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.

Chalk Talk #4 – Trunk Stability When Pressing

The press is a fantastic exercise because it integrates the entire body and creates the largest kinetic chain exercise; everything from the feet articulating with the ground to the hands holding the bar overhead. It’s a significant trunk builder, but press mechanics and strength are better expressed when the trunk is purposely contracted and tightened.

In this video you’ll see an example of a press without trunk tightness followed by reps where an emphasis is placed on tightness.

There’s something I cued her to on a few days later that made an additional impact: I cued contraction of the quadriceps after explaining the importance of making the entire body stable. If the quadriceps have tension, it will prevent the knees from unlocking. If the knees unlock as the press rebounds out of the bottom, the lifter loses some of that force application in the soft, unstable knees. Maintaining quadriceps tension prevents that force loss, but also helps provide a very strong, stable base to press from. Contracting the quadriceps with the entire trunk (with an emphasis on the lower abs) made Aly’s reps much faster and easier, even compared to the final reps in the above video.

Note that this emphasis on trunk stability via tightness and keeping tension on all relevant joints and muscles should be applied into every lift.

External Hip Rotation in the Squat

QTsoGXhFriday I put the image to the right in the PR Friday post and asked people to explain what was wrong with it. There were a variety of good points, but I wanted to focus on the thing that stuck out to me. Before we begin, let’s all agree that the fact this girl is squatting is more important than not squatting; this concept always trumps any bickering that follows. With that being said, I teach that if you’re going to spend the time doing something, do it in the most efficient manner possible.

For the sake of giving this girl credit, she’s got a decent bar positioning, is trying to apply force with the lateral part of her foot (to prevent a navicular drop AKA collapsed arch which medially rotates the knee and hip), and she is probably at an appropriate depth (this picture is a weird angle). It’s possible she’s doing this weird-ass squat on purpose, but we’re gonna talk about it anyway.

As a lifting coach you’ll see many things wrong with a given lift — feet, knees, hips, trunk, shoulders, chest, elbows, grip, neck, etc. — and you can’t and shouldn’t try and correct all of them at once. Fix the thing that will have the greatest effect on the gross movement. In this case I’d start with the stance.

A wide stance inherently does not allow significant external rotation relative to foot position. External rotation allows the following:

1. It contracts the external rotators.

2. It lengthens, and therefore creates tension on, the internal rotators.

3. Therefore it creates greater tension about the hip. Tension around ball and socket joints means more stability therefore strength.

This is a what a pooping dog looks like. As a man.

This is a what a pooping dog looks like. As a man.

4. It maximizes the musculature used about the hip. In this case, assuming a good foot-to-ground interaction, force is more easily distributed across the lateral portion of the thigh on both the front and the back. Valgus, or knees in, knee positioning removes this area of musculature and emphasizes the medial quadriceps. As I explained last week, external rotation also allows greater posterior chain involvement, even in the high bar.

5. Externally rotating the hip prevents impingement of the femur against the anterior portion of the acetabulum (i.e. the leg bone from impinging on the hip socket). Avoiding this impingement facilitates squat depth as well as maintaining proper trunk positioning while achieving depth; squatting with knees forward will impinge the hip and posteriorily tilt the pelvis, which makes the person look like a pooping dog. Rippetoe’s “Active Hip” (it’s a pdf) article talks more about this.

When I see poor external rotation, I see a number of ways a squat can be improved, so it’s something I want to focus on. In her case, I’d narrow her stance to about shoulder width and emphasize the external hip rotation. Chances are I would not have to change much else with her, but it would be the first thing to make a habit before worrying about anything else. The first Chalk Talk episode briefly talks about cuing external rotation, but I’ll get into in a later post.

 

What is sexy?

Four years ago one of the founding principles of 70’s Big was to reset the idea of body image in society. At the time, CrossFit was fairly “anti-strength training” — evidenced by HQ’s proclamation that focused strength training wasn’t necessary AND rejecting an article I wrote detailing how the “CrossFit Wichita Falls Program” (a program I wrote while at Rippetoe’s WFAC; I refer to it as “The S&C Program” now) made all of my trainees very much stronger while increasing their CrossFit performance. I was told it didn’t contain “measurable, repeatable data”, which it did, but that is neither here nor there.

It was thought that the “workout of the day” was enough to increase performance and that structured programming was unnecessary and less effective. Let’s ignore these stupid fucking points and focus on the result: it was more popular to only do met-cons, and most CrossFit guys were lean and small. 70’s Big was a kind of “fuck that” to CrossFit and bodybuilding and focused on the “big because you’re strong” look. Long story short, I give less of a shit about how people train, so long as they do it intelligently and efficiently…which almost always means they should strength train.

