The Oldie but Goodie – Getting Down to the Basics of the Back Squat

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The Back Squat is the staple of many training program it is a great exercise and hits the whole body, developing strength. It is a basic movement with lots of benefits, however there are lots considerations to maximize your results for the Back Squat. Now we are not talking about a 600 lb Back squat though if that is your goal have at it. We might be talking about a 60 year old desk worker doing a 150 lb back squat and then heading home out to see their grand kids with no fear of their back going out while walking out the gym door. So lets look at the Back Squat.

 

 

Should you be doing a back Squat. For most people the answer i would say yes, however there are some exceptions. If you have some serious back issues, like degenerative discs then the back Squat is probably not for you at this moment and maybe never, (that does not mean no squats just there might be better squat options) Depending on your knees it might be better to do other squat variations as well. The problem is it is easy to load heavier then peoples knees or back can handle and the way the load is placed it can stress the back. People with stiff ankles should work on their ankle mobility before loading heavy squats. The lack of movement will place extra stress on your back and knees. Now if you move decently well your knees and back should be at less risk. Another thing to look at is your height, while it is not impossible to do back squats if you are taller (6’4″ or above) just be mindful. Your leavers are longer placing extra stress on the joints. So if you are taller and have a history of back or knee issues you might want to avoid the back squat, however if you are taller and have no issue then you should be able to back squat but you may want to be careful and add load slowly.

 

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This is not the squat you are looking for

Now the set up Most people step in and squat, while this maybe fine for you there maybe a better option, you maybe placing undue strain on your body plus you maybe placing. First lets review the basics feet shoulder width apart with toes pointed slightly out (about 10 to 30 degrees) Toes forward can be fine in screening assessments but when it comes to performance and lifting a load i like a little toes pointing out, again go with a comfortable position. The next set up is the bar position, this one is one we place less focus on but it can be helpful for lower back pain. This is the bar placement on the shoulders. If you squat with your but out more place the bar lower on the shoulders if you are a more upright squatter then placing the bar higher on the shoulders/traps should place less stress on the back.

 

Ass to grass squatting. This is a common squat mantra. Personally i am not a big fan of deep squatting when under load, the strain on the knees can cause injury and usually you will not find out if you are the one who will get hurt until you are hurt so instead of testing your knees out I prefer to avoid finding out how invincible your knees actually are. Focus on bringing your thighs to parallel should be enough for you.

 

In short the squat is a versatile exercise that can add many benefits to your program, but there are many ways to improve it and make it work better for you. Assess your movement you and your limits. Each person will be a little different on how they can imporve the squat. With a little help you should see imprvements.

 

 

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Stop Chasing Your PR

Chasing a Personal Record can be all consuming when it comes to training. Setting a new PR in the gym is a point of pride for most people in the gym whether you are a beginner or grizzled vet is a great feeling. Once you hit one you want to hit another all that dopamine, endorphines, oxycontin and seritonin hit the brain making you feel great. However chasing a new high water mark week in and week out is not great for you lifting. The best and strongest lifters know this and make sure to avoid maxing out each lift, often they keep lifts well below their max. Instead focus on the speed of the lifts with maybe 1 maximum 2 days a week of maximum lifts. Also after heavy sections of a program lower the weight and again focus on speed of the bar and technique. Many people get caught in a never ending cycle of lifting heavier and heavier but usually this gives the body no chance to recover and build up strength.

Keeping Explosive Later in the Game

Ask yourself this if you could be as explosive in the last 10 minutes of a game as you were at the beginning how many more games would you win. You are probably thinking that you can win a fair bit more. However training to keep your explosiveness later in the game requires a game plan.

First learn to jump explosively. Many people train as though their explosive work is their cardio work. Unfortunately this is not the most efficient way to train, you are trying to serve two masters that conflict with each other. The explosiveness you want will be elusive if you keep trying to jump longer, the muscles adapt to the time trying to last longer but not jump higher, creating the problem of making small jumps all game long which will more maintainable is less helpful in performance.  remember you need to perform to be out playing otherwise you are glued to the bench. First learn to jump high and be explosive.

Develop your coordination – the best athletes and the best jumpers have excellent coordination you often see this in the effortless athlete. Jumping is symphony if you cannot coordinate your movements then you are just wasting energy and if you waste energy you will burn out faster. Learn to coordinate upper and lower/ left and right. Using bear crawls, marching and skipping drills should help you to develop coordination. The better you are coordinated the less inefficient you will be and that saves energy.

Limit energy leaks by becoming more efficient in the core. If you have not noticed a theme here it is become more efficient. The core is an energy distributor, driving the legs and arms requires the core to be strong ad efficient to transfer the energy they generate into a useful and efficient manner. Strong core exercises that focus on perturbation are an excellent starting point.

Get mobile tight hips and ankles are killer to endurance. If your body cannot absorb and redirect energy then you will lose a ton of energy plus make your joints more achy and sore. Focus on stretching out the ankles you can never be too mobile in the ankles in my experience. The hip and groin must also be worked on they are energy generators and absorbers so they need to be mobile.

