I think it’s a farce though.

Hobbybuilders? They can do whatever they want, I don’t care. This also answers the last part of the question.

I don’t really have much to say about AAS. I find it immoral to compete against clean lifters if you’re not, but since I only compete against myself it doesn’t interest me that much.

I know this wasn’t the answer you were looking for, but the reality is that it’s not really something I think about.

David:
What differentiates programming of intermediate lifters from beginners?

Submaximal volume.

The addition of volume at more moderate intensities. Typical beginner programming will have them do sets of five at a heavy weight. For an intermediate you’re not going to be able to increase the loads from workout to workout, so you’ll have to introduce some lighter days. The texas method is one way of doing this. Personally I’m using a hybrid between 5/3/1 and TM right now, where the intensity day follows 5/3/1 and the volume day is typically 5 sets of 5 at 75% of training max. Though I don’t concentrate all my heavy lifting on one or two days, the setup is pretty similar to TM.

Sheiko’s programs would also be great for an intermediate lifter.

 

That concludes the first round of questions and answers. Some very different and interesting questions indeed.

Thank you for sending in great questions and for your support.

<3

In-season training

Actually, I should’ve posted this before the Opens hit the world a couple of weeks ago, but with 14.3 out it became about a thousand times more relevant overnight.

During the season (however you define that) training should always be centered around the sport itself. You should never leave the gym all beat up and feeling mashed. Prioritize your energy and make sure you’re leaving something in the tank all the time. Leave the gym feeling fresh and make sure your normal training is focused on maintaining strength and conditioning.

Furthermore, if you’re a crossfittian doing the Opens, your “sport” will change on a weekly basis, it is therefore advised to do the same in your programming.

This week for example is a ridiculous low-back smasher from hell. Does it make sense to stress the lower back a lot in your other training? NO! Does it make sense to do everything in your power to minimize the stress on the lower back throughout the week? Hell yah!

Side note: whatever happened to CF workouts where the exercises would compliment each other and work the entire body like for example Fran? Drawing up a “bottleneck”-type workout is one thing, but when that bottleneck is the shoulder girdle or the lower back you’re asking for trouble.

Especially if your competitive season is short, always go for “less” instead of “more”. You’re not gonna get weaker by taking the foot off the gas for five weeks.

Just a quick Friday reminder to keep the goal the goal and on that note, I’m gonna finish up my resume. <3