Vintage Strong Lifter Spotlight: Kevin

[Dave’s note: Kevin has been too modest below. His injury would have caused most people to give up even trying to walk without a cane ever again, much less train. His mental, emotional, and physical fortitude are beyond compare, and I’m glad he’s my friend, and a Vintage Strong athlete.]

In late July 2012 I found myself in a nursing home, immobilized from the hip to the ankle. I had just had both of my quadriceps tendons re-attached after tearing them in a fall. As I spent the next ten weeks lying in a bed or sitting in a wheelchair with my legs sticking straight out in front of me, I had to come to grips with what my future would hold. The orthopedist told me that I would never have full motion in my knees again; most likely, if I regained 90 degrees of flexion it would be a monumental achievement. He told me that I was done with any sort of lifting other than upper body lifts. Continue reading

Lifting for Sports – When Good Enough is Good Enough

The only role for an S&C coach with regards to their players is to make them better athletes and players. While the definition of ‘better’ might vary by athlete and sport, generally it means to give them the ability to be more successful. Making an overly weak athlete stronger or a slow athlete faster might not end up with them having a more impactful career, but it certainly raises their ceiling of success. When programming or coaching, being able to justify every decision with “will this make them better at their sport?” is a useful idea. However, not only should the S&C coach be mindful of that principle, they must also keep in mind the concept of efficiency and diminishing returns.

 

Suppose you’re coaching a group of quarterbacks for a collegiate football team. The position group lifts three times a week, for two hours a session. Their strength/power information and position on the depth chart is below.

 

Quarterback Power Cl. 1RM Back Squat 1RM Depth Chart Size
A 275 405 starter 6’4”/225
B 315 465 backup 6’2/235
C 205 315 bench 6’6”/190

 

Player B is the strongest, then A, then C. However, A is the starter. Player A and B are approximately the same size. What jumps out though, is that Player C is significantly weaker and lighter than the other two players. Therefore, it stands to reason that more of Player C’s time should be spent on improving their physical metrics. Generally speaking, adding 15% to Player C’s power clean and squat maxes will not only be easier than doing the same for A and B, but it will also make a bigger difference in their overall physical ability.

 

For all intents and purposes, Player B is “strong enough” – they can and should continue to train for increased strength and power, but not to the point that the focus on strength becomes a detriment to training other sport specific processes. We know that the more advanced a lifter is, the more time and effort it takes to make progress, and adding that 15% of strength to Player B might take an extra 40 hours compared to the same percentage for Player C.

 

As a strength coach, it might be exciting to see a player squat 500, but it is more *important* that the player be able to spend those extra 40 hours it would take expressly trying to increase their squat and devote it to film study, passing drills, footwork, or other sport specific drills with more transfer to onfield success. For example, the below chart shows an approximation of the division of time and energy (out of a total of ten) that each QB should focus on.

 

Quarterback Time on Strength Time on Skill
A 3 7
B 1 9
C 5 5

 

Ego lifting is a very real thing, and so is ego coaching. Your athletes aren’t weightlifters or powerlifters (unless they are – in which case, you shouldn’t be reading this) and they need to maximize their on-field success, not just demonstrate how good you are at getting them strong.

 

However, this does not always apply across all sports and positions. If you had a group of three fullbacks, a decidedly less skill based position than QB, the ratios of time spent on skill vs. strength would be altered, and it would probably be a good idea to get them all squatting and cleaning as much as humanly possible.

 

Not only does the idea of allocating time and effort resources apply to strength, it also applies to technique. I am not advocating for poor, dangerous, or lazy technique, but I am advocating that there is a significant time and effort hurdle to getting your athletes to clean like Pyrros Dimas instead of just a garden variety decent clean. Lets look at the below two pictures for comparison. This is a squat + pause-squat complex at around 65%, and the images are at the bottom positions of the squat.
Player_L Player_R

The athlete on the left (L) in the black shirt is squatting 110kg at ~75kg bodyweight and the athlete on the right (R) in the white shirt is squatting 90kg at ~80g bodyweight. Player L is slightly above parallel and Player R is slightly below parallel. If I was training weightlifters, crossfitters, or powerlifters, this would be an issue for Player L. There is no question in my mind that a deeper, fuller range of motion would be more optimal (LINK), but in this case, Player L was a major contributor on field, already one of the strongest players on the team, and a senior. While we worked on some hip and ankle ROM exercises, I elected to mostly allow him to continue squatting as is, with the goal of 5 minutes before every lift devoted to increasing his depth.

