Friday, December 30, 2022

Strength and Athletics - By RJ Hicks MS, CSCS

One of the most common misconceptions in the field of strength is that athletes need to train differently than the common non-athlete. Many coaches believe that athletes must always train on their feet, train specific movement patterns, train only with free weight or use ballistic movements in order to best prepare them for their sport. These strength coaches confuse athletics and the Iron Game. They want to be attached to the athletes because of their love for athletics, not for their passion and knowledge for strength. They lose sight of why athletes are supposed to weight training and attempt to blend their training over to what the sports coaches is suppose to do. Athletes will benefit from weight training, but will not become better athletes because of it.

If you want to improve performance in the sports venue, you must train the entire body. It doesn’t matter what sport someone participates in or what position they play. It takes all of the muscles coordinated efforts at once to perform any athletic skill, regardless of their sport. Every muscle comes into play whether it is actively contracting to initiate movement, assist with movement, stabilize the body during movement or resist against movement. That is why the training program should include every muscle in the body, from the neck on down. The more force your muscles can produce the more efficiently your body will be able to move. It is that simple. When athletes train all the major muscles surrounding their joints, they increase their structural integrity. The most important aspect of training is to keep the athlete healthy so they can continue to develop their sports skills and compete in competition. Injured athletes can’t practice their sports skills and hurt the team’s chances from winning. By strengthening the total body, you are increasing the physical function of the body, improving the quality of muscle, increasing bone mineral density, and reducing the risk of soft tissue injuries by increasing the thickness and stiffness of tendons and ligaments. Dan Riley, Mark Asanovich, Ken Mannie and many other great coaches have said it many times that the number one priority in the weight room is to protect the athlete from the high levels of force they are exposed to in their sport.

The program should consist of mostly compound exercises and some isolation exercises to ensure all of the major muscle groups are being trained. There should be equal emphasis on pushing and pulling exercises, executed in both a bi-lateral and iso-lateral fashion. Athletes need to be strong front to back and left to right. Iso-lateral exercises will help balance out strength levels between each limb from the natural imbalance that occurs from playing sports. The program foundation should consist of: vertical push/pull, horizontal push/pull, leg/hip/back push/pull. Exercises for the neck, grip, calves, low back and the mid-section must also be included in the program so that the athlete can be strong from their head to their toes.

These basic exercises make up the main part of the program, regardless of the sport. The only thing you can do to make the program more specific it to identify which exercise an athlete can and cannot do and to identify the top injuries for each specific sport. At the end of the workout, you want to include a few exercises that combat those specific injuries. This is something I learned from Jamie Labelle, who coached hundreds of athletes at his old training facility “The Quality Repetition”. If the knee and ankle are the most common injuries for a basketball player, at the end of the workout make sure to perform a specific exercise to strengthen those areas. The more exercises you include in the program the fewer sets you will be able to program. The goal of the program is to strengthen all the major muscles groups of the body, not to develop a high-level skill of lifting. One or two sets for each exercise will be enough to develop strength if meaningful overload is used. Athletes do not need to perform three to four sets per exercise to develop strength. There is no rep/set protocol that produces more significant results than another. What’s more important is the quality of training rather than the quantity of workouts. Remember strength training is only part of the equation for athletes. They must be able to recover from specific skill work, conditioning, sports practice and competition.

The argument of free weights over machines for athletes is purely based on perception. Coaches like to argue that free weights are better for athletes, because they more functional due to the balance and skill needed to use them. Balance and skill have nothing to do with developing strength. They are not in the weight room to recreate different movement patterns in the weight room, they are in there to build strength. Greater instability decreases the amount of muscular force an athlete is able to produce, working against their ability to provide overload to the muscles. The more skill involved in an exercise often times the less effective the exercise becomes. There is no reason to incorporate exercises that require great skill for non-strength athletes. Motor learning experts agree that for positive transfer of a skill to occur, training must be exact not similar or close too. If an athlete is wanting to improve their tackling, they must practice tackling an opposing play with proper technique at near game speed. Lifting a bar from the floor to their knees and violently extending their hips is not the same movement and will do nothing to improve the athlete’s skill.

Athletes should use the best tools available to them, whether it is barbells, dumbbells or good machines. There are some good barbell and dumbbell exercises that an athlete can use, but training the neck, upper back and lower body are limited without good machines. As Bob Whelan says “good machines are nothing but guided barbells”. They are very beneficial to have and allow some athletes to perform movements productively they would not be capable of otherwise. The best option is to use a mix of both, but if free weights are the only option the training principles remain the same. With a mix of free weights and machines you can incorporate more exercises, greater variety and fit the tool to the athlete instead of fitting the athlete to the tool. Below are a few sample programs.