Build up endurance with stairs, hill sprints and sled pushes. Finally you are saying sure all this stuff is great but where is the work. Here it is Hill sprints and stairs help generate power. and conditioning like no other exercises. You have to generate lots of power to climb a hill. Keep the sprints under a minute HIIT is what  you are looking at Depending on the needs of the sport you will probably stay within a 10 to 30 minute window. More endurance sports like soccer will be closer to 30 minutes while burst sports like volleyball closer to 10 minutes.  Sleds are great for acceleration and power, the big thing to remember is to not overload usually keep the sled load below 40% your body weight but it might depend on the surface you are using. Time wise and interval you can keep it similar to the hills.

2 Underrated Weightloss Strategies (That Have Been Around What Seems Like Forever But Are Not Sexy and New)

There are many weightloss strategies out there and more coming everyday. Probably by time this post loads onto the website 2 more will be out there. Yet for all these new bright and shiny new diet tricks, tips, and hacks many of the tried and trues still work the best. So lets look at a couple habits that while not new or sexy, just plain and simply work.

 

1 ) Eat 3 (maybe 4 depending on a workout)  meals a day

I have been caught up in this theory, heck I used to tell clients to eat 5 to 6 small meals a day. However this theory is not great for most people. There is no magical coal shoveler in your stomach stoking some fire.coal

The body burns calories at the same rate whether you eat more meals or less meals. As well those who eat more meals tend to over eat according to a University of Ottawa Study. People get used to eating when they feel slightly hungry and so anytime they feel a little hungry they will eat, instead of just feeling a little hungry for an hour. So instead eat just 3 meals a day a 4th shake for post workouts if you workout. This should help you to avoid overeating and allow you to get used to feeling hungry

2) Portion Control Your Meals

While you maybe thinking I don’t have time for this I am not talking about weighing all your food, the problem with weighing most food can be that off by 25% this is because those calorie counts vary from food to food, one chicken breast can be 160 calories while another chicken breast the same size could be 140 or 180 calories. This means weighing to the exact gram may no be worth your time. However that does not mean portion control is still not important. Instead get a basic idea of a correct portion size.

Handy Portion Control Guide

Using your hand gives you a basic idea of how much you are eating, it is portable and it is adjustable to your body. If you are smaller you likely need smaller like 5’5″ portions if you are a 6′ 5″ person you might need a bigger serving. Getting your portions in order is important but it is best to do it in a way that fits your lifestyle.

 

 

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Camping Season – Getting Ready for Tryouts

Summer holidays have ended and that means tryouts for many sports are around the corner. Getting ready for tryouts can be daunting whether you have been training at the gym all summer or just relaxing, the fear is there. So what do you need to do over the next few weeks to do your best at tryouts?

1) Get Your Sleep
School is starting and that means getting back to a regular sleep schedule, this can be difficult because it may still be light at bed time and you have been staying up to all hours over the summer. Yet getting sleep maybe the most important factor in performing well at camps. Sleep has so many effects on the body, books have been written about sleep and we have a newsletter here so lets just look at some of the most important aspects, why it helps and how you can get better sleep in this point.

First sleep will help with things like recovery, during our sleep hormones like human growth hormone are released these hormones allow you to build and repair damaged tissue. If you are in an intensive training program or have camps everyday then you will create muscle damage. These hormones will help you to heal. As well when you sleep your body is in a low energy usage state allowing you to direct more resources to muscle recovery. Another benefit of sleep is increased reaction time, there have been studies showing a loss of reaction time with lack of sleep. This is because the nervous system is very sensitive to sleep and if you deprive it of sleep then it works slower. So the big question is who to get better sleep. Try to get at least 7-9 hours of sleep a night to maximize results. First make sure you pick a regular bed time, then make sure you have no screen time an hour before bed and if you do make sure you use blue light filter. Since you have a regular bed time it is also important to wake up ata regular time try not to sleep past it more than 90 minutes. If you need extra sleep try a nap, it is a great way to reinforce any new skill you may have learned. Also avoid warm showers before bed, try not to exercise 2 to 4 hours before bed time. Get outside for at least 30 minutes a day. as well to fully wake your body and brain.

2) Eat Healthy
Nutrition is key to any fitness and health regime, but during stressful times it can be even more important. Healthy foods during tryouts will fuel you lots of lean meats, fresh vegetables and complex carbohydrates. Eating each of these nutrients is important because you will need the protein for repair, carbs for energy and vegetables for energy and the nutrients for certain functions. Getting plenty of good fats will also be important because your nervous system is taking a beating during this tryout season. Getting fats into our system will help you to repair the nervous system. Think brain healthy foods like avocados and fish. Supplements are up to you the goal should be whole foods. However if you are training hard a protein powder and fish oil are excellent supplements that should get you to where you want to go. If you do not want to do protein powder chocolate milk or almond milk are just as good. Come winter time vitamin D is not a bad option either since getting enough sun exposure in winter clothes, toques and gloves can be difficult.