 

It is important to note that this athlete never had any sort of lower body injury that would make me suspicious that his inability to break parallel was causative or indicative of injury risk. However, if Player L came to me in the first week of their career as a freshman squatting slightly high with light weight, I would make it a point of emphasis to teach them to get lower – understanding that this would give them a long term technique fix, allowing for greater improvement and a higher strength ceiling. I would do this even at a detriment to their immediate strength gains, knowing they had 3.5 more years to build upon their strength. This work would be substantively longer in duration than the 5 minutes a day I prescribed to Player L.

 

In summary – make sure that you understand that your only goal as a S&C Coach is to make the athlete better at their sport, even if that means dialing back how much you push the athlete to get stronger or to improve their technique. Usually, there comes a point where good enough is good enough, and any additional time needed to improve the athlete’s lifting abilities would be better suited to improving their sport specific skills.

Squat by Southwest IV – A Success!

Wow. Just…wow.

I have struggled with writing this all week, because I really don’t know what to say after the conclusion of South By SouthWest IV – Squats IV Stephen. I am absolutely overwhelmed by the graciousness of everyone who contributed, and with the positive mindset of our lifting brethren. Let me just say, I thought the meet went exceedingly well, and most importantly, we raised over SEVEN THOUSAND DOLLARS for our brother Stephen. 7 grand! That’s a helluva thing.

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Huge thanks to Noel for the awesome graphics for the event! Pictures from http://beccaewing.com

We ended up with over 30 lifters in 3 flights – by far the biggest Squat By yet. People came from all over the state to compete and/or watch, and generous folks donated services and goods from all over the country for our silent auction. We split the lifters into 4 divisions, with trophies, prizes, and medals for the top two in each division.

The winners! (Pics from http://beccaewing.com)

The winners with Stephen!

We had four of HPG’s strongest squatters engage in a “front squatathon,” and every single one of these bad boys hit at least a 200 kilogram (440+ pound) front squat! That’s extremely impressive. What’s even more impressive is that they went on to spot and load for the men’s heavyweight division later in the night! Thanks, Ben, Coy, Keith, and Gerry. I can’t wait to see you guys hit 500lbs.

The open women’s group was a ton of fun to watch. We had everyone from absolute novices to very advanced lifters, and everyone was cheering for each other. They got us off to a great start, and HPG Olympic lifter Jennifer Chu won with her ass-to-grass squats that left absolutely no doubt about her hitting depth! Ashley Pardo crushed a 300lb squat but narrowly missed her depth call, and finished in a close second place.

The Masters’ division was also Wilks-based, with both men and women competing against each other. We even had a woman CURRENTLY fighting breast cancer! In the end, HPG local boys Eric Garnel and Patrick Larson went 1-2.

Masters lifters know to get to the keg as soon as the lifts are completed!

Masters lifters know to get to the keg as soon as the lifts are completed!

We had enough guys enter to split them into lightweight and heavyweight divisions. In the lightweight division, Stephen Moore requested that Noah take a bigger third attempt than planned. Naturally, Noah, with the crowd behind him, destroyed 415lb and took first, followed by Paul Nielson with a strong and successful 370lb third attempt.

The heavyweight guys went last, and they didn’t let the crowd down, with a ton of big performances. IPF World-Class lifter and all around great guy, Greg Johnson, took home big squat of the day and first place with a beautiful 600lb attempt. His buddy Scott Prosek, who normally competes in multi-ply powerlifting gear, took an easy 500lb squat for second place. Both guys traveled from the Dallas area and put up a great show!

This hug from Greg was pretty epic.

This hug from Greg was pretty epic.

