Please post your training PR’s and updates to the comments. Remember, it’s the best way to integrate yourself in this incredible community. Oh, and I’m more likely to help you or answer your question(s) if you post regularly; fuckin’ oath.
Last Week’s Challenge was to do at least two days of heavy farmer’s walks at the end of your training session. Did anyone hit this challenge up? Post your weight and estimated distance.
Next Week’s Challenge: Given this week’s article on conditioning, the challenge is to add in a day or two of conditioning into your program. Don’t over-complicate it, and no I’m not turning you into a CrossFitter. How intense the conditioning should be is dependent on what you’re adapted to. Just drop some sled drags/pulls in, do some kettlebell work, or try one of those fancy barbell complexes. If you hate it, well, shit, it’s only one week of it.
On Monday I recapped some of the Tucson, AZ seminar, but also traveled all friggin’ day (never good for mobility). Tuesday made the point that even strength athletes will benefit from conditioning, and unless it’s misused, it won’t interfere with strength training. Wednesday discussed training efficiency and urged readers to ensure that they were getting the most of their time spent training and recovery. Thursday started as a rant because of something corny I saw on Facebook (it was a picture of a self assurance fortune cookie that said, “You are wonderful,”) — it developed into having a mindset that always aims to improve, but then focused on being able to instill that in trainees/clientele as a coach or trainer.
There are tons of pictures from last week, but the most poignant lesson I learned is: “Don’t mistake a cactus for a tree.” In my defense, there are no cacti where I’m from. I leaned against one to step off of a trail, and ended up with at least 15 spines in my hand. Here’s a picture that encapsulates some pain and embarrassment.
In other news, there will be a surprise for many of you on Tuesday.
Ed W. posted to 70’s Big,
I was couch stretching this morning, two minutes a side x 2. When I finished my vastus lateralus on one leg felt like it was asleep and it still feels asleep. WTF did I do to myself?!
[spoiler]Another message from Ed:
Context: I do all my exercise in the morning before work, after work it’s dinner, kids, bedtime, cleaning, crash.
Last week on Monday I rode a 75KM ride to work. Then let work get the better of me and skipped my workouts/active recovery/mobilizing for Tues-Fri so I could go to the office early. My legs turned into a gnarly mass of stiff tissue. Saturday I ran an adventure race up and down a ski hill with obstacles thrown in on the woody stumps I call legs. Ouch. Resolved to fix the damage I’d imparted on myself I started working on getting loose and ended up with my numb quad.
Apparently nerves can get irritated when trying to work out that mass of knotted tissue I call a leg. A massage and some rolling and light activity and I’m coming back.[/spoiler]
Based on the second part that you posted, you know why this is occurring. 75KM cycling (I assume) is something that puts you in severe hip flexion for a long time. Then you went to a job that (presumably) has you in hip flexion all week. Then you went and did an adventure race which undoubtedly gunked you up, not to mention your hip flexors were already jacked up from what you did earlier in the week.
Let’s look at the hip flexors. We primarily always consider the rectus femoris — the big muscle of the quad that crosses the hip (the only quad that crosses the hip) and knee joints — but there’s more going on. The sartorius is a thin band that sits on top, but it assists in a lot of movements at the hip and knee. The adductor (groin) muscles are assisting, and so is glute medius and TFL; this means that medial or lateral tightness respectively can inhibit hip flexion, or a lack of hip flexion can inhibit these areas. In other words, it’s all interrelated. But the iliopsoas — the psoas major and iliacus — are often forgotten and neglected. This is where I think your problem originates.
The iliopsoas muscle goup’s action focuses on hip flexion, yet they also externally rotate and adduct the hip. More importantly, when you’re hunkered down on a bike or in your office chair, the muscles are shortened. They are often chronically tight in white collar workers and cause a lot of problems, including hyperlordosis (more on that in a later question). The psoas is more of the issue because it attaches along the lumbar spine (behind the stomach) and then ventures down to the inner and rear portion of the femure (the lesser trochanter).
The lumbar nerve plexus stems off of the lumbar spine and passes through or next to the psoas. If you have done something
stupid to make the psoas chronically tight, then that whole area can be a big ball of mess and possibly inflamed. Inflammation or “a mess” swells and usually clamps down on nerves, and this is why people will feel radiating pain through an extremity. My guess is that when you tried positional stretching on an area that was inflamed and tight, you irritated it (possibly breaking up developed scar tissue or dense fascia, or just ripping apart a swollen, irritated area) and made it push against that nerve. The lumbar plexus stems down to the femoral nerve, which stems to the lateral femoral cutaneous nerve, the specific area where you are feeling numbness.
