Q&A – 16

Greetings lovely readers. I hope you had a jolly week. It’s PR Friday, so share your weekly PR’s and training updates. Today I want to hear what mobility concerns you have. In other words, what structures/joints do you need to work on the most?

Also, we will continue yesterday’s poll. If you already voted, please refrain from doing so.
[poll id=”36″]

This week started with a short video on Push-up cues that can specifically help females augment their strength training within the confines of a good externally rotated shoulder position. We then discussed what I call “Antagonistic Motivation” to provide long-term motivation in a program. On Wednesday we discussed the importance of keeping a good training log and Thursday we explained and discussed pulling styles in Olympic weightlifting.

Thanks to Jay for the pic


This first question is related to the “Antagonistic Motivation” post in which I said the following in a comment reply: “The “Antagonistic Motivation” method isn’t a requirement, but the most succesful people in any realm are driven by an undying need to be the best they can be.
They have some kind of specific motivation for doing so, and if someone’s training was so-so, this is a way to heighten their focus.”

meangene asks:

^ So do you think this kind of ‘next level’ motivation is something that can be taught, or is it something that you either have or don’t have?

I tend to believe it’s the latter of the two.
Great feedback on this post, I love reading about what motivates people deep down.

Great feedback on this post, I love reading about what motivates people deep down.
I thought my response was interesting enough to re-post:

I believe it’s innate in every person, but they need a reason to unleash it. Have you ever read Alas Babylon? If our country was attacked by nuclear weapons and we all had to depend on ourselves (or local population) to actually survive, then everyone would be motivated to do so. Circumstance will dictate the reason. In today’s society we are fortunate enough not to have to worry about survivability because of technological development. It’s possible to live life in a set career field and not do more than what is asked. Motivation is reduced when people get comfortable. The difference in truly successful people and comfortable people is that the successful are never comfortable, and to them, they equate surviving with success. Failing is dying. Sometimes this is literal (imagine oppressed third world populations) and other times it’s symbolic.

Because of this inherent complacency, training can grow a bit stale. It doesn’t make us pathetic or lower quality humans, but we can amp up our training by creating a motivational stimulus. Today’s focus was creating an enemy. By forcing and developing an enemy, we can inject purpose into training and life. Undying craving for success in a sport will undoubtedly carry over and augment motivation in life. And even if it doesn’t, we are better people for having that drive, even in some small way.

Paul S. asks on the Facebook Fan Page:
Which shirts for my next competition?

Dear Paul,

Obviously the Rick Rude one. Remember this pic?

Josh M. asks on the Facebook Fan Page:

Is there any measurable utility in doing heavy rack pulls, yoke walks, pin presses, etc. or are they simply tools to measure ones dick? Also, when discussing items similar to what I mentioned above it’s discussed in concert with “stimulating the nervous system.” What exactly does that mean and how does it benefit the individual?

Dear Josh,

RE: Utility in movements.
You know I love saying “utility”. It depends on which movement we are talking about. The most relevant and effective movement on your list is the rack pull. The rack pull is what I use in programming to develop the “resistance of fatigue” in the hamstrings for deadlifting in competition. Whereas in the squat, if you only squat a few heavy reps, you can adapt to squatting multiple sets and it can improve meet performance. In the deadlift, that practice doesn’t work as well since deadlifting is so stressful to the system and local structures.

Instead of doing multiple sets of heavy deadlift, I love programming rack pulls from right below the knee. I talk about rack pulls extensively in the Texas Method Part 2 e-book (which I’ve been working on), and they are useful because of this concept. When doing them, the lumbar muscles hold the pelvis in place which maintains tension on the hamstrings. Then the hamstrings receive very high amounts of tension which allows them to adapt to this lockout stress. By doing a set of three to five reps, it forces the lumbar and hamstring musculature to maintain tension to hold their position while fatigued. This improves lockout ability in a meet. Once a lifter gets experienced with rack pulls, he can use them for greater weights with fewer reps (i.e. Chris just rack pulled 700 after doing 675×2).

As for the UTILITY in the other movements, it depends on the activity and the context of the trainee’s adaptation, program, and goals. Yoke walks are cool and hard, but are most useful to strongman competitors. I don’t program pin presses and don’t they have as much UTILITY as other programmatic methods, but I would consider using them in advanced programs. However, I they would be a last resort; in late intermediate or advanced type lifters, it’s typical to work on a specific part of a lift’s range of motion. In general I’d rather work on the problem ROM while doing the full movement (with the exception of rack pulls as a priority) or use a small list of assistance exercises to improve the strength and musculature of the weak ROM.

If someone is just randomly doing these movements as heavy as possible, then they are probably a dick measuring type of lifter or on a program like Westside that depends on movement variation.

RE: “stimulating the nervous system”
This is a fucking bullshit term that over simplifies the function of the body. I absolutely hate the term because it makes it seem like our central nervous system is getting “tired” from a given activity. It’s a disgusting simplification that is a small piece of what matters. It probably originated by guys who were trying to simplify concepts for other people on a discussion board, and it became a buzz word.

When you train, you work specific structures. “Structures” is a term that includes any relevant musculature as well as tendons, ligaments, fascia, and bones. Even though you don’t feel anything occurring in your bones, they receive and distribute stress and need to adapt just like every single structure in the body. Training places a stress on these structures, and I sum that up as a “localized” stress to imply that what you specifically target is typically worked (i.e. squats will focus on the hips and legs, deadlifts on the back and posterior chain, etc.). As a result of these local structures receiving stress, there is a related systemic stress. This is includes the nervous system and endocrine system, summed up as the “neuroendorcrine” system (since the functioning of one is closely related to the other). This is when the body controls the release and inhibition of various hormones in order to produce the adaptation relative to the stress you just imposed. When we simplify and say “you recover and adapt”, it’s the neuroendocrine system that does all of this behind-the-scenes work.

