Q&A – 10

Happy PR Friday, great day to be alive. Now it’s business time.
And in case you missed it, here’s one of the new shirts (also available for women):

Click to buy -- ON SALE

Adam W. asks on the Facebook fan page:

Justin, if you can figure out why I got 3 whites on this lift
…and 3 reds on this one.

I will be very grateful. And since my deadlift lockout is the ugliest thing in lifting history, I was wondering if you think rack pulls might be a good way to clean them up, and if so how do you usually program them?

Dear Adam,

We talked back and forth about this on the page, but I thought it was good topic for everyone else to see. The federation is the CPF which is a WPC affiliate. Personally I’ve only coached in the USAPL, which is under IPF ruling.

Adam is a glaring example of blatantly removing tension from the hamstrings during the deadlift lockout. I don’t think the last attempt in the second video should have been red lighted, but the excessive forward knee movement emulates what would happen when the bar is hitched. Had the bar stopped moving, I would agree with them, yet it continued to move. Your feet remained in the same place, you locked your knees out at the top, and lifted the chest at the top. That jacked loader on the right was surprised it was red-lighted too. Whatever the problem was, it was something that all three judges agreed on. They must have considered your shitty knee position a hitch, I guess. My suggestion would be to go over the rule book and find out what happened.

However, the fact that you remove hamstring tension is something that you can (and need to) control. Adam told me he’s doing RDLs, but I’d still want to see how he’s doing them because I have a hunch he’s flexing his knees too much and not getting the full use of them. In any case, he asked about rack pulls. Rack pulls will definitely help this pulling issue when they are done correctly. The bar should be put right below the knee (at about the tibial tuberosity), and the lower back should remain locked in place during the movement. You don’t need to hyper-extend it (I’ve been hurt this way), but the goal is to not allow it to flex. If it flexes, then it slackens the hamstring tension. Do not allow your knees to shift forward under the bar (like you’re currently doing in your deadlift). By doing it this way, you won’t be able to use as much weight as you think you can, and it will probably be lower than what you deadlift. This is fine. Chris’ set of five on rack pulls is still below what his max is.

Lastly, when you do actually deadlift, think about keeping the knees back (cue is “knees back”). Really work on this since a) knees forward is causing you to miss lifts in meets and b) strengthening your hamstrings by maintaining tension during deadlifting and rack pulling will make for a stronger deadlift. If you’re confused, see Chris’ 650 miss on his third attempt at USAPL Raw Nationals in 2010 compared to his last three meets: 661, 666, and 677.

gumbo asks:

What’s your basic recommendation for increasing bodyweight pullups during a linear progression?

Your article on weighted pullups is great but I’m not ready for them yet, as I’m only doing 3×5 at bodyweight. I know this is discussed all over the net, but I’d appreciate the 70s Big recommendation.

Details: I’m doing SS (A day: squat/bench/dead, B day: squat, press, clean) and I’m doing three sets of unweighted pullups on A days with 2 minutes rest between sets. I’ve been getting ~5,5,6. The most I can do in one all out set is 7 reps. Do you recommend ladders or pyramids? Or just doing them more frequently, grease-the-groove style? Or a couple of weighted singles? Also, the pullups are the only assistance work I’m doing now. Thanks.

Dear gumbo,

If you aren’t progressing much with the “three sets of as many reps as you can do”, then there a few other options. The first is to use the frequency method. It’s essentially the same thing as this Monday’s pull-up post, and Johnny Pain has written about it extensively in his Greyskull LP e-book. Basically consistently do them throughout the day every day.

You could also ladder them in a given workout. Do a single, then rest a sec, then a double, and so on until you fail. Then rest, and try another ladder. Record your total reps and aim to increase that. Another method is to do a higher number of smaller sets. If you can only do 3×5 right now (totaling 15), then do ten doubles (totaling 20). Do a single every thirty seconds, a double on the minute, or something like that. Your goal should be to increase the daily allotment whether it’s every day, or just on your training days. Once the body weight numbers go up, you can start throwing in some weighted stuff, even if it’s light. You could make one day body weight and another weighted, but I suggest using the above techniques before doing this.

Now that the pull-up shit is out of the way, let’s correct your template. You’re alternating cleans and deadlifts every workout. That shit won’t work beyond a month or so, especially when squatting 3 days a week. I don’t know why this isn’t talked about more, but deadlifting more than once a week is a good way to drive the dick into the ground. And even if someone is “so novice” that they can deadlift more than once a week, that just means they are using such a light weight that it isn’t much of a stress. Besides, RDLs are probably going to be much better for a novice anyway since even experienced lifters still don’t deadlift well (observe Adam above).

Deadlift and clean just once a week. I suggest deadlifting Friday; any earlier in the week and it can interfere with everything else. Also, RDLs on Monday will do more for you than cleans will; something to think about.