I can’t even begin to thank everyone that was involved in putting this meet together, but I’ll give it a whirl.

Kathryn Alexander was the ringleader for all the fundraising, and the driving force behind the event. She did an amazing job drumming up donations and organizing all sorts of very of important details – including the shirts and the keg! Kathryn is no stranger to fundraising, and I hope you all help her out with her annual ALS fundraising efforts.

Kathryn giving a heartfelt speech to the crowd while Stephen's triceps look on...

Kathryn giving a heartfelt speech to the crowd while Stephen’s triceps look on…

The spotters and loaders worked harder than everyone, just like at every powerlifting meet. I actually called out a few folks from the audience to help, and nobody batted an eye. No powerlifting meet functions without volunteers – remember that whenever you compete.

Our Vintage Strong team came to play – Dave drove up from Houston and did basically everything – and then bought us dinner afterwards! My wife, Jess (a former SXSW Champion!), took care of all the scoring and a million little details, all while holding our 3 month old, Lily. She was assisted by our great friend Tina, and a couple dozen more friends who helped take care of the baby when needed. Theresa was an expert-level judge and didn’t even partake in cervezas until after the lifting was over – that’s commitment!

Dave and I enjoying some frosty beverages at the end of a long day!

Dave and I enjoying some frosty beverages at the end of a long day! Jess took this picture so that her massive biceps wouldn’t overshadow ours.

We had more people help with the silent auction than I know. Next time, I’ll gather up all the companies and give them a lot more credit! I had no idea this was going to be so big. Thank you.

The lifters were, to the letter, all great sports. The vast majority hit personal records, which was really cool to watch. Whether they were winning their division or just attempting their first competition, they all followed the rules and made my job as a meet director easy. The amazing crowd cheered them on loudly, and DJ Casey Cuts laid down a sweet soundtrack to the whole thing. We had standing room only, complete with people standing outside to watch!

I’d like to thank Brook, the owner of Hyde Park Gym, the best gym in Austin, and I say that with absolute confidence. Brook encouraged us to put this all together, and for helped with, well, basically everything. HPG is a family, because he has made it like that. This family most definitely includes Phil Wood’s parents, Julia and David, who donated cash to all the winners in honor of their late son, who we all miss on a regular basis.

Finally, and most importantly, thanks to Stephen Moore. He’s not a guy that’s going to talk your ear off, but he quietly leads by example. He has dealt with the loss of his foot in a way that I wouldn’t think possible by even the best, and that’s more inspiring than I know how to describe. I hope that we all recognize and appreciate the kind of positive mindset he has when we deal with whatever life throws at us.

Starting a Home Gym, Part 2

Last time we talked about the basics of a home powerlifting gym, and the importance of getting a decent bar. This time we are going to discuss racks.

The-Rock-Working-Out-Dec31
Nice rack, Mr. The Rock

The Benefits of a Rack

A power rack is an extremely versatile piece of equipment. A good one will serve as a place to do squats and bench press, as well as accessory movements such as presses, pull-ups, and chin-ups. That’s a great thing about power racks for the home gym user: they save space. Sure, the rack itself is pretty big, but it serves so many purposes that you basically don’t need to buy any other major pieces of equipment (other than a bar, and some plates).

The best feature of a power rack, however, is the safety pins. As a home gym user, you may find yourself training alone. Having safety pins set to a proper height will mean you can safely get out from under a squat if you have to. Note, though, that you should never bail (dropping the bar from the shoulders onto the pins instead of setting it on the pins). Dropping the bar from a height onto the pins will bend your bar and pins, and should only be done in the direst of circumstances (like, you are having a stroke or something).

Similarly, benching alone is a dangerous proposition. People (usually high school age dudes benching alone in their basements or garages) die every year because they attempted a weight they couldn’t get, and ended up with the weight stuck on their chest. Slowly suffocating as a bar compresses your lungs is a crappy way to die. Don’t be a statistic. Bench with spotters. And, when possible, with safety pins. This is another place where power racks come in very handy: you can set the safety pins so that the bar doesn’t touch them when you are in your properly locked-in bench arch. Then, if you cannot make the weight, you just lower it to your chest and relax your arch, and the bar will be resting on the pins instead of choking the life out of you.