That’s nice. Now what can we do about it? Start at the origin — work on that psoas. Lacrosse ball to the side of your stomach, and dig in there on the muscle belly of the psoas. Look at this part of this MWOD vid. I’d work on that twice a day (morning/night) for a week straight, but only do positional stretching of joint approximation AFTER doing the soft tissue work. If it’s totally gunked, tight, and inflammed, then it won’t stretch until you actually release the tension.
Let this be a lesson to all of you: if you have severe tightness or gunkiness, use soft tissue work BEFORE doing any positional stretching or joint approximation. And Ed, I could be wrong and you have a more serious issue, but this is what I personally would work on before spending money at a doctor.
Paul Sousa asks,
I have had some upper back pain when squatting and have tried changing my grip width and bar height a bit. I always try and get my upper back very tight though. After seeing some videos however, I wonder if being super tight is necessary? I see some Oly guys look pretty relaxed under huge weights (video), as well as some WSB style guys use a super wide grip that also doesn’t seem to result in a very tight upper back (another vid). I squeeze my shoulder blades together hard when squatting, but now I am wondering if maybe that is actually causing the pain I have, and maybe I should toy around with a more relaxed style?
I agree that your upper back issue needs to be addressed. It is, without a doubt, a result of poor mobility. You need daily shoulder work in the form of 5 way shoulder to work on your internal and external rotators, lacrosse ball to thoracic spine, and releasing your spinal erectors. No matter how much you alter your grip, if you’re tight in this area, then you’ll continue having pain.
Now let’s address the examples you gave. The weightlifter in the video is doing the high bar, so that immediately throws your argument out of the window. A high bar sits on the middle traps and doesn’t require the upper back or shoulders to be tight in order to maintain a good position (I usually just refer to this as the “rear deltoid shelf”). Nevertheless, he is still keeping his thoracic spine extended, because if he didn’t, he’d flex the spine and not squat the weight. His transmission is intact, and he doesn’t need a special grip to do it properly.
The next video of our homie Mark Bell is borderline irrelevant as well because the dude weighs at least 275 pounds! You can’t really compare your body type to his; you’re not on enough juice, brah. Not only is Mark densely packed with muscle, but his squat technique facilitates the grip he’s using. He’s aiming to sit back on that box to get a good stretch on his hamstrings (as well as the suit), so if he sits back more, he leans forward more. That helps him provide a shelf for the bar to sit on, even if we didn’t even consider the fact that he’s densely muscled. His muscle mass creates that shelf, and a wide grip such as his might be equivalent to your more narrow grip because of much muscle he has in his middle trapezius and rhomboid area.
The moral of the story? It’s okay to question the way you’re doing something, but you can’t compare yourself to populations that aren’t similar to you at all — in squat style or body type. All of this discussion means that you’re reading this and NOT doing shoulder mobility, so get to working on that. Get your kid to grow up faster so you have more time in the gym too. Steroids may help, but you’re already too hairy.
Chris B. asks
Hey Justin, could you talk about correcting Hyperlordosis in your next Q&A? Or should I just google it because you’ve covered it already?
I’ve done some research on it, but I trust you, so I was hoping to get your take.
I’ve been putting off your question for several weeks because I wanted to give it the full attention it deserved. The answer will be confusing in text, so I’ll probably do a video post on it in the future to reiterate the point. Hyperlordis means that that the lumbar is severely extended because the hip is severely anteriorily rotated. I’m going to simplify this and say that it’s generally caused by tight hip flexors, ESPECIALLY the psoas. Traditionally hyperlordosis was seen a lot in dancers, but nowadays people are taught to extend the hell out of their lumbar spines when lifting and it’s becoming more common. There is a smaller percentage of females who have because of a lack of kinesthetic sense, but I think it’s cause they learned to do to hinge their ass out so it looks better. In guys, I think it develops in a similar way, but it’s because they want their chest to look big. If a guy lacks thoracic mobility (and kinesthetic sense), he’ll lift his chest by hyper extending at his thoracic/lumbar junction and sacro/liliac junction. Compound these nuances with the fact that everyone in western society is sitting down for at least 4 hours a day, and you have chronically tight hip flexors and chornic poor positioning.
The way to start working on it? Open the anterior hip. The first suggestion, as in the first question above, is to work the psoas with a lacrosse ball. Then use some positional stretching or joint approximation. The best mob for someone who is extremely tight is the first position of the couch stretch (queued up in this video). My friend Luiz, who regularly walks in hyperlordosis, can barely post his foot up to get into this position. Note that we aren’t even attempting to post up with this type of person, just hanging out with both hands on the ground.
