Sunday, August 14, 2022

Fatigue And Laziness - What’s The Difference? - By Jim Duggan

     This was the title of an article in the July 1981 issue of Strength and Health magazine.  The author of the article is the imitable John Grimek.  Any time I look through an old York publication and see the name “John Grimek” I immediately take a look.  I figure that you can’t go wrong learning from one of the all-time legends of the Iron Game.

     Fatigue and laziness are usually not words that come to mind when we think of building muscle and strength, but it’s important to learn to differentiate between the two, as much as we may not want to discuss these subjects.  But before I get into the discussion of laziness, I’d like to bring up a quote from the article attributed to Bob Hoffman.  “You should never miss a workout.  Every workout that you miss makes it that much easier for you to miss others.  If you want to make progress, you should always do some kind of training if you expect to get good results.”

     At first glance, this seems like sound advice.  But is it actually a good idea to never miss a workout?  What if you did heavy squats and deadlifts earlier in the week, and on the day of your next scheduled training session, your back, hips, and legs have not sufficiently recovered?  It probably would not be a good idea to “suck it up” and proceed to train just for the sake of not missing a workout.  It would probably be a better, wiser idea to allow yourself an extra day of rest before lifting heavy again.

     It has been stated by many diverse authorities that one must listen to his/her body.  You must be alert to subtle clues that your body might be sending you.  This means that you must also be alert to the signs of overtraining.  But more importantly, if you are exhibiting signs of overtraining, you must be smart enough to “live to fight another day.”  This can sometimes be difficult, especially considering the fact that we all LOVE to hoist the steel.  But as difficult as it may sometimes be, it is very important, especially for drug-free lifters.

     How many times over the years have you walked into the gym with the best of intentions, seemingly full of energy, and ready to “sling the iron” only to find out within a few sets that you just don’t seem to have it?  I know it has happened to me more times than I care to remember.  What’s the reason for this? Why does it happen? 

     If there were easy answers for those questions people would be lining up for the solution, and no lifter ever again would have a bad workout.  There are, of course, solutions to the phenomenon of having little or no energy during a training session.  For instance, if your plan was to train heavy, and the weights feel like a ton, then you can simply switch to a session of lighter poundages.  You may find that you gain a surge of energy while using light weights.  Another strategy would be to utilize substitute exercises.  Instead of several heavy sets of deadlifts, try one all-out set with lighter weights, or skip the deadlifts and do power cleans, pulls, or another movement.  Or, if you had planned on doing heavy overhead presses and the bar feels like it weighs a ton, try doing dumbbell presses for higher reps. This is another case of your being limited only by your imagination.  

     If you’re able to salvage a workout via the use of alternate exercises or different rep schemes, then perhaps you are not overtrained or “burnt out,” or fatigued.  Perhaps the real culprit is, indeed, laziness.  Let’s face it, we’re all humans, and subject to the foibles that befall all lifters.  And laziness is one of the worst things that a lifter can experience.  

    If you are indeed suffering from a case of laziness, the a few sets of light weights or different exercises will rejuvenate you, and you will have a productive workout.  However, if you truly are physically fatigued, no alternative training strategy will help.  You may find yourself getting progressively more tired and fatigued.  It is at this point that Mr. Grimek says that you should cancel the workout and “save yourself” for another day.

     Getting back to what Bob Hoffman said about missing workouts, this leaves us with an interesting question:  Who should we listen to, the “Father of World Weightlifting” and not miss a workout, or the “Monarch of Muscledom” and save yourself for another workout?

     The answer to that question, is that you should listen to YOU.  Only you know how you are truly feeling.  If you have been lifting for any appreciable length of time, you will know your body and how it responds to fatigue, lethargy, lack of energy, and loss of enthusiasm.  It is important to remember that if you miss more than one workout, then it definitely will become easier to skip others.  Hall of Fame football coach Vince Lombardi once said that “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.”  He was not the first person to utter those words.  General George Patton wrote those words to his troops during the second World War.  