Racks come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Generally, the two that will be the most relevant to a home gym user will be the standard power rack and the competition rack.

Power Racks

Normal, run-of-the-mill power racks have four uprights, safety pins, and (usually) one or more crossbars at the top which can be used for pull-ups, chin-ups, hanging knee raises, toes to bar, or what have you. Other models include squat stands (these will be two uprights, which may or may not be connected, and which may or may not have safety pins) and space-saving models which can be folded away when not in use. In general a rack with 2″ x 2″ tubing is fine as long as you are squatting less than about 450 pounds; more than that and you’ll want to consider 3″ x  3″ tubing.
Some typical power racks. These are from Rogue Fitness. The one in the center is a squat stand, while the rack on the right attaches to a wall, in case you need to save space.

If you opt for squat stands, be sure to get a model that has safety pins. Remember, you don’t want to get under a weight and not be able to get back out!

As you can see above, most racks will come with an option for a bench. I recommend getting the bench that comes with the rack, although you can purchase a bench separately if you want to. If you do that, be sure to get one that has the same dimensions as a competition bench. A competition bench for powerlifting is 4 feet long, 16.5 inches high, and 12 inches wide. If you buy a bench from Craigslist, make sure you check it out when you go to pick it up, as there are plenty of crappy, rickety benches out there.

 

Competition Racks

These are the racks used in official comeptition in the International Powerlifting Federation, as well as its affiliates such as the North American Powerlifting Federation (NAPF) and USA Powerlifting (USAPL). These federations require that a squat be walked out of the rack, and these racks are made to take handle the extremely heavy weights that come with international-level competition. Competition racks are actually squat stands (two uprights) with attachment points for a bench for bench pressing. These racks also come with safeties. A competition rack will usually cost a bit more (although you may be able to find one used), and doesn’t have a crossbar for accessory work such as pull-ups. That said, lifting in this kind of rack will mean you are training on the same sort of equipment you’ll use in competitions if you compete in the IPF/NAPF/USAPL.

er-rack_01
An ER competition rack, with the bench attached.

OK. So what brand of rack should I get?

Good brands of power racks include Rogue, Texas Strength Systems, and Elite FTS.

Rogue has all of their stuff laser-cut by a computer, so it is super neat and pretty, and fits together with amazing precision.

Texas Strength Systems racks are a bit cheaper, but not quite as slick. However, they also sell ER competition racks, which are the racks you’ll be using if you compete in the USAPL and/or IPF. Indeed, you’ll probably find yourself using an ER rack in any powerlifting federation that has you

EliteFTS is the brand I have and it is quite sturdy and has served me well for the past five or so years.

For competition racks, you can buy an official ER rack. If you wish to spend a bit less, Texas Strength Systems sells a rack that is basically the same as an ER rack, it just isn’t certified for official competition.

Any of these brands will do fora home gym, and all of them should last for the rest of your life. Make your decision will be based on price and available space, and see which brand has a model you like within those parameters.

Note: there are several DIY rack plans on the web. The ones that are intended for someone who knows how to weld are fine. The ones made of wood are scary and may fall apart and kill you after repeated use. So be careful!

That’s it for racks! Stay tuned for Part 3, where we talk about platforms, plates, and other accessories!

Eating Like a Cave Woman

Jessica and I did a strict Paleo challenge back in 2012, mostly to lose some winter chub. The results were outstanding, as I lost about 20 pounds and she dropped 6. But the other results she experienced were even more awesome, so I asked her to write this article. Still relevant today!

Last summer, a spontaneous move to Austin sparked a new social life for me. After a few months of living in a new city, eating everything in sight, and drinking more than usual, my body started to take a turn for the worse. I gained 8 pounds, felt tired all the time, and had heartburn almost every day. So, after the New Year, Jacob and I made it a priority to buckle down on a diet that would yield weight loss results, and we started exercising more. We committed to a 30 day strict Paleo diet. Continue reading

Compatible Goals

I’ve learned over time that I don’t have to have the same goals as other people in my sport.