I’d also teach them what is “proper positioning” by helping them bring their pelvis underneath their torso (which contrasts how the pelvis usually is hinged out behind the torso). It usually involves turning the lower abs “on”. I read in a good communication book that every time you walk through a doorway, you want to orient your posture. There’s more to what the book said, but I’m using this technique for hyperlordosis abusers; every time they walk through a door they need to pull their hips back under them. Over several months they will get hundreds of repetitions of reorienting themselves, and I would have them mob their hip flexors AT LEAST twice a day until further notice. Their lifting style will probably need to be altered; this usually means they need to learn how to use a solid, straight trunk. I’ll leave this part of it for another time — you can’t save the world, and you can’t do it all at once.
Justin – any thoughts on conditioning for occassional, recreational backpacking? I don’t have time for regular rucking – would running/sprints/intervals have any carryover, despite being completely different time domains? I know CrossFit claims short intense workouts will address all endurance goals, but somehow that doesn’t sound right.
Maslow responded in kind and said:
@Gumbo I’m an avid backpacker/hunter and have never found that lifting complicates rather than interferes with my backpacking. I actually program in the backpacking days as rest days. For instance I’ll train after work on Friday night, wake up and do a longish (5-10 mile in the mountains) hike on Saturday, camp out, do the same hike back on Sunday, then train as usual on Monday without any trouble. I think strength training carries over directly to backpacking ability. The pack feels lighter, I can go longer without stopping, and it really helps that certain part of the male body.
I agree with him here. Typically in a backpacking, hiking, or camping scenario, you only carry what you need to carry. In a rucking scenario, you carry more than is necessary to adapt to it or because you have to. In the picture of the post, I have about 35 pounds of rocks in my pack (I was searching for them when I touched the cactus).
I think that hiking and backpacking is an incredibly fun and rewarding endeavor, something that people don’t do enough of. In the sense of having the capacity to do it, you’ll be fine (as Maslow says). If you were aiming to do it for performance, then you would do it different and adjust your programming to accommodate it. Doing interval work to prepare for backpacking/hiking isn’t really necessary, but it will improve your conditioning for those high elevation or high intensity moments.
During our walk, Chris had to stop a few times and catch his breath. We weren’t acclimated to the hot and incredibly dry environment (even at dusk). The elevation wasn’t really relevant (only 2,700 at the top, a gain of about 1,600ish), but Chris hasn’t been much conditioning other than pushing his truck. He certainly hasn’t been climbing any mountains or doing anything for an hour straight like we did. I talked to a girl on the plane who has hiked that mountain and she had to stop frequently; from the sound of it, Chris handled it better than her and he weighs nearly 300 pounds. His strength gave him the capacity, but his cardiovascular/respiratory adaptation was the limiting factor.
All that being said, doing intensity based conditioning will improve your backpacking, but you aren’t competing in it, so it isn’t really necessary. Just go do it. Besides, the best thing that helps improve hiking/backpacking/rucking is to do that thing.
1. I’m confused (it could be my English though). You talk about HIET. Isn’t this like barbell complexes you’ve mentioned in the past? Hiking seems to me like Low Intensity Endurance Training.
2. And what’s the relation with the 3 types you present in the e-book. If my memory serves me, interval, all-out and prolonged effort.
3. Off the topic question:
In heavy weights (but doable) I slow down exactly where Chris does in the video with the 615. I pause but in the end I manage to complete the lift. Is this something common?
I numbered your questions to make it easier.
1. High intensity conditioning does include barbell complexes. It also includes CrossFitty met-cons, sprinting, or doing any activity with high intensity. You are correct in saying that hiking is “low intensity endurance training”. In the book we just call that “sustained effort”. Doing low intensity stuff will not be an efficient use of someone’s training time because a) it takes too much time, b) it’s adaptation isn’t as useful, and c) it would require too much recovery and therefore interfere with strength training.
2. The three main categories of “high intensity endurance training” I labeled in “FIT” are
– sustained effort
There are sub-categories as well, and I provide a explain how stressful each one is and provide a very specific method to how you would schedule a given conditioning stress based on the lifting stress.
3. What you describe is common in people who push their butt back instead of up. If you watch carefully, this is what Chris does during the lift at 615. If the butt goes back, then the hamstrings lengthen and the knees extend slightly without actually applying force to the bar. Also, the back angle will lean over slightly — butt goes back, therefore chest goes forward. The result is a stall in the middle of the rep.
I cued Chris to bounce it sharper, and then “drive like fuck” through that ROM. The cue was shortened to “bounce then DRIVE” when I was whispering violent things into his ear before he lifted it. In a novice, I would have said, “push the butt UP, not back” and eventually would shorten it to “push the butt”, and later “push”.