Archive for November, 2007

Lifting Suits and Other Jokes on Lifters

November 27, 2007


Go to any powerlifting meet and you will see what are known as super suits. These are the spandex/elastic suits that if you are back stage you will see three lifters struggling
to sqeeze a fourth lifter into. As my father used to say, stuffing 10 lbs of stuff in a 5 lb bag. These suits are to keep the lifter tight and prevent injury. Right, and Clinton never inhaled and Barry Bonds is as clean as the pure driven snow.

The suits do one thing, they, due to their elastic properties, enable you to lift more. A bencher that knows how to use his suit will typically get 100lbs additional added to their T-Shirt max. Don’t believe me? Google some video’s of suit blowouts. Did the lifter that had the suit blow complete the lift successfully? If it’s just to help keep you tight and prevent injury, certainly they had the strength to lift it.

We have come full circle. In the 70’s lifters started wearing multiple pears of Levi?s stretch denim jeans turned into cutoffs. A really tight pair, a slightly looser pair and one more over that for good measure completed a forerunner to the supersuit of 1990’s and beyond. Once this started the ball rolling we saw tennis balls ace bandaged behind knees for spring in squat. That has to be great on the knees, you can tell your grandson how strong you were as he pushes your wheelchair. This finally culminated in a lifter appearing on the squat platform wrapped mid-chest down to mid thigh in elastic bandages.Shortly thereafter clothing and wraps were greatly restricted and you got to see how good the lifters rather than their gear was.Today, we have the stretch denim’s and elastic wraps, but they look different they come from sporting goods merchandisers with all manner of fancy names and looks – and apparently legitimacy.

From a slate article

High-end shirts are so taut that for the bar to even reach a bencher’s chest, the fabric has to be compressed with incredible force. (At one meet, Rychlak had to abandon an 890-pound lift because it wasn’t heavy enough to force the weight down to his pecs.)

Yeah, those shirts don’t help you lift more, they just make it safer. Yeah, that’s it.Or how about the time we re classed the Olympic lifters. It was because lifters were slightly bigger than before and the new classes reflected that. Right? Not so fast. This was when the IOC took it’s tough stance on steroids and there weren’t all the designer steroids that changed each year to keep ahead of the test. If the lifters did increase in weight it was probably the enlarged spleen and liver from the GH as much as it was muscle. At the time there was not a good reliable, cost effective GH test, so that’s the direction most took. The IOC was still worried though because if we clean up the sport, how many years will it take until a record is set in the whatever kg. class? No records set or broken, and people won’t watch. Then one smarty spoke up and said, I know. Shift the classes and we?ll have entirely new world records across the board. And it was good.

Related:  Another article talking about suits and the like.

Narrow Minded Training

November 18, 2007

Here’s how you know you’re way too extreme about your squatting.

“For instance, if a big squat workout is scheduled for the middle of next month, I am aware of it as the days pass by. One-week prior I’ll make sure not to walk too much or engage in any unnecessary activity. I used to plan my classes in college with minimum walking distance between them.”

Tom Platz

Tom Platz

These were the words of
Tom Platz. It certainly doesn’t sound like this training is well rounded.

Myself I want through something similar. In my teen years, I took up lifting to improve in sports. I ended up liking the lifting I was doing more than the sport. At times I would purposely avoid physical labor if I could so as to maximize recovery from my workouts. Looking back now, I think this is ridiculous. Unless one is a competitive lifter as Platz was, aren’t you doing your resistance training to gain strength and get better at life’s activities rather than avoiding them?

So put some variety in your training. Have fun with your workouts. Why not play some games like Frisbee golf or volleyball or walk around a park that has a vita course and do your resistance training on the vita course? Join the pickup basketball league at work. You will be many times healthier if you do some of these rather than relying solely on resistance training. You will be functionally fit. In other words fit for life, not simply fit to stand in place with a weight on your back and bend and straighten your legs.

Squats – King of the Lifts or King of Chafing

November 15, 2007
Hammer time

Hammer time

Post the question on any lifting forum on the net about the importance of squats and typically you’ll get back a range of responses from necessary evil to better than sliced bread. Some people love pushing the squat so much they’ll tell you you need to do it if you want a bigger chest or arms. And then a breath or two later
explain the principle of SAID (Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands) without blinking.

Squats, though a good leg exercise aren’t necessarily the best choice for every single trainee that comes through the doors of the gym, unless you believe we all want thighs that require pants like these those pictured on the right.

Whether or not the squat is for you depends on several things:
1. Do you need it for the sport you play
2. Do you need larger thighs
3. Do you need stronger thighs and are squats the best way to achieve that
4. Are you physically suited to the lift

While you may need strong legs for your sport, are squats the best way to get them? There are after all, other methods to strengthen the legs. There are various leg press machines, lunge movements and bodyweight squatting movements that also strengthen you legs too. For many people, unless you are competing as a power lifter, the barbell squat is probably not necessary. Certainly squats are not the end all and be all that many lifters make them out to be.

