AtA: Dynamic Stretching (for Golf)

Posted July 28th, 2010 in Ask the Author by Clint

What do you recommend for golf?

Color-blindness to help you in selecting the right pants?

If you’re going to sink it in every hole, make sure your wife doesn’t find out?

Go to your Happy Place?

haw haw haw~ (haw)

So anyway, I’m assuming you mean in regard to dynamic stretching. Truth be told, all four stretches in the book are beneficial to golf. The pull-squat opens up hip mobility, windmills stretch the shoulder axis, torso twists will improve rotational power, and even neck stretches can help unlimber your traps and shoulder girdle for swings. That’s not a cop-out; hip-drive and torque can immediately improve your game.

Beyond what’s in the book, you may enjoy doing one-arm planks (neutral spine, but tighten your (ugh I hate this word) “core” so that you can raise one arm out in front like a superman.

Apart from stretching (and back to the book) two specific exercises can significantly help as well: the first is working your way into one-hand push-ups. More than a shoulder routine, it actually develops significant (ugh) core strength. Second is the split-squat, which is hard to match for developing hip drive and rotational power.

AtA: Dynamic Stretches for Shoulder Mobility

Posted July 14th, 2010 in Ask the Author by Clint

What’s your favorite dynamic stretch to improve shoulder mobility? I’ve been doing your pull squats for my hamstrings the last few weeks and I can’t believe the improvement. I can nearly touch my toes with locked knees now, which is probably a 4 inch improvement in my range of motion. My shoulder mobility is absolutely terrible, though, and I’d like to improve it.

I’ve read about “shoulder dislocations,” where you hold a broom handle with both hands and a wide grip at your waist, and you bring it all the way over your head until you touch the small of your back. Do you have any experience with these exercises?

I want to preface by saying I am not a rehab specialist, and I should probably be embarrassed by how readily I will refer out a client or athlete if they are in need of corrective (ankle-taper) work. Knowing something about one field doesn’t confer expertise in all related fields, and this is something many ‘experts’ fail to realize. That said, I could offer you a few suggestions, but if you feel like you are in any way compromised due to injury or otherwise requiring rehabilitation, I encourage you to seek a specialist.

Another thing (which I am trying not to overstress) is that bodies are built differently, and what’s good for some may not help others. So I’m not just copping out; despite my best of intentions, there’s not a one-size-fits-all. We’re all built differently, and that includes the design and build of the shoulder (relevant to this discussion is, for example, the formation of the shoulder’s acromion). Just based on your genetic build (and what may have come later during development) you may have a significantly harder (or easier) time with one exercise over another due to the shape and construction of your shoulder. So even if you go it alone, you will need to experiment to find what is best for you.

Okay? Okay.

In the book I recommend windmills, where you stick your arms straight out to your sides and rotate them, just as in gym class. You can make these circles wide or tight as suits you, and it falls under the ‘dynamic’ sense of not reducing muscle elasticity or strength. These (as with the other things I recommend) do well by the most people. Give them a shot.

As far as dislocations, I myself do them on occasion, and I’ll recommend them from time to time as warm-ups for athletes, especially when we are doing sport-specific training. I wouldn’t necessarily suggest them to someone trying it solo since it is a difficult movement to judge the performance of unless you have someone watching you (or you have some 3-way model mirror going on). You can let your shoulder rise up on one or both sides or otherwise create oddities or imbalances in your effort to get it over the top, and that’s generally a no-no. You want to keep your traps flattened and rotators locked down rather than letting one (or both) rise up, and that can be difficult to do for many people. Alternately, you can do them with a band or a bungie cord so that you’re not forcing the joint, and focus on keeping your shoulders properly seated and aligned.

I’ve previously recommended a different type of broom stick stretch that may help you, both the internal and external.

I also dig scapula push-ups.

AtA: Caloric Consumption and Weight Training

Posted July 9th, 2010 in Ask the Author by Clint

Quick question on calorie deficits as a result of weight training. I’m operating under the assumption that more work = more calories burned. Using bench press as an example, under a strength training workout, I’m doing 3 sets of 8 reps at 135 lbs with 2-3 minutes in between sets.

Under a bodybuilding workout I’m doing 4 sets of 12 reps at 90 lbs with 30 seconds in between sets.

Workout A is 3240 lbs moved over a longer period of time and Workout B is 4320 lbs moved over a shorter time period.

In this scenario, would workout B yield greater calorie deficits? Especially given workout A is a 2 day split vs. 4 day for workout B?

At face value the answer is moot, as the actual “calories” expended between the two is a wash, and a muddy one at that. However, once you start talking about the effects on excess post-exercise oxygen consumption it gets slightly more substantial, but still murky and largely dependent on individual traits and characteristics. As I mention in the book, there are numerous factors involved even beyond the volume/time equation, such as compound groups called into play, levels of neuromuscular activity, speed and explosiveness, range of motion, and even simple skeletal loading.

For example, you could create an absurd level of ‘volume’ by putting a substantial weight on the leg press or seated row and crush out hundreds of reps in a short span of time, but it would not produce near the levels of NMA or load that a well-performed set of squats would.

That said, the crux of the matter is intensity. When you talk about ‘calorie-burning’ (i.e. “waste” or inefficiency, which is a primary factor in keeping fat off the body), the higher purpose is intensity, which is why I put forth both HIIT and heavy resistance (in the 3-8 rep range) training that includes structural loading and compound movements for maximal “if we drop this, we may die” NMA levels. At high levels of intensity (especially in competitive or “play” states), the catecholamine dumps themselves are worth more toward a calorie deficit than anything that can be worked out on a spreadsheet.