2) Work on Your Mobility
During this week of tryouts you are going to be pushing your joints and muscles to their limits. The adrenaline and intensity of tryouts means you will leave everything on the ice, court or whatever field of play you are on. This means getting some extra mobility work in, things like foam rolling, stretching and breathing exercises. The body needs to wind down and repair post game so doing these things after the game for 15 minutes can really help make you feel better. Breathing exercises like yoga breathing will help to switch your system from sympathetic (fight or flight) to parasympathetic (rest and digest).

With these thee strategies you

Finding Your Low Hanging Fruit for Weightloss

If you follow health news at all every week there is a “Great New Study” on how to lose weight from eating chocolate to drinking wine and a myriad of cutting edge diets, but here is the thing. While you may make gains they are usually temporary and often harder on the body then they are worth. So why do them? Usually because they are easy and “low hanging fruit” for you to lose weight. Yet if they do not get you to your goal is it really a simple weight loss plan.

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So when you start on a weight loss plan start with the low hanging fruit. Those things that may seem small but they are important and will add up to something bigger. We have all heard the improve 1% a day and how it adds up, it is true but what you need to do is figure is what that 1%a day really is. What is your low hanging fruit? First it is important to take an inventory of your life and you habits. Just reaching for anything and every new and shiny change or news report is not the way to go. There are many intakes that look at habits; from what is in your kitchen to how you interact at work. Next break down those habits to their base what can you most easily do, that will make minimal disruption to your day to day life.

Some examples of low hanging fruit.

Drink less calories – flavored drinks are great but the problem with them is they are loaded with calories. That means you are consuming calories with out the fiber or substance to make you feel full. It is easy to over consume calories and estimate how many calories you had with liquid calories.

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Get more sleep – In today’s society it is easy to stay up late. Sleep is key to hormonal balance, many people who sacrifice sleep also sacrifice their waist line. While there are many other reasons to get 7  to 8 hours of sleep slimming down is a big one that you can see.

Move daily – Pretty self explanatory if you have gotten into a rut and your not working try to get out for 20 minutes of something as little as a walk in the park. Moving burns calories and will help you on to your goals. What you need to do is not that much often people think of big heavy weights or running on a treadmill. Start small and you will get results.

Eat slower – Try to be mindful when you eat. Take your time and try not to scarf down your food. Eating too fast means that you are more likely to overeat. The hormones that head to the brain telling you that you are full take about 20 minutes.

Eat less sugar – One of the biggest trending news lately is how sugar is causing weight gain. While sugar is not the enemy that it is often portrayed as. We often search for that magic answer and sugar has turned into that. However we do as a society eat too much and sugar is added to many things to add flavor. So be mindful of how much sugar if you consume more than what your liver can process it causes fatty deposits to occur.

Eat more vegetables – No you do not need to turn in to salad eating machine, what it means is just try to find a spot hear and there to add more vegetables while removing some carbs. That means still eating carbs but just not as much as you might think. some small adds here and you are laughing. Remember we are making small changes here not big ones.

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Start portion control – this is often a simple yet difficult problem most people are off fairly significantly when it comes to estimating their portions. A few options are measuring everything, the issue with this is that time wise it can be damn near impossible if you have a busy job or kids. Another option is a portion control plate, they help you gauge how much you are eating.

5 Under-rated Jump Training Exercises

If you want to jump higher there are several basic exercises that you probably are doing or have done in the past that you should be doing , the Clean, Snatch, Trap Bar deadlift Squat, Straight leg deadlift just to name a few. Every fitness magazine or blog post has them and you should make sure they are part of your program, but there are some great accessory exercises that you should add to your program.

 

Knees to Feet

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This is a great power exercises for developing speed in the hips. You can load it but I love using it with snatches or deadlifts. It helps develop speed in the hips. starting with landing in a base position is a great way to start. Adding a jump either forward or onto a box is a great progression. If you live near water this can be a great way to add resistance to the hip flexors.

 

Lying Scissors (writing numbers or alphabet variation)

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The lying scissors are a great excise for the glute medius. People often forget the importance of the smaller hip muscles for stability. If they are weak then the bigger muscles need to step up and compensate which means that they are doing two jobs now instead of 1. While doing these small exercises may seem like a waste of time they can be extremely helpful to strengthening the hips and increasing vertical. The side lying scissor is great on its own however adding a more complex movement to the exercise.

Skater Squats

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The skater squat really allows you to work on the eccentric loading of the quads and glutes. Much like a single leg lowering from a box this exercises is great for eccentric loading of the quads and glutes. However unlike single leg box leg lowers, you need less equipment. The key is to lower slowly and keep the knee hip and ankle in alignment.

Nordic Hamstrings

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The hamstring stabilizes the knees the hamstring stretches in the counter movement of a jump. The nordic hamstring is great for strengthening the hamstring in a controlled manner. This helps protect the knee as well as develop storage capacity for power. Much like the skater squat you need less equipment then some other hamstring excersises

Using Chains

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While this is not an exercises per say. Adding chains to your primary lifts is a great way to work on the strength curve as well as add weight to parts of your lift. As you lower the bar to the ground the chains will be on the ground leaving less load on your body. However as you stand up and you add more weight allowing you to work on more weight. This is a great way to work on strength inseason.