I mean, that’s not strictly true;  all powerlifters want to set personal records (PRs). But after that, some folks choose to focus on breaking state/regional records, or winning at a national (or international) meet, while others may focus more on breaking a gym record, learning to coach their friends, or something else.

Likewise, you don’t have to share a goal with your training partner(s) (if you have them). However, your goals and the goals of the folks you train with should be *compatible*, so you aren’t inadvertently working against each other! One person being a powerlifter while the other is a long distance runner will make it hard to train together. 

Legendary strongman Mark Felix and Olympic marathoner Paula Radcliffe don’t have many training goals in common!

Heck, even powerlifters, strongmen, Olympic lifters, and bodybuilders train differently enough that you might have a hard time meeting everyone’s needs in one session.

So take a minute examine your goals, as well as the goals of your training partners and/or people you train. Are they working towards the same general end? If so, that’s awesome. If not, you may need to re-evaluate some or all of the goals each of you has. Strategies for dealing with this goal disconnect might include:

  • Finding the common lifts each of you use, and moving those to the start of your training session so you can do them together, before each going off to do their own thing. This works best with the big lifts (e.g., squats) used by all strength sports; it’ll be harder to do if one of you needs to bench and the other needs to snatch
  • If you don’t have any “big lifts” in common, look to see if there are days where you can “focus” on one training partner over another. This may mean more days, or more time, in the gym, but it’ll also mean you get to not train alone, which many athletes find preferable.

Get those goals aligned, and support each other in your quest for gains!

Meet The Man Who Squats 905… Raw

I originally posted this interview back in 2013. Since then, Ray Williams has become the IPF world champion… twice. His 2015 IPF Classic World Championship squat/bench/deadlift/total numbers were 425.5/235/340/1000.5 Kg (in pounds that is 937/518/749/2206). A remarkable performance , and he keeps getting stronger and better!

Over the weekend, a video quickly started spreading amongst the powerlifters of the world. Everyone stared in disbelief as they watched…questioning at first, but finally settling into simple awe. This shocking video depicts a man none of us have ever heard of, squatting over 900 pounds with just a singlet and a belt at the Alabama State USAPL Championships. No XXS knee sleeves (certainly no wraps), no special squat-suit – not even special lifting shoes. Just a large man with a LARGE amount of weight on his back, moving it around like he’d done it a hundred times.

This man is Ray Williams. In only his second powerlifting meet, he smashed the American USAPL Squat record with his second attempt, and on his third, easily squatted a weight that would shatter the current IPF world record, were it done in the proper circumstances, with the proper judging, and, of course, assuming he becomes accustomed to waiting for the “rack” command. Did I mention this is his second meet?

I tracked down Ray in Mississippi and spoke with him on the phone about his past, his lifting, and his future goals in the sport. I had no choice but to speak to him as a fan more than as a fellow lifter – he was as respectful, humble, and generous with his time as anyone you’ll ever meet (and likely the only person who addresses me as “sir!”). He was quick to give credit to his family, especially his brother, who got him into the sport and will be competing alongside him at 2013 USAPL Raw Nationals in Orlando. Last year, the Super-Heavy showdown between Brad Gillingham and Randall Harris was epic, to say the least. I can’t wait to see what goes down this year.

Everyone is saying “Who is this guy?! Where did he come from?” Tell us a little about yourself.

My name is Ray Williams, and I’m from the small town of Demopolis, Alabama. I’m about 6 feet, 361 pounds – that’s what I weighed in at the meet this past weekend. I coach Junior College Football. I’ll be married 2 years in November, and have 2 beautiful kids. My wife and my kids – they’re my motivation for powerlifting. One of the biggest reasons I think I was able to get 900lbs this past weekend was because in 2011, my daughter died. She was born, survived 11 days, and passed away due to being born premature. That, over everything else, is my motivation – her.

You have a pretty extensive football background as a player, and now you’re a coach. How important has football been to your life?