     Sometimes all you need to get yourself going is to remind yourself of the gains that you’ve made already.  If you’ve been lifting for a while, then you have definitely experienced gains in strength, size, and development.  You can look back and be proud of the work it took to get to your current state of physical conditioning.  Allow yourself to reflect on the positive effects and invigorating feeling after a successful workout.  

     Thinking about Bob Hoffman’s words of wisdom should help get you through a training session when you feel like throwing in the towel.  But if you’re feeling lazy, then it is definitely not the time to attempt a limit lift.  Heed the advice of John Grimek, “ Begin lightly, do more reps, and inhale deeply.  After a few exercises, you should regain your energy and enthusiasm.”

     None of us like to think about negative feelings like fatigue, laziness and bad workouts.  But they are a part of life when it comes to lifting and getting stronger.  How you adapt to those days when you don’t seem to have it will determine how successful you will be in the long run.

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Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Training Athletes for Sports - WEIGHT TRAINING - Part One - By Jamie Labelle

Athletes must be very careful when developing a training program. There is only so much time and energy that the human body can endure before breaking down. Results from any type of training will only be realized if the plan is safe, progressive and allows for recovery. This allows one to be able to accelerate natural genetic gifts and safeguard a less vulnerable, reinforced physique for the rigors of the athletic battlefield. My goal when training athletes for sports is to help them make the team and participate in practice and games. I want them to perform at a higher level and keep themselves off the sidelines due to injury and/or less than optimal performance. Weight training is only one part of the overall program. The athlete must also include visualization exercises and studying opponents as well as their own team strategies and tactics. The same level of importance needs to be applied to flexibility/mobility, general/specific conditioning, muscular maintenance of prior injuries, and sport-specific skill work. In addition, they must follow a daily recuperation plan to ensure that the training is of high quality while preventing overuse injuries and mental/physical burn-out. Surrounding this mandatory program are the basic human essentials that require our daily attention. They must navigate life, school, diet, work and relationships. These life necessities can also make inroads into ones’ recovery reserves if not managed properly.

Striking a balance between all of these critical activities and timing it with the first day of official practice should be the ultimate goal. Recovery, it turns out, is the least understood and a highly individual process that can quietly derail any athlete. The main by-product of an unfocused recovery program, which usually goes unrecognized until it’s too late, is overtraining. Overtraining is camouflaged by misguided beliefs and a philosophy which confuses hard/intense training with more time spent in the gym. It could lead to injury, sub-par workouts and/or simply steal your thunder on the opening day of practice as you attempt to retain or earn a position. This becomes even more critical as the season nears, where vital energy stores must be taxed intermittently, efficiently and intelligently. Everything one does must have a purpose and an outcome that produces results. On the opposite end of the spectrum is under training, categorized by a lack of intensity and using an exercise form in which momentum, not muscle, moves the resistance.

Still another useless waste of valuable time is attempting to copy athletic movements with gadgets or weights. A boxer who practices throwing punches with a dumbbell in each hand gets better at that skill, while subjecting themselves to neuromuscular confusion and injury. Immediately following this “exercise”, thought to build quickness and explosiveness, they now feel quicker when they punch. Unfortunately, this kinesthetic after-effect usually lasts for about fifteen seconds and then disappears forever. However, if the boxer continues performing this “exercise”, the brain will set a new neuromuscular connection for dumbbell boxing. The injury occurs in the wrists, elbows and shoulders as the body constantly attempts to stop the forward acceleration forces generated by each punch. How good would a boxer be after creating injuries in the very part of the body that allows him/her to perform? This all unknowingly leaves the athlete underprepared and unprotected.