Another thing with regard to sports performance, is that power is more conducive to good athletic performance than strength. There are plenty of second string linemen in football that are stronger than the first stringer. The reason they are second string is likely because the first stringer, though not as strong can express the strength he does have quicker. Once an athlete has a sufficient base strength, the expression of power is more important than trying to get another set of 45’s on the bar. The athlete’s time is better spent on methods that exploit the strength they already have by becoming powerful. This is best done with plyometric movements that are close to the sport movement you are trying to improve.

Sufficient base strength can easily be acquired with movements and methods other than the barbell squat. Many athletes are too tall or don’t have the right lever arms for proper (safe) form in the squat. Many athletes exhibit too much forward lean in the squat which places more stress on the lower back. Leg presses, step ups, or lunges would be a better option for these athletes to safely acquire the strength they need. The same leverage arguments may also contraindicate the olympic lifts as well. The olympic lifts attract a lot of interest because people see it as time efficient because it strengthens and builds power at the same time. Those two qualities are safter to gain seperately in my opinion and in the opinions of physical therapists I’ve talked to as well.

Lastly if you are a bodybuilder I won’t try to dissuade you. Barbell squats are one of the best thigh growers around. In fact for myself I find them too good. Maybe it’s because I have a Tom Platz gene, but my thighs grow exceptionally large on squats, to the point I don’t squat because of that. Even low reps and low volume cause this for me. So I’ve given up the squat. I used to be in the camp that thought squats cured aids, the common cold and solved world hunger. Since stopping squatting a few years ago, my back has never felt better. I didn’t notice all the little aches and pains; I guess I was so used to them that it wasn’t until they were gone that I noticed. Athletically, I haven’t suffered either. I added some plyometrics and my performance is better than it was when I was squatting. Think about this the next time some expert tells you you need to squat.

Dynamic Tension

November 1, 2007
Charles Atlas

Charles Atlas

Recently (last 2-3 years) there has been a revitalization of Dynamic Tension training. For those of you that don’t know it’s basically a form of resistance training in which the opposing muscle group or limb of your body is used to
provide resistance for a . For example, perform a biceps curl, but tense your triceps so it is hard to do the curl movement. With this virtual resistance the effect is the almost the same as if you had a weight in your hand.

Dynamic tension is not new or revolutionary and it didn’t come form some elite top secret Russian methodology. It has been around since the late 1800’s in printed courses and was made hugely popular in America by Charles Atlas. The last couple of years the torch has been picked up by John Peterson (Push Yourself to Power) and Jim Forystek (Powerflex). The courses are modernized and have additional material compared to the Atlas course, but Atlas is the original.

Does dynamic tension work? No doubt it does. Charles Atlas used it, Bruce Lee used it, John Peterson and Jim Forystek and countless others use it today. It has many advantages over traditional methods.

Advantages over traditional weights or machines:

* No equipment needed
* No gym needed
* Lower risk of injury. It’s hard to drop your hand on your foot or have a barbell crash on your chest
* Develops mind body awareness
* Doesn’t compress the spine
* A muscle can be worked from any angle. Weights only work against gravity. (Cables also share this advantage) This makes it excellent for training a particular athletic movement in a more direct fashion.
* Easier on Joints
* Low cost
* Shorter workouts – you don’t need to load or unload the barbell for each set
* Less intimidating to a new exerciser than weights

Disdvantages over traditional weights or machines:

* It’s not easy to know how much resistance you are working against
* You don’t get to spend three hours in the gym lugging around your hockey bag and gallon of water 🙂
* You can’t say that you bench x number of pounds
* Some people like the club atmosphere.

Why isn’t dynamic tension more popular? There was a war waged against this type of training by Bob Hoffman et al in the 30’s and by the fitness equipment manufacturers and health clubs. People selling barbells, machines and a place to go use them aren’t too keen on a method that cuts them out of the picture. These people will tell you dynamic tension can’t make you strong, or big and that you really need the “proven” method of barbells and a club to make any real progress. This is false, dynamic tension delivers results as do body weight exercises, resistance cables or ANY other form of resistance training. That some of these “non traditional” resistance training methods work, is just starting to become common knowledge among people. Just don’t expect to hear it from the personal trainer at Buff’s Gym. The good news is now YOU know. You can use this knowledge to your advantage. Pick up one the excellent books or courses on dynamic tension and give it a try. If you have never tried dynamic tension, it will seem a little ackward at first, just like that first time you bench press and the right side of the bar shot up and the left side didn’t because you were right handed. With a couple of workouts you will have the hang of it. You’ll have an effective program that has many advantages over the standard methods used by most.