Football kept me out of trouble growing up. Seventh and Eighth grades were the toughest two years of my life. I had more discipline referrals than I had positive comments. In High School, everybody was like “come out and play football!” It was naturally easy – people pat you on the back for going and knocking the mess outta somebody! I signed at UT-Martin, made All- American my Senior year, All-Conference my Junior and Senior years. If I could do it again, I would. I was able to try out for 2 NFL teams, but it didn’t work out for me. I could have played Canadian ball, but it was just too far from my family.

So did you get your introduction to lifting from football? How long have you been lifting in general?

I started really, really getting into weights my 10th grade year. I said “If I want to be good at football, I might want to be good at this, too.” My Senior year, me and my brother William were first and second for every record in the high school. I squatted about 545, benched 440, and hang-cleaned around 315 or 335. I didn’t deadlift until after I was done playing ball.

How long have you been powerlifting specifically?

This was my second meet. My brother got into it first, and one day he talked me into it and I just ran with it.

What are your current meet and gym PRs for the big 3 lifts?

I squatted 860 and 905 (the 905 didn’t count due to a step forward before the call), benched 475, and pulled 700. I’ve benched more in the gym, but everything else was a personal record.

Do you follow a specific training schedule or program?

I try to focus on the core lifts, not so much on the auxiliaries. My week looks like this:

Monday – Deadlift, all sumo from the floor.

Tuesday – Squat, usually it looks something like this:

315×5

405×1

500×1

600×1

700 5×5

I want to work up to 5×10 at 700 because the gym I work out in, the bars aren’t long enough for more weight, that’s all I can get on there. Whatever I can get on there, I can’t let myself get comfortable with it, so I’m trying to add reps every week since I can’t add weight.

Wednesday – Bench Press:

Right now I don’t bench enough for my bodyweight, so I have to get to where I can rep 450 comfortably for 5 reps for multiple sets. I do multiple sets of 5 until I’m comfortable with a weight. I strained something in my arm and right shoulder and if I get out too wide, it hurts, so I try to keep my grip narrow.

Thursday – Rest

Friday – This is for all my auxilary work that make me better on my core lifts. My favorites? Curls and Tris! I’ve done biceps and tris every day for the last few weeks. I have to get my arms up.

Saturday – I just go in and loosen up and do a little cardio.

Sunday – Rest

Where do you workout? Do you train alone, or with a partner/group?

We have a huge gym in Fulton, MS, the Davis Event Center, probably one of the best Junior College Basketball Gyms around. Attached to that is a very nice weight room and I work out there. I have a partner, a student assistant that is trying to get back into powerlifting form, and I’m trying to get stronger, so we push each other.

Do you mainly train the big lifts, or do you perform variations of them as mainstays in your training?

I mostly focus on the big lifts and auxiliary work (bis and tris).

What do you think has contributed the most to your phenomenal strength levels?

I hate failure. I hate to fail. When you’re up on that platform, and everyone’s looking at you – I have my wife, my friends, my family looking at me – I don’t want to fail in front of these people. Kind of like when you’re working out, you put 700lbs on the bar, you can almost bet the entire gym is only watching you. If you get back there and you can’t move the weight, you just failed, in front of everyone. I hate failure. I hate to fail.

Tell us more about the “Cornbread and Buttermilk” story in the local newspaper. What’s your diet like?

If you google ways to get stronger, everybody in the world has their own program, “This is how I got stronger.” But somewhere in there it says “you gotta eat!” My wife’s done an awesome job feeding me, and my mother did an awesome job feeding me when I was young. I’ve always been a big dude, and one thing my grandma brought us up on was cornbread, collard greens, good down-home southern food – it’s always been a staple of my diet. I try to eat good – I’m 361 pounds, but I don’t want to look 361. I try to stay away from fried foods and greasy stuff as much as possible, but my #1 Kryptonite right now is Mountain Dew – I love it.

Finally, where do you think this is going? This being your second meet, the sky’s the limit. What are your goals for powerlifting, and your squat in particular?

I don’t want to sound bold… Right now I realize I’m blessed, but that I still need to get stronger. But right now my goal is to just get back to the lab and get better. To answer your question – everyone’s joking about calling me “little Mark Henry.” That guy was really, really good – he squatted something like 933 in high school. But I want to be just as good as him.