Each repetition of every weight training exercise should require the muscles to do ALL of the work. This establishes the development of muscles which enable the athlete, rather than present a clear risk, both on the field or in the weight room. Almost all of the required movements for sports will place the athlete in any number of defenseless positions as soon as the whistle blows. There is no need to create the origin of an on-field injury in the weight room or leave the athlete more susceptible by using methods that are inherently dangerous. Yes, even if done correctly! The weight room and the playing surface are two, distinctly different places. Any effort to mimic the skills and speed of the game inside the walls of the weight room is a complete waste of time and energy. The only true connection is that training will enable an athlete to develop USABLE muscle, less body-fat with less chance of injury, or at least the severity of injury. If done correctly, it will also enhance skills, allowing an athlete to move faster and quicker. PROPER weight training by itself, will also improve flexibility. However, I believe a post-workout stretching routine will complete the circle of preparation.

The only way to make a weight training program sport-specific is to identify the muscles most often injured and make sure those muscles are an integral part of the overall program. Other than that, every athlete can basically utilize a similar strength training program of free weights, machines and bodyweight exercises. These tools in the athlete's tool box are merely a means to an end, not an end in itself. Therefore, everything related to the demonstration of weightlifting prowess and technique, similar to Olympic/Powerlifting, is counterproductive to the development of the athletic performance type of strength essential for all athletes. Olympic lifters and Powerlifters are certainly athletes, but they lift barbells both in practice and competition. The boxer must box and the football receiver must run and catch. To subject athletes to learn anything other than the basic up and down motions of strength training is useless at best! Muscles that are required to serve the dual purpose of being stronger AND preventative are only formed through specific, slow, controlled movements with deliberate pauses at the top and bottom of each repetition. The program, for the most part, is unrelated to a specific sport. Can an athlete look better in the mirror or in uniform without using this exercise form? Of course, but remember, the goal here is what happens on the playing surface, not on the bench press, the oily stage or the power clean platform.
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Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Learning Olympic Weightlifting On Your Own – The 5 Optimal Steps - By James Athanasiou

A 2 month rabbit hole in YouTube consuming video after video on Olympic weightlifting sparked my desire to practice it myself. It seemed to be such an elegant sport, balancing speed, strength and mobility all the same. Surely, I thought, it would take no time before I was able to lift 225 overhead.

And I couldn't be further from the truth. In reality, it will take months or years to get your technique close to being solid. And without it, you're very much likely to injure yourself in any body part you can think of. Struggling to Snatch 40kg in the first training, I knew that I was poorly mistaken.

However, I've now gotten to a quite succesful point, in regards to getting the technique right. Still no 225 thrown overhead though. It took more than six months to learn these 5 lessons the hard way. I've put them all in this article for you, just to make sure you're well aware of what you're getting yourself into – as well as how to best avoid any serious setbacks.

I'll have to warn you though: It is far better for you to get a certified coach to break down the technique properly, work on your individual weaknesses and guide you to the right path quickly. If that's not an option, then keep reading through.

  1. Stick to using light weights for the first 3 months

Knowing myself and most enthusiasts out there, it feels incredibly appealing to just grab the bar and try shooting up as much weight as possible. The most probable outcomes? Crushing your pelvic bone, losing balance in a terrible way or - heaven forbid -  dropping the bar mid movement on yourself. I'd even argue that it is best to use just an empty barbell for the first month and stick to mastering the next principles. 

If, however, you find gradually increasing the weight helpful, make sure you do so in a slow and sensible way. A rule I personally stuck with was to add no more than 15lbs after a month of successful progress. Your starting weight will largely be determined by your general strength and adaptation to the new movements. Ideally, it can range from 70 to 110lbs.

  1. Break down the movement in drills

This is especially crucial for the first few weeks of starting out. Grab an empty barbell and start drilling down the movements. 

For the Snatch: Start with pulling from the floor to your hips for a few reps. When you feel comfortable with the snatch grip, start practicing contact by pulling from the knees to the hips and then making triple extension (ankles, knees and hips fully extend as the bar makes contact with the hips). Do NOT bend your arms unless the bar has reached its maximum height.