Basketball player-

Military press Iso lateral row Leg press Neck flexion/ neck extension Calve raise Iso lateral chest press Pulldown Iso lateral leg press Abdominal crunch/back extension Gripper

Extra work: Knee and Ankle Leg extension Leg curl Seated calf raise/tibia flex

Baseball player-

incline press iso lateral pulldown Squat Neck lateral flexion Abdominal rotation Iso military press Seated low row HS one legged deadlifts One legged calve raise Wrist roller

Extra Work: Shoulder and Elbow Lateral raise External rotator cuff Reverse thick bar curls Tricep pushdowns

The program is supposed to help protect athletes and maximize their muscular strength to improve their physical function. Moving fast with weights will not make an athlete run faster in competition. The speed at which muscle fibers contract are pre-determined by birth. Power cleans and depth jumps will not change their biological make up or their neurological efficiency. An athlete is either “hook up” or not based off of their genetic potential. Improvement in technique, tactical knowledge, experience, body composition, and an athlete’s determination to make the play are what make an athlete explosive past what was decided at birth. The only thing in the weight room an athlete can do to increase their speed is to continue to strengthen their muscles used for running. A stronger muscle will always produce more force. The safest and most efficient way to do this is to allow the muscles to lift and lower weights through the fullest range of motion. Yanking, jerking, bouncing or throwing weight around in the weight room will minimize the total amount of muscle fibers recruited at best and lead to acute or chronic injuries at worse.

The truth is an athlete’s training program looks very similar to a non-athletes training program. There are no special exercises, equipment or training principles that athletes need. Muscle fibers are human. Human anatomy and philology do not change because of the activities you participate in. The same basic total body training template that works for an office employee will work for a professional soccer player. The weights, intensity and some preventative exercises may vary between the two, but the training principles remain the same. Good form, progressive overload and proper rest will allow muscle to adapt and grow for athletes and non-athletes alike.
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Thursday, December 29, 2022

Drugs - The illusionary Edge - By David Sedunary

Most (90%) of the bodybuilders we see whether on Google, television or in the magazines are chemical users. Even in my local Gym there are chemical users who try to fool all observers, “yes, they say I done it the natural way. What utter bullshit who are they trying to fool, not me as I have been natural for 55 years never touched drugs of any kind and never will. Believe it or not most of our influence and information on training is coming from the drug users. No one I have noticed does not want to listen to the people who have done it the hard natural way, built 180 to 190 pounds of muscle on 5 feet 10-inch frame, with a medium to small bone frame with a 7-inch wrist.

Gee you should be bench pressing more David than 260 pounds for a set of 6, and you only squat 355 for 6 reps, or 280 pounds 20 times and deadlift only 375 pounds for 15 reps. That was said to me when I was 38 years of age some 33 years ago, one could never do it now. It was all done naturally which I am proud of and are still under the iron. As mentioned earlier I have been training in weight training and bodybuilding for 55 years and have outlived many of our chemical contemporaries.

Look at the Olympic games most of us have become aware of the rampant use of drugs in athletes. The use of “Sports Drugs” is not new, and I am not all surprised. One can go back as far to the test results of even the 1983 games. Some track and field records had never been broken for 20 years, yet recently we have seen Olympic athletes shatter long – standing records. Was the results of superior athletes or training methods? I think not, this is the result of the use of sports drugs.

These athletes both men and women will never admit to their use? of course not. That is why so many athletes are disqualified all over the world either by the actual test or by not consenting to the test. This is the same as drug users who attend the workplace quitting their job because they will not pass the drug test. Simply stating it is quite clear they are using illegal drugs if they wont consent to a drug test. Where did it all begin and what is so bad about using these drugs. A well-developed physique has always been associated with health and strength since time and in the early years of bodybuilding. 

Soon men began to search for short cuts to the hard work and the time it took to develop a strong, healthy, and prize-winning physique. So, in their search they discovered there were certain chemicals which could be inserted into their bodies that could temporarily change the body chemistry and alter their physical appearance. This would give the body builder the artificial effect or the plastic effect which I call it, causing their muscles to appear, and much quicker than doing it the natural way. What a wicked web we weave when we practice to deceive.

There was only one drawback, the chemicals had an everlasting damaging effect upon the body and as a result, the drug using athletes jeopardized their health. This use did and now does even more cause irreversible damage to the internal organs, the main targets being the liver and the kidneys. These pumped-up New Breed chemical users want to win at all costs, with little thought given to health and wellbeing.

