Q&A – 29

PR Friday

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.

Weekly Recap

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.

I usually try to label these file names for your amusement

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]

Dear Ed,

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?

Dear Paul,

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.

Dear Chris,

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.

gumbo asks,

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.

Dear gumbo,

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.

dimitris asks,

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?

Dear dimitris,

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
– maximal
– interval
– 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”.

73 thoughts on “Q&A – 29

  1. Only pr this week was a 225lb hang clean. Farmer’s walked once- 4×40 yards with 150lb per hand. Used a couple kettlebells chained together, which works pretty well.

    Still have oly lifting tonight so hopefully more pr’s to come. Planning to start more strongman training on Saturdays, so will farmer’s walk again tomorrow.

    On the strongman topic though, I’m pretty pleased with the stone loading platform I built in my yard this week: http://i618.photobucket.com/albums/tt263/lescor/one/stoneplatform.jpg

    Used some old railroad ties I got for free and some scrap lumber left over from building a house. Spent a total of $16 on some 12″ spikes at Home Depot.

  2. First time posting PRs since I’ve begin reading this site. The people I train with do a lot of Westside barbell methods (chains, bands, boards, etc.) So my numbers reflect this method.

    Squat: ~440×3 (weight includes a total of 6 chains)

    Deadlift: ~485×3 (weight includes 8 chains, but we pulled from 7 mats. S bar was about 2 inches or so below my knees)

    Bench: 297×3 off of 3 boards.

    My weight is at around 265.

  3. Sometimes I feel like I haven’t been making progress but I look back in my logs and see huge improvements. Previous workouts, I could only muster about 15 total pullups and now I do almost 10 between sets of bench and pressing movements. Been doing 5/3/1 for 3 days a week for a while.

    Deadlifted 385 for two singles. That’s new for me.
    Bench pressed 185 for 9 reps. Previous cycle was 180 for 9 reps
    I’ve also noticed that my endurance in the gym is head and shoulders above where it used to be. I could literally knock out a session in about 30 minutes, set a PR and still finish assistance work. I think that’s from the hill sprints that I do every so often.
    Squats are still slooooowly improving as well as overhead. Even, though I’ve been making some nice progress, my figure hasn’t changed much, oddly enough. Cool with me though.

  4. @diablosam Funny, you lift about as much as I do, but you’re two weight classes lighter. Thanks for making me feel bad… Lol, nice numbers, though! How long have you been weightlifting?

    Got another PR tonight, 205 lbs Overhead squat, same as my Snatch PR. And that’s after not doing them for a long time… After that I knocked out 2×5 @ 155, with some of the nicest OHS’s I’ve ever done. I’ve always found OHS’s a lot harder than standing up with a Snatch, and I think it’s mainly because stability going down is so tough. What made these squats tonight so much better is really focusing on external shoulder rotation, and my rotators sure feel it. I’m glad they’ll be part of my regular programming, now!

  5. pressed 130 for 3 sets of 4 (should have been 5…)

    squatted 310 for 2 sets of 5 then failed the last rep of my third set. should get it Monday, and then i’ll squat 315 for 3 sets of 5 on Friday hopefully.

  6. had two wonky weeks due to Search and Rescue Missions that fucked w/ my gawdamn scientific training…

    But I PR’d my Squat Triple today. 260×3

  7. I only did one farmer’s walk session but did 3 sets of about 20m with 132lbs in each hand. The gym I am at actually has farmer’s walk handles which is cool.

    I got a PR of 565lbs in the deadlift this week. I also pressed 210lbs and push pressed 255lbs which is the best I’ve done since a shoulder injury in early March.

  8. Camelback is a nice hike. Its not long, but certainly steep. I did it about this time of year last year. And the women you see there? ON POINT.

  9. I did the farmer’s walk with some DBs which are actually sort of awakward to hold. I used the 110s and i’m not sure how far I walked. But it wasn’t very far lol. I also finally strict pressed bodyweight. 170, now I need to gain weight. Also,
    DL 400×3

  10. Been doing the banded Good Mornings 5×15 after my squat day and deadlift day for 5-3-1 (twice a week) for the past 3-4 weeks. My squat is definitely feeling a lot stronger in the hole. Not sure if its upper back strength, hamstring strength, lower back strength or all of it, but its working.

  11. Long time lurker, decided I should start posting on PR Fridays.
    Squat 375×5
    Bench 255x5x5
    Press 155×5
    Thanks for the site, I’ve always lifted, b/c of the site, I’ve been couch stretching and using the lax ball on a nagging low back injury.
    Keep fighting the good fight.

  12. Squat: 335 for 3×5 on Tuesday.

    And that was the best part of my week.

    Lameness PRs for not eating or sleeping enough which is probably why the rest of my lifts went so poorly.

  13. @jcfendley

    Nice. The only place I found to Oly lift at is in a guy’s garage that he runs a Crossfit box out of, but without calling it Crossfit… Anyways, that was my first personal experience with Crossfit, and… What you did couldn’t have been easy, mate. They’re nice folks, and they appreciate the lifting, unlike many people, but they’re just waaay off on their approach to it.

  14. Some pull up and all around slow grinding 5-3-1 prs this week. Aiming to test myself for new 1RMs soon, just to see how things are really going.
    New baby PR goal is to not eat Ike total shit for the next few weeks while my workout schedule is fucked. So far so good.
    Saw a dude in the gym who hasn’t seen me in about a year and he said I looked like I put on a lot of muscle. Ego stroke PR, I’ll take it.

    In the advice/question portion: what does everyone here do for building their traps? I want big traps, I’m not ashamed to admit it. Started adding shrugs as an assistance for this current 5-3-1 cycle, but I want some more variety.

  15. PRs from the last two weeks

    Previous friday- squat-160kgx5, dead- 187.5×5, bench – 102.5kg x 5

    Yesterday – Squat -162.5kg x 4, dead-190kg x4, press- 70kgx5.

    Texas method is going well, though ive had to miss out the light day for two weeks running due to other life commitments.

  16. @ meangene

    Maybe a q & a for next time ??

    Should I worry about varying degrees of pro / supination when adding shrugs? And how to program ?

  17. Cheers for doing some stuff on hyperlordosis. I’ve had dramas with that for years – mostly because of the amount of my day I spend wearing armour. I’ll start with the couch stretch right now, while South Park is on.

  18. Thanks for the advice Justin. I happen to have loaned out my pink skull kettlebell, so I’m using a plate to help get that lacrosse ball into my psosas.

    All the soft tissue work has loosened me up and the numbness is gone. Still working on my chronic desk job stiffness.

    As for working on it myself before wasting money on a doctor, we have that taken care of here in Canada, it’s just that my trust lies with 70sBig first and with the medical profession second.

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