When you've mastered the explosive part of the movement, it's time to practice receiving the bar. As the bar reaches its maximum height, you start bending your arms and dropping under to catch it in a full-depth squat. Ideally, you want your shoulders to internally rotate, meaning your head leans ahead of the barbell and your shoulders retract.

For the Clean: The pull & contact part is the same, just with the standard double overhand grip.

After the bar has reaching maximum height, you receive it in the front rack position (bar placed between shoulders and clavicle, elbows looking forward), while squatting as deep as needed.

For the Jerk: As you come back up, stop and take a deep breath. Then slightly bend your knees until you feel tension and power in your legs. After that, quickly squat back up, drive overhead, and dip under in a Split or Power Jerk position. In the Split, you'll have your most balanced leg forward and your weaker leg back to create a triangle shape support, whereas the Power Jerk requires that you get back to the position you had before getting the bar overhead – and lifting it back up. Both dips should be small and tight, getting power from tension gathered in the leg muscles.

  1. Improve your mobility before anything else

Even before thinking about touching the barbell, you need to have an above average level of mobility, meaning you can comfortably Squat full ATG depth, hold the Front Rack Position and balance the bar overhead with an Internal Rotation of the shoulders. The best way to do that is the following mobility routine at the start of each session:

  1. Full Depth Squat: Hold for 2-3 minutes

  2. Ankle Stretches: Lean on one leg with the knee as far forward and the foot as far back as possible. Hold it for 10-15sec in each leg.

  3. Elbow Stretches: In the Front Rack position, dynamically extend your elbows as much forward as you can for 10-15 reps in each arm.

  4. 3 sets of 10-12 reps at Back Extensions for getting your lower back warmed up

  5. Overhead Squats with empty barbell and pause at the bottom. Do 8-10 reps with Internal Rotation of the shoulders.

4) Include Strength Specific Movements:

This is the movements I'd recommend you implement for getting your muscles used to transferring heavy loads from one part of the lift to another when performing the full movement:

  1. Double Overhand Deadlifts (1x per month): Work up to a heavy load and use double overhand or Hookgrip to lift it. The hookgrip is a tool used by all weightlifters, where you put your thumbs inside the bar and surround them with the rest of your fingers.

  2. Snatch Grip Deadlifts (1x per month): Use the same principles, only with your hands gripping at the same width as you would in the snatch. Practice doing a small shrug at the end of the rep.

  3. Front Squat (1x per week): This is the core of a weightlifter's strength. Directly transfering to the Clean and general leg strength, this lift requires as much upper as it does lower body contribution. Work up to a relatively heavy load – ideally around 75-80% of your Back Squat – and do a proper full depth squat with it.

  4. Snatch Balance (1x per two weeks): Unrack the bar like you would back squat it, then widen your grip to Snatch Grip, bend your knees slightly to the power position – then quickly throw the bar overhead and dip under. This directly transfers to your Snatch and general balance. Use up to 60% less of what you would in the Overhead Press.

  5. Push Press (1x per week): More than anything, this will help you find the Power Position in your legs, as well as strengthen your shoulders and upper body without restricting your mobility. Don't be afraid to work up to 30% more than you would in the standard overhead press.

5) Practice the full movements

All of that is ideal for properly preparing your body, but there's no point in doing so if you don't get to practice the Olympic lifts themselves. What I'd suggest is you start with mastering the 4 steps above for the first month, and then switch to practicing the Full Snatch and Full Clean & Jerk 1x per week each.

And that sums it up. Both these movements are highly taxing on the body and require pinpoint precision and adjustments to get optimal and safe results. They're also incredibly rewarding and a true indicator of the beauty and capability of one's body. 

Start practicing today, don't let your hesitations postpone your progress any further. Remember to always keep it simple & fun, as only then you'll be able to endure failures and upsets – while genuinely becoming better. Thank you for reading this post, all the best wishes for strength and fulfillment through your training.

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