Chalk Talk #8 – Speed Deadlifts & RDL

In a recent post by my Australian SOF buddy, Shaun Trainor, he reminded me that I recommended he do speed deadlifts and RDL’s while he was deployed in lieu of heavy deadlifts. In a program or circumstance that can’t tolerate the systemic depression or local soreness associated with heavy deadlifts, using speed deadlifts with posterior chain work will still get explosive work with the posterior chain. When Shaun returned home, he was able to jump back up to his previous deadlift numbers fairly quick.

Speed deadlifts can be alternated every week with heavy deadlifts, as they are in a few of my Texas Method templates, or they can be done every week to maintain some deadlift work without getting beat down. Not to mention you can accumulate some decent volume with doubles or triples on deadlift to develop a jacked back.

If you watch until the end of the video, you’ll see an explanation of NOT leaning back at the top of a deadlift. It’s a common fault that is incredibly injurious, looks ugly, and makes someone look inexperienced with anatomy or lifting. Simply lift the chest to ensure a neutral spine; don’t lean back.

Chalk Talk #6 – Waiter’s Walks for Shoulders

Waiter’s walks are an exercise where a load is held in a one arm overhead position while walking. They have a variety of benefits, including:

- Working all of the muscles around the shoulder, including the smaller, stabilizing rotator cuff muscles, to hold the head of the humerus in position.
- The body is loaded asymetrically, so it will work on proper trunk alignment and the endurance of those muscles. The walking will also add some variation to the loading.
- It focuses on upward rotation of the scapula to build stability in the overhead position.

When doing these, focus on a keeping the trunk engaged and neutral without slouching to one side or the other. Put some light external rotation on the shoulder and actively push into the bell to achieve the upward scapula rotation.

During these assymetrical carry exercises I put an emphasis on good mechanics overall from the head to feet. Also short and stable steps are better than flowing steps in order to optimally keep the trunk tight.

Read more about a slightly different type of waiter’s walk on Eric Cressey’s site.

70′s Big Radio – Episode 19

In this podcast I interview my friend Rob Andrade, a doctor of physical therapy. Rob does a good job of straddling the coaching/training world and the physical therapy world. His bias is obviously on optimal movement and a healthy client, but tapping into his hard science knowledge of things like motor control, muscle physiology, etc. is interesting and helpful to a coach. I’d like to have more interviews and makes ome videos with Rob in the future, so feel free to send questions.

Interact with us @70sBig or on Facebook.

Search “70′s Big” on iTunes or listen/download HERE. Subscribe with your RSS app HERE.

Chalk Talk #5 – Addressing Knee Pain

Knee pain is common in lifting, and it’s nearly 100% caused from a) poor mechanics and b) some sort of hip dysfunction. This Chalk Talk doesn’t get into lifting or movement mechanics, but instead addresses some palliative treatment and soft tissue work you can do to alleviate some of the pain.

Generally speaking, knee pain should tell you to work on hip mobility, especially with the rectus femoris. This muscle crosses both the hip and the knee, so if it’s tight, it’ll tug on it’s lower attachment near the knee (i.e. all of the quadriceps flow into a common tendon that attaches to the patella, which then attaches to the tibial tuberosity) and cause pain in the center of the knee, usually under the knee cap.

One thing we can do to try and alleviate tension is soft tissue work on the rectus femoris itself, and then on some of the other quad muscles.

Note that this precision soft tissue work works well when it occurs before stretching; it’s difficult to stretch a muscle that hasn’t had tension worked out of it. I like to follow this soft tissue work with the couch stretch, like in this video.

Lessons From McGill

Dr. McGill also has an admirable mustache

Dr. McGill also has an admirable mustache

Dr. Stuart McGill is a professor of spine biomechanics in the kinesiology department at the University of Waterloo and is renown as being an expert on back health. According to his academic profile, his department is concerned with (my paraphrasing) a) understand how the low back functions, b) understand how it gets injured, and c) create prehab and rehab methods based on their findings.

McGill is an expert with a variety of textbooks used in academia as well as folks in the fitness or strength and conditioning fields. This .pdf titled “Designing Back Exercise: from Rehabilitation to Enhancing Performance” from his website provides a collection of useful information. Points of emphasis in the article include:

- A proper history taking of a client
- Analyzing a client’s movement and determining faults (pg 4-5)
- A sequence of events for rehab (pg 6)
- The “big 3″ stabilization exercises (pg 7)
- And developing athletic ability (pg 9)

McGill’s work is logical, easy, and effective. It has made me consider the importance of proper spinal function and positioning in lifting and athletics, and I’ve implemented them in my coaching in barbell mechanics. You’ve probably seen recent videos where I keep referring to a “strong, stable trunk” with an emphasis on “contracting the lower abs”, and I now teach it as a fundamental concept for barbell training.

Proper spinal mechanics in all movements is vital in order to prevent unnecessary injuries. I pay close attention to how trainees and athletes move, sit, stand, and lift, but in the past I have not put as much of a focus on “active spinal awareness”, which is basically making a concerted effort to align the trunk properly.

What does this mean for lifters? CrossFitters? Strength and conditioning athletes? It means that by utilizing contraction in the lower abs during lifts, we can maintain a neutral relationship between the trunk and the pelvis. If that relationship changes via too much lumbar extension or flexion, anterior or posterior pelvic tilt, or other instability, then it can at best not transmit force effectively and at worst result in an injury. It also means using spinal stabilization exercises in order to create endurance and habit for good spinal position.

Dr. McGill’s “big three” exercises can train help train this endurance and habit. In this video, he talks about four total exercises — the curl up variation, the bird dog, the side plank, and a moving plank on a ball. I know what you’re thinking: it looks like silly conventional fitness crap. These exercises aren’t supposed to build back strength, but instead they increase endurance in the back’s postural muscles so they can maintain a good, neutral position. The key to these movements is proper position, then endurance. They also teach the “skill”, or motor program, of what a correct spinal position is. Most people are in a perpetual state of instability with their spine; sitting in flexion or standing in hyperlordosis, for example. Ideally the trainee would work on their posture throughout the day in congruence with these prehab/rehab exercises, and they would improve their spine’s default position.

A for effort, but this spinal position is problematic.

A for effort, but this spinal position is problematic.

Given the increasing participants we have in lifting, CrossFit, powerlifting, Olympic weightlifting, and other related activities, there will always be injuries, particularly in the lower back and sacral area. Usually these injuries can be prevented with better awareness, coaching, and physical preparedness. By using the “big three” exercises in a warm-up and/or cool-down in training, trainees can be taught what is “correct” and self-diagnose what is “wrong”. Compliment it with improved coaching of the barbell lifts and it’s possible to prevent injuries, or at least the severity.

Give these movements a try in your training. Don’t expect them to have immediate impact, but look for long-term improvement. Start being self aware of what your trunk and pelvis are doing throughout the day, especially when lifting.