 

Impressed yet? I am. My favorite part of the conversation was a little more informal, but in regards to the 905 squat he took in the video at the top of this post:

Ray: I was wanting to hit a thousand, but they didn’t have enough 100lb plates.

Me: What?? Would you have called it, if they had it?

Ray: Oh yeah! I would have tried it. That’s my goal at Nationals. I want to do 1000 pounds.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you, a legend in the making: Ray Williams.

[This post originally appeared on 70s Big]

 

Building Your Personal Library of Mobility Work

Each of us has our own individual challenges with respect to joint mobility. We have joints where our range of motion is impinged either due to muscle tightness or (in very rare cases) due to bone spurs or other skeletal issues. We have joints where old injuries have gifted us with scar tissue and fused bone, and that in turn further restricts our mobility.

back_pain

For some reason doing an image search for back pain turns up a jillion variations on this pic.

The good news is that, save for cases where muscles are completely unattached and bones are permanently fused together (e.g., from surgery where this was done intentionally), most of these items can be addressed with consistent, diligent, and careful effort. What we need is a library of mobility work that meets our individual needs.

I’ll say this right now: I’m not always as super-diligent as I should be about mobility work. But I’m getting better about that. For me, the cost of not doing mobility work has proven itself time and time again to vastly outweigh the small, temporary convenience I enjoy by skipping it. In other words, not doing my mobility work always ends up costing me in terms of missed training days and/or missed gains.

missed gainz

Don’t be a dunce. Do your mobility. Keep the gainz rollin’.

Sometimes, it can help to visit a physical therapist, or a massage therapist, or the like. Generally, though, these visits are most useful when they can give you several things to do to work on weak spots yourself. And make no mistake, getting a massage, or a trip to the chiropractor, etc. are all great, but none of them are a substitute for the work you have to do yourself, every day, to keep yourself healthy and injury-free.

Over time, I have developed a collection of mobility and warm-up exercises that work well for me. For example, I know that:

  • Pain in my outer hips and thighs is usually due to my hip muscular/skeletal structure compensating for tightness in my hip flexors. To fix this, I do the couch stretch.
  • Pain in my lower back and pelvic joints (lumbar spine, sacroiliac joint, etc.) is generally either my hip flexors (see above) or because my hamstrings are tight. For hamstring mobility I just do the old-school lying hamstring stretch with a towel or yoga strap.
  • Pain in my shoulders generally means I’ve got issues with scapular mobility. This means I need to work on freeing those up via myofascial release (with a lacrosse ball or soft ball) and also do some stretching and dynamic movement to improve my scapular range of motion.

 

Bretzel-1.0

If you want to kill multiple birds with one stone (and if you are feeling brave), consider a compound stretch. I suggest the Brettzel.

I’ve got a lot more of this sort of thing in my library, and I swap various things in and out depending on what’s going on with my body at a given time. But the point is, I have a solid selection of things I do to address the problems I have right now, the problems I have had before, and the problems I will have again if I neglect my mobility.

Doing these things regularly (every day), very deliberately (i.e., not just slamming through them half-assed so that you can say you did it), and with care (not trying to stretch yourself so hard that you get injured/re-injured, but also not taking it so easy that you don’t make a difference) will not only improve your joint range of motion, but will also mean you get injured (and re-injured) less often.

Each of you has issues with mobility that are particular to you. Figure out what your specific problems are, start building your own library of mobility work, and get after it!

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Roller skates optional.

 

 

Incorporating the SlingShot Into Your Training

When I first read about the SlingShot (or SS, or Slanger, or Egoband, or MagicBenchThing), I was skeptical. I happened to be more than a little burned out on bench at the time, after one AC joint surgery and another in the impending future. I didn’t bench much for a couple years, which was bad news, considering I was already a shitty bencher. I jumped on the “Overhead Press is more manly!!” bandwagon for awhile, but eventually, realized I was only doing that to avoid benching because I sucked at it. Continue reading