Things to Read to Get You Over the Hump 5/16

Here are a few good reads to get you through another work week:

Defining Success by Mike Robertson

I highly, highly recommend reading this. I like most of the stuff that Mike writes but this takes the cake – did I mention I high recommend reading this?

Back to the Basics A Challenge from Myself by Molly Galbraith

Anyone who has been lifting for a while or been programming for others for a while would be well suited to take a read. I always say that I overthink things when it comes to programming and it has recently led me to take a step back and keep things simple – just like Molly.

5 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Write Your Own Program by Tony Gentilecore

This article really in a way piggy-backs off of the previous article by Molly. One of the best things you can do is have someone else assess you and figure out what it is that you need and then write a program for you. Chances are if you write your own program you’ll continute to focus on your strengths and continue to overlook all your weak points.

21 Questions for JB Morin on the Topic of Speed by Bret Contreras

Anything and everything you need to know about speed – some real good info if!

Training the Rotator Cuff and Scapular Stabilizers Simultaneously by Eric Cressey

A little bit of love for the nerds like myself out there. If you work with pitchers or a baseball population in general this is a must read, just like everything else Eric puts out.

Where to Start?

One question that I find myself answering on a weekly basis has to do with starting a training program. Sometimes the question comes from women who have never done anything besides run or use the elliptical and sometimes this question comes from younger guys that are looking to start training for a specific sport.

When it comes to these beginners the one thing that THEY need to realize is that they are just that, a beginner. Too often I see, especially when it comes to young guys, people try to progress too fast and perform exercises that are too advanced for them. They inevitably end up getting hurt due to either terrible form or from just doing too much too fast. Don’t be that guy!

My first recommendation would be to hire a trainer. Find someone in your area that has a great track record with your population, whether that be a housewife or a high school hockey player. I highly recommend that you put some work in to find a great trainer though and not just go down to the nearest gym and grab the first trainer you run into – chances are you’ll end up being disappointed.

That being said, I understand that not everyone can afford to hire a trainer. My second recommendation would be to educate yourself. Read as much as you can whether it is books, articles, or blogs. Most, if not all of the great strength coaches out there have a blog. Coaches like Eric Cressey, Mike Boyle, Jen Comas Keck, Mike Robertson, Charlie Weingroff, and Neghar Fonooni all have blogs with tons of great information – learn from them – it’s free.

To expand on reading and learning from these strength coaches, I would recommend that if you can get your hands on a program that one of these coaches has written then you would be very smart to actually use that program. Mike Boyle has been successfully training athletes from all ages for close to 30 years and is currently the strength coach for the Boston Red Sox. If you can get your hands on one of his programs, do the program – it’s safe to say he knows what he’s doing. If Charlie Weingroff, a Doctor of Physical Therapy, former strength coach for the Philadelphia 76ers (12 years) and Lead Physical Therapist for the United States Marine Corps Special, tosses up a program on his blog I would highly recommend trying it out – he’s got a good grasp on things.

If all else fails I would recommend you keep things simple. It’s hard to go wrong with training all the big movement patterns. Push something, pull something, perform a knee dominant movement and a hip dominant movement, and carry something. Get to the gym 3-4 times a week and pick an exercise from each group each day that you train, push yourself and work hard – chances are progress will soon follow.

Here are a few examples of each movement pattern;

Push = Bench Press, Close Grip Bench Press, Incline Press, Military Press, Push Up, ect.

Pull = Chin Up, Pull Up, Dumbbell Row, Seated Row, TRX Row, Inverted Row ect.

Knee Dominant = Squat, Front Squat, Goblet Squat, Split Squat, Lunge, Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat, ect.

**UNH Goblet Squat to be Filmed Soon**

Hip Dominant = Deadlift, Trap Bar Deadlift, RDL, Glut-Ham Raise, Single Leg RDL, ect.

Carry = Farmer Carry, Suitcase Carry, ect.

My philosophy is pretty straight forward – keep it simple. Furthermore, I think this type of programming would be all that bad for people that aren’t beginners. Stick to the basics and load them with more and more weight. And as always, learn from the people that have been there and done that. There is a reason certain strength coaches have such a great reputation – use them to gain as must knowledge as you can from them.

Beating Knee Pain – Part III

Finally we have reached Part III of the healthy knee series. In Part I we focused on the basics when it comes to knee pain and some of the fundamental issues that can cause knee pain. In the Part II we went a step further and focused on creating proper tissue quality and tissue length as well as mobility work to help erase knee pain.

In this third edition we are going to take the next step and look at some of the strength training exercises that you should be doing to improve knee health – more specifically strength training exercises of the posterior chain, though some quad dominant movements will be included. To some people these exercises may be new and a little awkward at first, but any knowledgeable strength coach or personal trainer is already performing most, if not all, of these exercises with their athletes or clients. All the exercises that we will see today are bilateral movements (two legs). In the upcoming installments we will focus on single leg strength.