With the winning of all the trophies came the damaged livers, shriveled kidneys, triple bypass operations, cancers of all types, and death. Even as far back as the 60’s one well known Mr. Olympia developed prostate cancer took him out of competition and 10 years to recover. For physical perfection, the chemical athlete is looking at an early death, and huge amounts of suffering.

Epidemic of Dying Athletes Since Covid Jab Rollout.

I may be getting off the subject, but what disturbs and angers me is the Epidemic of Dying Athletes since the Covid jab rollout, were these athletes using chemical assistance along with the Covid jab, who knows. 

Fitness enthusiast, author and bodybuilding champion Doug Brignole died suddenly on 13th October after offering to be a test case for the safety of experimental COVID 19 gene – based. In the comment thread of one of his own Facebook posts, in which he promoted uptake of the controversial injections, the former Mr. America and Mr. Universe wrote “Those of you who think the vaccine kills people can use me as a test. If I die, you were right. If I do not die, and have no ill effects, you were wrong, and should admit it (at least to yourself). 

According to multiple reports the 62-year-old Brignole was scheduled to appear at the Amateur Athletic union Mr. Universe competition in Las Vegas on 22 October indicating his death was sudden and unexpected. In April, One American Network reported more than 769 athletes had collapsed on the field during a game between March 2021 and March 2022. The average age of these athletes was 23.

In Australia, the jab known as the clot shot – ending up causing irreversible adverse events for thousands of people. Australia has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world it never did stop transmission of COVID. How many people will have died by the time there is a widespread acknowledgement and anger over what was done with in the name of protecting us from a virus with a 99.73 per cent survivability rate.

Benefits from regular vigorous natural exercise.

Nevertheless, I am all for all-natural bodybuilding and weightlifting and exercise.

 It will:

Lower triglyceride levels, Lower blood pressure, Lower cholesterol levels, increase level of coronary arteries, Prevent premature aging, Fat reduction in the overweight, Increase energy and stamina, Better general health, Better personal mental image, Increase physical strength, Added personal confidence, Improve mental and physical relaxation and Better oxygen utilization, and many more.

It may take more time to get a good physique the natural way, but you will have the consolation of knowing that this is real muscle, and it was earned with honest hard work, and it will not go away when you stop taking injections. 

The choice is yours.

Editors Note: Great information David! I can't get enough steroid bashing articles.

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Thursday, December 8, 2022

Raised Handles and Raw Lifting - By Jim Duggan

     Before the advent of the internet and social media, it was hard to keep up with current events in the world of lifting.  The muscle magazines were, unfortunately, limited to their print schedule.  If an event took place in December, for instance, you would not find out the results until the magazines published the event several months later.  And even if a contest was covered by television, you still had to wait for a few lousy minutes of edited coverage months after the fact.  

     When Powerlifting USA first came out in the late 1970s, it was the first time that a magazine was devoted strictly to the sport of super-strength.  Contest coverage was a big part of the magazine’s contents, and it was a great way to keep up with what was going on in the sport.  Eventually, there would be the “Power Hotline,” a twice-weekly newsletter that provided coverage that was even more current and up to date.  Naturally, the internet changed our concept of what is current.  We no longer had to wait to see record-breaking lifts being performed.  Even contests that took place overseas were just a click away.  

     Past experience with new things tends to indicate the results will be both good and bad.  While we were able to receive information almost instantly, we have also been subjected the downside of instant information.  The cringe-worthy things that take place on a daily basis in commercial gyms are now there for all of us to see.  And let me tell you, there is a lot to see, little of which is good.

     One thing that I’ve noticed lately is the increasing number of “lifters” who claim to be “raw.”  Now, the definition of “raw” insofar as it relates to lifting has also evolved over the years.  When I was competing, there used to be many Raw contests from which to choose.  Basically, a raw contest was one where the use of supersuits, wraps, support gear of any kind was not permitted.  Basically, you were allowed to wear a wrestling singlet, or a t-shirt and shorts.  No supersuit of any kind.  Likewise, there was to be nothing on your knees, elbows, or wrists.  Even your belt had to be made of leather, none of the thick, suede belts used in most meets.  You were truly “Raw.”  Naturally, your squat poundage took a hit, as did your bench, that is if you were used to benching with a bench shirt. Fortunately, I was used to benching with only a t-shirt so I was not affected by the rules.  Also, if you wee used to wearing a special “Erector” shirt for deadlifting, then your deadlift took a hit, too.  The plus side to all of this is that what you lifted at the contest was a true reflection of your actual strength.  The results of the contest were not decided by the quality and/or type of supportive gear you were wearing, because there was none.