Again, the focus I push is for maximum results with the minimum investment of time or complexity. If you’re looking for other perspectives you might try a more specialized program, since you mention a ‘body builder’ program which aims for a different set of goals.

One of the reasons, for example, that I solely focus on the big movements are studies like this one, that take a 31 minute circuit program of bench, power cleans, and squats, and demonstrate a higher metabolic level at 38 hours post-exercise, which is double the previously established max. That’s a higher rate of caloric consumption for the better part of two days after lifting. It makes the double-digit levels of calories-burned during actual exercise rather inconsequential.

Bodybuilding is a sport (or art, depending how you look at it) and they measure success by different metrics than almost anyone else, be they athlete or regular person. But if your question (specifically about calorie-expenditure) is rooted in loss of bodyfat, you’d likely better serve your goals by focusing on how hard you’re lifting rather than how much (and of course what you are eating). Hopefully that gets you closer to the answer you’re looking for.

AtA: Setting Up the Weight and Maintaining the Challenge

Posted July 7th, 2010 in Ask the Author by Clint

Do you have any tips for getting the bag on for pushups? It’s getting too heavy for me to do that part properly without the weight being centered at my lower back, which seems bad.

If you don’t happen to have someone who can set you up, you can put the bag on a chair, then kneel next to the chair and draw it onto your shoulder blades with your outside hand, bracing yourself with your close hand and your knees. Then replace your hand and get in push-up position. You can also try varying your hand spacing, doing incline push-ups by putting your feet on a higher surface, or for something still more advanced, see if you can bust them out one-handed. Those are my fav.

Alternatively, you can do one-hand flyes/presses using the straps on, say, the edge of a couch or step so that you have clearance for the full range of motion. Or simply switch to overhead presses, or one-hand overhead presses until such time as your shoulders get strong enough to support one-handed push-ups.

Lastly, plyo push-ups going for height/clearance will never stop being a challenge. That is, until you can explosively push yourself up to standing position without breaking at the knees or hips. Which would be pretty impressive. You probably want to do them on carpet, a mat, a wood floor or something with some give. Concrete is for people that hate themselves.

Squats is kind of a pain for that too when you have no squat cage. You have to find some appropriate-height surface in your place to set it on and then roll slide into position on the back of your neck, or just do Zercher Squats.

I like Zerchers for the same reason I like hill sprints; you can’t do the weight you could on a back squat, but it’s a lot harder to do them wrong. And it lends itself to a natural functionality when you are doing something that requires you to squat and lift.

A great compound movement is cleaning the bag off the floor and throwing it over your shoulder in a fireman carry; you can not only scoop more weight than you might be able to hustle into zercher, but you also get additional stimulus to the torso and body to balance the weight. Just switch sides between sets (or for true brutality, drop it back to the floor and clean it up again for each rep).

I’d also recommend giving the split-squats a try with the bag in zercher position.

AtA: Running On About Intervals

Posted July 2nd, 2010 in Ask the Author by Clint

In the “Prelude to Movement” you are against jogging for more than 30 minutes. You also speak about something that I have been incorporating into my workouts forever, interval training. I was wondering if I could kind of combine the two because I have lost about 30lbs and discovered I really like to run again.

If, I am running in a hilly area, or have a program on my treadmill that adjusts the incline automatically for me, will this give me the benefits of interval training while still using the flat/downhill areas for active recovery? Will this interfere with anything on my lifting days? (I lift on opposite days that I run/walk/jog.) I am hoping that the introduction of the hills does not allow my body to become more efficient/adapted to running.

From pg59 in Brain Over Brawn:

My take on it is this: if you really enjoy jogging, go for it. It certainly counts as general movement and in moderation and with proper preventative care, you can preserve your joint health and mobility just fine. Just don’t try and use it as some generic fat-loss or calorie-burn method; the following exercise forms will do a much more efficient job.

As I’ve said on many occasions, running for the sake of running is not the basis for my beef with cardio, steady-state or otherwise. If running is fun for you (or you do it competitively), go bananas. B A N A N A S. But for some people it’s boring drudgery and they do it because they think that’s the best (or only) way to change your body composition, and it’s not.

As far as considering it to be HIIT, I wouldn’t think so unless you are sprinting up hills (or stairs) or some exercise to the point that it’s impossible to maintain a tempo due to exertion. Treadmills especially are ill-suited, as the vast majority of machines can’t maintain enough of an incline to be a sufficient challenge without also destroying your stride (a grass hill or even stairs will provide much more joint stability than a flat plane at an angle). And most don’t go fast enough (until again, it’s a dangerous situation). I dislike treadmills in general anyway, but they’ll suffice for general movement/active recovery if it’s something you want to do.

As far as cross-country type HIIT, if you’re falling down in the dirt and pine needles like you’re about to vom your brains out, and have to force yourself through a haze to stand back up and run more (only to collapse again) sure, that can be HIIT. But most people go out to the trails and it’s this big grand process to drive there and get to running, and they don’t want it to be over in five minutes. Conversely, you could enjoy your run and then at the end just before you go back to the car or house, if you want to just sprint your brains out for a few sessions, yeah. That’ll do, pig.

As for interference, no, it won’t substantially impact your lifts provided you are getting ample recovery (which includes nutrition, General Movement, and rest). You’ll want to not do one immediately following the other, but if you put a few hours in between (ideally with a meal and a nap), you’re fine.