Wolf asks:

Justin, can you elaborate a bit on the acute vs obtuse angles of attachment? I assume you’re referring to the lat/humerus relationship, and I was trying to picture it but for some reason (protein coma?) couldn’t get a handle on it.

Dear Wolf,

Look at this sweet pic I drew.

The black segments are a leg (femur, shank, and foot — the circle is the knee). The blue muscles are small. Take the apex of the blue quad and trace it to the knee; see how that line makes an acute angle with the femur? Now do the same with the red quad. See how that makes a larger angle with respect to the femur? Now consider that the blue and red quads need to shorten, or pull, on the knee joint in order for that shank to be raised (i.e. the knee to extend). It will be more efficient to do so with the red quad since it has a greater attachment angle.

This same concept applies to other joints, yet it gets more complicated since the shoulder and hips aren’t just hinge joints and muscle fibers aren’t always longitudinal with the joint action. Just understand that larger muscles make for better angles of attachment and subsequently more efficient mechanics; that’s a big reason why bigger guys lift bigger weights.

lefty asks:

Deadlift question. I’m trying to figure out optimal feet separation for my DL. Do I want them narrow enough so my arms can hang down straight, thus putting less emphasis on my arms during the pull? Or does it not really matter? Obviously the closer my feet are together the farther one has to pull to complete the rep. thanks.

Dear lefty,

I think your answer can be answered in this back issue of Q&A. Generally speaking, a hip width stance will allow the knees to be shoved out more than a wide stance. This will tighten up the hip muscles more as well as allow for a more vertical torso as well as an extended lumbar. In other words the starting position will be better. If the starting position is better, then you’re set up to have a more efficient lift. Efficiency equals strength. Another way of explaining this is Kelly Starrett’s “tunnel” concept; the athlete needs to get in a good position before entering the “movement tunnel” so they can come out of the movement tunnel in a good position.

Don’t forget that if your stance is a little more narrow than what it used to be, your grip will be too. But lettuce be real tea, unless you’re pulling 500+ at a meet, doing things as efficient as possible is more important than doing whatever you can to lift the most weight. Would a novice lifter worry about how they can round their thoracic spine to shorten the overall pull? No. My guess is that you don’t need to worry about the subtle little details that will change your pull length by an inch or so (assuming that is even the case anyway), especially since doing it better will improve your training more than decreasing the pull by a single inch.

wallymoccasins Says:
Off topic, but with winter coming I thought this might be a decent question for everyone. How do you treat a cold to get rid of it ASAP, and how long before you start training again?

Dear wallymoccasins,

This is a good question. I’ve always prided myself on my ability to not get sick. There are things you can do to ensure that your body isn’t susceptible to pansy bacteria that float around. Obviously wash your hands any time you touch something weird, including your penis. I’m real ornery about washing my hands and I know that’s a big reason why I don’t get sick. If you travel via plane or train, aim to clean yourself ASAP (shower, wash hands, etc.)

Here’s a list of things to focus on to prevent and treat sickness. You shouldn’t be surprised to see that it’s the same stuff you should do to recover well. If one of these things is out of whack, fix it.
Stay hydrated. Drink mostly water. Do not drink soda. Seriously. Fucking stop it.
Sleep well. Bare minimum is 7 hours, but get 8 of actual sleep time (don’t count the time it takes to fall asleep).
Consume adequate protein. At least as many grams as your body weight in pounds. At least.
Take a multivitamin with Vitamin C.
Eat a healthy, low inflammatory diet. Sticking to a paleo outline will provide nutrient dense foods and help lower overall systemic inflammation. Meat and potatoes ftw.

If you feel any sniffles coming on, increase your Vitamin C and water intake immediately. Make an extra effort to increase the protein. All of this are the building blocks to a healthy system. I’ve always imagined that the water helps flush the system, but it’s necessary for efficient biochemical processes to occur. If you still get hit with a virus despite your efforts, stay hydrated, consume vitamin C, and try and get as much protein as you can. If it’s one of those nasty stomach bugs, get calories any way you can (even if it’s crackers once the initial eruptions settle).

If you did get sick and you missed some training, then follow the advice in THIS POST about being sick.

All right, it was fun, I’ll see you guys on the field.

52 thoughts on “Q&A – 10

  1. This is the best shirt yet. I ordered one. It’s telling that the first 70s Big shirt I ordered was the original in 2009. I ordered a medium and wore it all the time including while lifting. Now there’s no way I can even put it on. I’m going to wear it and walk around the now-stinky McPhearson Square “encampment” with a gallon of water asking where the gym is. (kidding about the gallon of water part only)

  2. Pingback: SMRT Reads 2-10-13 | Move | (S)ynthesizing (M)assage & (R)esistance (T)raining

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.