     Lately, I’ve seen a lot of videos and social media posts from people ( I will not refer to them as lifters) who claim to be raw.  They will usually post a picture or video of their latest PR in the squat, bench, or deadlift.  The funny thing is that what constitutes raw lifting is a far cry from the original definition of the word.  Since when is wearing knee wraps considered raw?  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a “raw: lifter setting up to do a squat while wearing wraps on his knees and wrists.  To say nothing of the fact that he/she is using a Monolift and having any number of “spotters” actually touching the bar as it is being lowered and raised.  Does anyone actually believe that someone who is wrapped to the gills, and has a spotter behind him with their arms wrapped around his waist the whole time, and lowers himself into a partial squat and then has the loaders rack the Monolift once the lifter has “completed” the lift, does anyone believe that this is anything near a legitimate lift?  If you do, then I’ve got some Yankee world series tickets I’d like to sell you.

     Let’s go to the Bench Press.  How many times have you seen someone wearing one of those slingshot bench shirts get set up to do a “record” bench?  He/she is wearing wrist wraps as well as elbow wraps.  The spotter will hand the bar off, but will not let go.  His hands are on the bar the entire time, from the descent through the ascent.  Most of the time there is no pause whatsoever, which is just as well because most of the time, the lift is not even locked out to completion.  At about the ¾ mark, the spotter will take the bar and rack it.  If the camera angle is right, you can see that the lifter in question has his/her butt coming off the bench and their feet are anything but stationary.  Sometimes I find it difficult to find one actual rule that is being complied with during these videos!  To sum it up, if you are wearing a bench shirt ( denim, multi-ply, sling-shot, etc.) you are NOT lifting raw.  Likewise, if your feet come off the floor, or your butt comes off the bench, or you do not pause or lock out evenly, then you are not even performing a proper bench press.  Why make a video and subject yourself to ridicule?     

     I’ll save the best for last, the Deadlift.  For various reasons, there has been a proliferation of deadlift videos over the last few years.  Certainly, the pandemic which closed down gyms and contests, is responsible for the increased use of videos.  Also, since the deadlift is the easiest and most basic test of overall body strength, people are inclined to test and/or demonstrate their strength in a lift that does not require spotters or special equipment other than a bar.  While I’m on the subject of the bar, one thing that is impossible to  overlook is the fact that the new, special deadlift bars are as much responsible for all these new “records” as anything else.  These longer, thinner bars have more flex in them than the old power bars that used to be used in contests.  Learning to “pull the slack out of the bar” is a strategy that has assisted many new generation deadlifters.  And, since these bars are longer, they have a larger loading area.  Has anyone else noticed that there seems to be a worldwide shortage of 100 Lb. plates?  Funny, when I trained at Iron Island, there were plenty of “hundos’” as well as 45 kg plates.  Now it seems like there is a national shortage of 100s.  Is it due to the supply chain? Or is it because having the loading area filled with 45 Lb plates will work in conjunction with the bend of the bar to assist the lifter in pulling off the floor?  Having four 100 Lb plates on each side ( instead of eight 45s) of a legitimate power bar will definitely change the leverage of lifting.  It will definitely make it harder to “remove the slack.”

     Additionally, if you are wearing lifting straps, then you are NOT lifting raw.  These straps have gotten to the point where sometimes you don’t even have to have your fingers around the bar in order to pull it off the floor.  Those figure-eight straps can make anyone look like they have a grip of steel.  What’s even funnier is when you get some joker using a thick-handled bar or axle and using straps!  The whole idea of an axle lift is to tax your grip.  Why make it easier with the use of straps?  

     There is something else about deadlifting that I have noticed lately.  It regards the use of the Trap Bar, which is one of the best innovations to come to lifting that I can remember.  It seems like most of the trap bars made today have a set of raised handles.  Naturally, simply flip the bar over and lift like you always did, but it seems like most people today prefer to use the raised handles.  Sometimes these handles are about six inches high, therefore changing the entire performance of the movement.  To paraphrase a former president, let me make this perfectly clear:  If you are using raised handles to do your trap bar deadlifts, then you are NOT doing a trap bar deadlift.  You are doing a PARTIAL trap bar deadlift.  Substituting a partial movement for the purpose of using more weight might make for a nice video, but who are you fooling?  Anyone who is knowledgeable about lifting will see right through the charade.  

     While it may seem like there is nothing useful to be gained from keeping current, there is a whole world of useful information to be disseminated and exchanged.  Don’t allow the yo-yos to tarnish all that is good about hoisting the steel.  Train hard, progressively, safely, and use proper form.

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