So if you cause more damage locally, then you will have a higher systemic stress. If you cause moderate amounts of stress too frequently (e.g. by doing a CrossFit workout six times a week), then the system will be pushed into deficit. When the person is run down and unable to complete a something that is normally easy when fresh, they will say, “Man, my CNS is so fatigued,” when in fact they mean “my system is depressed”. It’s better to think in terms of “the system” because it’s interrelated with every system in the body. If you induce too much stress on the body too often, then your immune system (which is closely related with the neuroendocrine system) is also depressed. The reverse is true; if your immune system is depressed, then your system cannot handle stress. Simplify it by thinking in terms of your system, and your system is dependent on your health and all of the recovery concepts (like diet, sleep, mobility, rest, etc.). So stop saying “CNS” because that’s like saying the mail clerk at Google is on strike; it’s just one little piece of Google that hardly tells the whole story.

Matt M. asks:

Having trouble with keeping my elbows up during my front squat work. Any tips/assisstance exercises that can help with this?

Dear Matt,

This is a bit vague since I don’t know exactly what you’re referring to, but work on your external rotation in your shoulders. You might as well work on the internal rotation since if the internal rotators are tight, they won’t stretch as easily when you go into severe external rotation. Do soft tissue work on your external rotators (i.e. roll them with a lacrosse ball). Become a student of shoulder work on MWOD. When in doubt, start with the 5 way shoulder. Start with this search query. Also, roll your thoracic spine (particularly between the scapulae/shoulder blades) with two lacrosse balls taped together.

As for the rack position itself, think “elbows up and in”; many people leave out the “in” part and it makes things difficult. Lastly, I often need to correct the grip width; if you have long forearms, you’ll need to have a wider grip than you think to facilitate the “elbows up and in” position.

J.T. M. asks:

Any opinion on knees over toes when squatting? Rip says avoid, other people say it’s fine. What say you?

Dear J.T.,

Toe angle when squatting will is dependent on mobility of the hips, knees, and ankles (and everywhere in between). In my opinion, the reason that the “toes out” style of squatting was developed was to account for poor mobility in lifters; pointing the toes out allowed the lifter to get his knees out and avoid hip impingement and achieve proper positioning. If the lifter has the mobility to use more “toes in positions”, then they should do so. The toes won’t be straight forward, but just outside of forward. A lifter should never put them at 45 degrees with 30 degrees being the outer limit.

I’m starting to understand the mechanics of why the toes forward position improves “torque at the hip” (a phrase that Kelly Starrett uses on a regular basis). Reference this post; it explains how a toes out position facilitates a collapsed arch (“navicular drop”) which shifts the positioning of the ankle and subsequently the knee and the hip. To put it simply, when the mobility exists to have the toes more forward and avoid the collapsed arch, the force is distributed more efficiently through each structure in the chain from the feet on up. It will specifically reduce medial stress on the knees, distribute more stress to the lateral thigh and hips, and produce better tightness in the posterior thigh and hip.

However, it’s all dependent on having the mobility to do it. That’s why I say mobility will dictate the foot angle “right now”. You may need to squat with your toes out today because your overall mobility isn’t capable of shoving the knees out effectively with the toes forward, but it is probably possible to subtly move them in over a few months of time (as you improve mobility).

The End
All right, it’s been fun. Some of you asked some smaller, quick questions on the Facebook Fan page, so I answered them in the thread. Have a good weekend. Is the Pro Bowl worth watching?

61 thoughts on “Q&A – 16

  1. Weekly PRs:
    HB Squat-405×1 (in chucks, hoping to get a pair of oly shoes within the next couple of weeks)
    Press 150x3x5

    Starting sprinting again after taking some time off of major conditioning over the last couple of busy months. 200m relays and intervals.

    My GF has been coming to the gym with me over the past few weeks and I finally convinced her to get under the bar. She impressed the hell out of me, especially since shes 5’9″, 120. This week was her third week squatting and she easily put up 130x3x5.

  2. Justin,

    i’ve heard a lot of people with long femurs say that they can’t back squat, so they front squat instead. I never understood this myself. Rip thinks front squats shouldn’t be used by long-femured people. other long-femured people on here have said that low bar squats hurt their backs, so they high bar instead.

    I myself have really fucking long femurs, even though i’m only 5’10. I can LBBS no problem, but I don’t feel too comfortable with HB. as far as front squats go, I don’t think I can do them properly. I have and use WL shoes, just in case you’re wondering. at the top, my elbows point forward, but once i’m in the hole at the bottom, my elbows are pointing down and the weight is being held in my fingers because my torso is nowhere near vertical. with just the empty bar, i’m pushing with my forefoot.

    you’ve mentioned in the past that guys with long femurs should do vertical torso squatting to improve quad strength. how would this be accomplished in my case? could it be possible that my hip/ankle mobility sucks? how do I know that I might just be destined to not front squat?


  3. Sadly no PRs this week.

    Mobility concerns:
    1) internal/external hip rotators, especially my left hip
    2) scapular retraction

    Gotta book an appt with the pain ball. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.

  4. Snatch PR 50 kg
    Snatch Balance 58 kg
    Split jerk attempt at 80 kg tomorrow. I’m still seething from being juked by a skinny little bitch in pink lipstick today on the flag football field, so that should provide some antagonistic motivation.

  5. Justin. What about palms up pendlay rows?

    27, 180lbs, 6ft.
    Recent Prs:
    Pause squat 255 x5x3
    Squat: 315×5
    Dead: 434×1
    Dead: 405×5
    Press: 135x5x5,
    Incline: 155x5x4

  6. Pingback: » Q&A – 18

  7. Pingback: » Q&A – 29

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