The Glutes

When someone complains about knee pain one of the first places to look at is the glutes. It may be hard for some to grasp, but even though the glutes are relatively far from the knee, they have a great influence over the entire knee-joint. Simply put, if you have under active or weak glutes, knee pain is right around the corner. Therefore, the number one goal for someone with knee pain is to improve both motor control and recruitment of the glutes. Some of the great glute exercises that you can do would be a Glute Bridge, mini band walks, X-Band walks, and side lying clamshells.

The Hamstrings

In my eyes, the hamstrings are the second most important muscle group when it comes to keeping and improving someone’s knee health. One of the major issues with most people is that they have very underdeveloped hamstrings in comparison to their quads. It is without question that female athletes, especially soccer players, are at a higher risk of knee injuries/ACL tears than any other group of athletes. To no surprise, soccer girls typically have great quads strength but have very poor hamstring strength – funny how that works. Here are a couple great hamstring movements that will help to improve hamstring strength and decrease the poor ratio between the quads and hamstrings.

The Quads

I am not going to spend a lot of time focusing on the quads. As I previously mentioned, most people are quad dominant as it is and are performing enough quad dominant exercises. But to cover all our bases, here are a couple quad dominant exercises to help the situation:

That should do it for the posterior chain and our small portion on the quads. I am 100% confident that if you add some of these exercises into your routine you will see a noticeable difference in your knee health. I would argue that the glutes and the hamstrings are the most important muscle groups when it comes to knee health and as a society we tend to sit too much and have become a little too quad dominant – leaving our glutes and hamstrings underdeveloped and not taking on enough work in athletics and normal everyday situations.

It should also be noted that not all exercise are created equal. Exercises like lying leg curls, seated leg curls, or any of the “glute” machines that are at most gyms are all both worthless – they won’t do crap to help improve knee health. And as always, form is king! Poor form will also do nothing when it comes to improving knee health.

Don’t do these!

Things to Read to Get You Over the Hump 5/9

Here are a few good reads to get you through the work week:

Mix it up with this High Rep Upper Body Workout by Greg O’Gallagher 

Ever get tired and bored of the same old training program – I do. Though I wouldn’t recommend a high rep program for most people, I do think taking a couple of weeks every now and again and banging out some high rep workouts is a good idea – and if your used to low rep heavy weight training, it’ll feel like cardio!

Rocket Science Alert: Strength Training for Pitchers STILL Improves Throwing Velocity by Eric Cressey

A real short but informative read by Eric Cressey. Not sure why people would think that strength training wouldn’t help pitchers but I guess there are still some people out there that wouldn’t have their pitchers perform any strength training.

Preventing Hamstring Injury by Michael Boyle

A quick video by Mike Boyle on the slideboard leg curl progression for preventing hamstring injuries. Again, nothing earth shattering here, but good information nonetheless.

Ben Bruno Interview by Mike Robertson

Great interview with MBSC strength coach Ben Bruno by another great strength coach Mike Robertson. Ben didn’t take the traditional approach to becoming a strength coach and if you’ve seen any of his youtube videos you’d realize quickly that he is one strong dude!

You Snooze, You Win by Martin Rooney

If Martin Rooney writes something, you should read it. I feel like everyone understands the importance of getting quality sleep every night yet they still don’t do so. Maybe after reading this you will try to focus on getting a little more quality sleep time each night.

My Current Training

A lot of people ask me what my own training program looks like so I thought I would lay it out for you. To be honest, I’ve been keeping things pretty basic the last couple months. No overthinking, no worrying about this and that, just the nuts and bolts and some heavy weights.

My philosophy has simply been KISS: Keep It Simple Stupid because I have a tendency to overthink things at times when it comes to training. I have been training four days a week, with two upper body sessions and 2 lower body sessions. Along with that, I have been doing two days a week of circuit/interval/conditioning a week on non-lifting days. I try to keep these fun and intense and they change every single time I perform them – I’ll give an example of a circuit that I have done recently. All in all its been six days a week of some type of training and one day that I take completely off.

When it comes to reps and sets, for most exercises I have been simply doing 3-4 sets of 6-8 reps, using heavy weights. Some weeks I feel great and work up to four sets and sometimes I am a little run down and stick with 3 sets. On some exercises (front squat, bench, trap bar deadlift) I have been using Jim Wednler’s 531. If you have no idea what 531 is, I would recommend getting on that!