The 70’s Big mentality is focused on strength, muscularity, healthiness, and being jacked because of it. When I hear bullshit about women thinking they need to lose weight in order to have “the gap” (which Mike and I talked about it in 70’s Big Radio Episode 15), or how young girls think they need to weigh a certain amount to “fit in” with their friends, it drives me fucking crazy.

fittingin

As long as civilized society exists, people will be concerned with conforming to it. I have no god damn idea why it’s so important, but to some people it is. I’ve spent most of my life trying to do the opposite, and hopefully I can help others think the same way. It seems to me that one of the barriers in doing what you want to do instead of what others want you to do is self-confidence. Lifting weights, getting bigger, faster, and stronger can develop confidence. I’ve seen it in kids, teenagers, young adults, and older folks. Society is fucking weak. Most people get comfortable with something and stick with it. Then they feel chained to it because they think they can’t do anything else. They lack the confidence in themselves to make it happen.

Yet lifting weights can give people a little kick in the B-hole. They work their ass off to achieve a goal, and they realize that they can do something that previously seemed impossible. When Chris was deadlifting mid 400s for reps, and he said, “I want to deadlift 600×5,” I thought it was kind of far-fetched. But the mother fucker trained his dick off every. god. damn. week. And you know what? He eventually did it (watch the vid and read about the journey; learn about the program to the right).

I’d like to think that people who lift have a different understanding and expectation of what is sexy and healthy. I’d like to think that a woman who lifts doesn’t give a shit about “the gap”, which I don’t even understand. Why would a guy think a space between skin is sexy? How did a bunch of weirdo-neck-beards on the internet popularize this? Some piece of shit in his cubicle at work has power over a young girl’s mind — this is truly the future. Furthermore, why do girls think they need to be skinny to have “the gap”? You take most chicks, including those with muscular legs from squatting and deadlifting, bend her over, and she’s probably going to have a gap (Note: only try this if you have female compliance). It’s called the subpubic angle, and women have a wider pelvic opening because they need to be able to drop a watermelon-sized child out of their pelvis. This is of course a BIG fucking digression since a space between thighs is not fucking sexy anyway; it’s probably the fact that there is a vagina sitting right above it. Let’s call a spade a spade; dudes like seeing lady parts and the gap has nothing to do with it.

The internet is a mob, and the mob has power. I’m here to be the sniper on the clock tower picking off the mob’s leaders. The gap is a shit-head development from the mob. Instead, aesthetically confused girls (or boys) should focus on strength training and health with the byproduct of sexiness. I’ve discovered something incredibly important. Since I have that aforementioned narcissism self-confidence, I named it after myself.

Capture

This information was garnered from a series of observations in repeated experiments in which the result is always the same. Of course there are other variables that are important, like conditioning (i.e. cardiovascular and respiratory training), other lifts or exercises that can fit into the “strength” equation, or other variables that define health like hydration or supplementation, but this is a simplified look at the law. It states that if you put these variables together, the result is sexiness.

Not to insult your intelligence, but notice there isn’t anything in there about “losing weight” or even “gaining weight”. There isn’t anything about “being able to see through someone’s legs while their feet are together”. There isn’t anything about seeing beads of oil accumulating on rippled abs. There isn’t even an opportunity to leave your sexiness up for interpretation, even to yourself. Most importantly, there is nothing in this equation that indicates someone outside of you has any control over your sexiness.

cover-mediumThis is a monumental point; a fucking fat weirdo fapping onto his keyboard does not define what your sexiness is. Your friends do not provide a comparison to derive your hotness. People in your demographic group (i.e. gender and age) do not define your attractiveness. I’m not even giving you false hope in saying that your mindset determines your sexiness! There are fat people out there who think they are da bomb, but we all know they aren’t, so I’m not going to bullshit you into thinking you can look however you want yet feel like sexual god. I’m giving you an absolute, measurable way to determine your sexiness. How strong are you? How consistent is your training? How well do you eat (learn more to the right)? How well do you sleep? This is all quantifiable and can be recorded with any effort or OCD. If you’re gonna have a complex about your aesthetics, let it be a healthy one. Frisbee your weight scale out the window and tell the people that try to influence your body, clothes, or style to go fuck themselves. You’ll be free; you’ll be in control. Implement Lascek’s Law, because, like me, it’s never fucking wrong.

Jessica Wins! And You Can, Too.

The crowd had no idea. The judges – they didn’t know either. Hell, the lifter didn’t even know.

But I knew.

I knew this was a huge PR. I knew this was for the win – for the Texas State Championship. I knew my lifter could pull this deadlift, and with it, not only finish 9/9, get her first 600lb total, her first 300 Wilks score, and finish the trifecta – PR’ing her squat, bench, and dead all in the same meet, but also – she could win the freaking meet.

And she did.

I coached my special lady friend Jessica this weekend at the USAPL TX State Meet, and it went well – really well – and I’m proud of her, naturally. Luckily, there are lessons to be learned here by any competitor.

First: You have to make your lifts. The most successful powerlifters (and most of the best Olympic lifters) usually make more attempts than their competition. How do you make lifts? You have a plan, and you start conservatively. Jessica and I had talked for weeks about her squat and bench attempts. She was so confident in her 2nd attempts that there was no chance of missing them. They also happened to be 2.5kg meet PRs – what I call “chips,” meaning the smallest PR possible. Her training taper was based around these attempts – and also for modest 3rd attempts that were well within her reach.

Jess squatting >200lbs for the first time. She lost her tightness out of the hole a bit and still fought for 3 white lights. 