Here’s what it looks like on paper…

Lower Body Day One

Hang Clean – 3×3

Front Squat – 531

Good Morning – 3-4 x 6-8

Goblet Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat – 3-4 x 6-8

Single Leg RDL – 3-4 x 6-8

Farmer Carry – 2 sets

Straight Leg Sit Up – 2 sets

Upper Body Day One

Bench Press – 531

Chin Up – 3-4 x 6-8

½ Kneeling DB Military Press – 3-4 x 6-8

DB Row – 3-4 x 6-8

Rollout Variation – 2 sets

Pallof Press Variation – 2 sets

Lower Body Day Two

DB Snatch – 3×3

Trap Bar Deadlift – 531

Front Split Squat – 3-4 x 6-8

Glut-Ham Raise – 3-4 x 6-8

Goblet Squat – 3-4 x 6-8

Suitcase Carry – 2 sets

Snatch Grip Sit Up – 2 sets

Upper Body Two

Close Grip Bench Press – 3-4 x 6-8

Neutral Grip Chin Up – 3-4 x 6-8

Military Press – 531

TRX Row – 3-4 x 6-8

Front Plank Variation – 2 sets

Side Plank Variation – 2 sets

Example Circuit

A1. Barbell Complex

Row x 5

RDL x 5

Hang Clean x 5

Front Squat x 5

Military Press x 5

– 4 times through, 90 seconds of rest

B1. Bike Sprints

15 seconds all out, 45 seconds of active rest for 10 minutes

This circuit will usually take me no more than 30 minutes to complete and it beats the crap out of me – I am completely gassed by the time it is over.

As you can see I am keeping things pretty simple. I push, I pull, I do some bilateral lower body work and I do some single leg lower body work. Core is as simple as it gets with an anti-rotation exercise and an anti-flexion exercise. The only thing that isn’t listed is any type of cardio – that’s because I don’t do all that much. Most weeks I try to jump on the bike for 20-30 minutes, nothing strenuous, for a little bit of recovery and low intensity cardio work – this is not because I am trying to blast some fat, that’s what the circuits are for.

Beating Knee Pain – Part II

In the Part I of this four part series we touched on the basics when it comes to knee pain and some of the fundamental issues that can cause chronic knee pain. If you haven’t read Part I yet, I would recommend you go back and take a quick look at that before you continue.

In the second part of this series we are going to talk about tissue quality/length as well as some mobility drills that you can and should be doing in order to get and keep your knees pain free. This isn’t the most exciting stuff in the world, but if knee health is truly a priority you’ll make room to fit it into your routine.

Tissue Qaulity & Length

If you ask me, improving your tissue quality as well as the tissue length is the easiest thing you can do in order to improve or maintain you knee health. That being said it seems like it is something that everyone likes to overlook or not do on a regular basis. I am the first one to admit that it can be very boring at times, but if it’s the difference between knee pain and pain free knees it’s hard to pass on it.

The most basic way to improve tissue quality is foam rolling and targeted lacrosse ball tissue work. The foam roller is basically a $25 massage. Is it as effective as a massage? No – it’s hard to match the expertise of a great massage therapist and their ability to find the sweet spots and really do some work with their hands. On the other hand, you get the most bang for your buck with a foam roller and a lacrosse ball.

As far as what parts of the body you want to target to improve knee health the obvious answer is most all the lower body. Make sure to get some quality time on everything – your calves, quads, glutes, hip flexors, hamstrings, IT Band/TFL and groin/adductors. Don’t be afraid to use the lacrosse ball for a more intense session. Be creative, you can use the lacrosse ball practically anywhere.

Mobility 

First off, if mobility is a new concept to you I highly recommend you read the Joint by Joint Approach article written by Mike Boyle. The article is a great read on the importance of mobility as well as stability throughout the body and what segments of the body are designed for mobility and what segments are designed for stability.

Joint

Mobility/Stability

Ankle

Mobility

Knee

Stability

Hip

Mobility

Lumbar Spine

Stability

Thoracic Spine

Mobility

Scapulae

Mobility/Stability

Glenohumeral

Stability

That being said, the two major areas we need to be concerned with when it comes to knee health are the ankles and the hips. Both the hips and the ankle are designed for mobility. To be simplistic, when we lack mobility at either one of those joints, the body looks for ways to make up for that lack of mobility elsewhere. In both cases, when mobility is lost at the ankle and/or the hips, that elsewhere becomes the knee. Unfortunately, as you can see from the table above the knee is not designed for mobility, its designed to provide stability. That’s why your knee is bothering you…its trying to do its own job while also trying to pick up the slack for the lackluster performance of your ankle and/or hips.

Ankle Mobility Drills

Again, here are a couple hip mobility drills that you can do on your own to improve your mobility. The last video is another classic Kelly Starrett video where he will drop some knowledge bombs on some ways to improve the mobility at your hips.

So far in the first two parts of this series we’ve touch on the basics of knee pain and some of the often overlooked aspects of knee pain like tissue quality/length and mobility and how they may influence the health of your knee. In the third part of this series we’ll get into some of the actual strength training that will help get and keep your knees as healthy as possible.