Second: Preparation. You can’t go into a meet having never touched 500 pounds and expect to pull 600. The Texas Method approaches that Justin and I use make sure that lifters get used to heavy weight before a meet. Jess squatted 185×2 about a week out (as part of an ascending 3×2 day) and it looked like the easiest thing in the world. When 204 was loaded on the bar, it was a perfect third call. Tough, but possible, and she ground it out for her first 200+ squat (and a 7.5kg meet PR!). On her bench, as I said, she had a 2.5kg meet PR on her 2nd, at 45kg/99lbs. Our “best case/worse case” plan called for either 47.5 or 50kg on her third, and as bad as she wanted the bigger number, after watching her second, I called for 47.5kg – which she nailed. This brings me to my next point.

Third: Trust. Trust in your coach (or handler – and yes, they’re different). Trust in your training. Trust in your taper. Trust in your strength. When I called for the 47.5kg bench instead of 50kg, Jess didn’t fight me – she trusted that I saw that her second attempt wasn’t as fast as I wanted to see, or as she thought it felt. She trusted that I knew 50kg might just be a little too much that day, and that she’d need every kilo for her total. She promptly went out and smoked 47.5kg, and will get 50kg (and then some) at her next meet. As her coach, I ensured that she (finally) got her first 100+ pound competition bench, and she thanked me later.

Trust came into play even more with the deadlift. She had suffered an injury with a kitchen knife – she nearly cut off the tip of her middle finger while unloading the dishwasher – and hadn’t been able to pull very much at all for about a month before the meet. She’d pulled 280 in the gym before the accident, and we decided that, best case, we’d go for 127.5kg/281lbs on her third as a very modest PR, but only if things went perfectly. Guess what? We never called 127.5.

 

Fourth: Awareness. Shit comes up in a meet. With Jess, she understands that she isn’t always the strongest person in her class. She competes to improve her own total, and to consistently hit PRs. She has a blast chipping away at each meet and slowly improving her total. Powerlifting, like every strength sport, takes years of practice for most to become the best, and Jess is patient. However, you must always be aware. For this meet, she was scheduled to lift as a 60kg/132lb lifter. Once the roster came out, I saw that the class was stacked, and asked her to lift in the 67.5/148 class. There were only 2 other ladies pre-registered in the class, so I knew she’d at least get a third place medal, and without having to suffer to make weight, she’d have an even better shot at big PRs. She stuffed her face all week, ate a ½ pound hamburger the night before (with two desserts!), and weighed in at 60.9kg Saturday morning. As soon as the squats started up, I knew she actually had a chance at taking the class. One girl, who was much stronger than Jess or the other, didn’t have much experience, and bombed out, leaving Jess and another lady to battle it out for first.

We stuck to the plan for the squat and bench, and Jess was 6/6 going into deads, 15kg out of first place. At this point, I gave her a set of headphones, sat her in a corner, and told her to stop looking at the projectors. She nailed her light 110kg opener, and her competitor opened up at 102.5 – cutting the lead down to 7.5kg. I had done my research on Jess’s competitor and had an idea of what she’d pull, and what Jess would need to pull to win. Knowing that the other woman had weighed in over Jess, I decided before deads even started that, on the third, I’d call for whatever it took to tie (and therefore win on bodyweight).

After the first pull, I called for a jump to 122.5kg (270lbs). Jess had been expecting ~117.5, but I was playing to win.

I told her to get cranked up (specifically, I said “What would Ben do?” Ben is another of my lifters that will deadlift almost anything I put on the bar) before the second pull, and she did – and made it look easy, giving us both confidence going into the third. Her injured finger held up, and her competitor had only taken a 10kg jump – dropping the lead to 5kg. I saw that she called for a 5kg jump on her third. If she missed it, Jess would need a 5kg increase (127.5/281) for the tie/win. If she made it, Jess would need a 10kg bump (132.5/292). I called for a small 2.5kg increase, so that Jess’s third only showed 125 on the scoreboard.

This is where it’s important to be aware. In the USAPL and most other federations, you can change your third deadlift call almost right up until you lift (technical note – read the rules, but basically, you can change it up to twice, until the bar is loaded or your name is called). Since there was another lifter in the flight between her competitor and Jess, I had plenty of time to change the final attempt. In this case, the other woman pulled her third successfully (with a lot left in the tank), and I immediately increased Jess’s third deadlift to 132.5kg/292lbs, without telling her what was going to be on the bar.

She got jacked up, yanked the earphones out, and I looked deep into her eyes. She knew this was going to be something heavy, and she knew it was important. But most importantly, she knew that I believed she could pull it. She stomped to the chalk bowl, breathed in as much oxygen as she could…

And she got it.

Jess makes her winning pull look easy.

I’m extremely proud of Jess for having the mental fortitude to have such a great meet. She trusted me, as her coach, to handle her attempts to put her in the best situation (in regard to both personal records and overall standing), and she got “in the zone” when needed. She followed our standard hydration and nutrition (read: forcing herself to get all the hydration and calories throughout the day), and she walked away with a gold medal. You can only beat who shows up – and most importantly, you should never beat yourself.

jessandjacob

 

Coach, Lifter, and Hardware.