Thursday, September 21, 2017

Weightlifting for Winter

      The overarching goal now is to combine, to the extent possible, strength and speed, to increase power. In doing this, we will use a few core compound exercises. A compound exercise is defined as one that uses more than one set of joints to complete the exercise.

      For instance, the squat engages the hips, knees, and ankles to perform. The muscles involved include the glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves. For those who are not so clear on the anatomy of our legs, that translates to our butt, thighs, the back of our legs, and calves.

      The beauty of compound movements is that we are exercising the maximum amount of muscles in the minimum amount of time. While the muscles are extending (the negative portion) we should go slowly. This range of movement we are strongest and can handle greater amounts of weight. As such, moving the weight slower gives our muscles more time under stress, which is exactly what we want.

      When at the pinnacle of the negative, pause for a moment. Stop, take total control of the weight. If under the bench press, you should have complete control. The bar should be ½” from your chest. If you are at the bottom of your squat, your hips should be just beneath your knees. Each of the muscles in your legs are holding that weight and none of it is resting on your knees. Yes, this is the Pause Principle created and taught by Joe “Master Blaster” Weider. Hold the pause for 1 or 2 seconds, then contract.

      The contraction of the muscles is the positive movement. It’s standing up under the squat, the press of the bench press, and the pull of the bent row. This motion should be faster than the negative range. It should be a fast snap, an explosion of movement. It is a blast of force, but with control. You do not want the bar to fly out of your hands, off your shoulders, or slam into your chest at the top of the rep.
Sets and Reps

      Simple is the best way. Three sets are about all we need.

      Let's take a fast course in muscle construction. There two types of muscle fiber, the slow twitch and the fast twitch. Slow twitch muscles are for endurance like long distance running, while the fast are explosive and used in powerful movements.

      Repetitions for endurance go 15 and up while for strength are capped at 10. Reps for power are 3 to 5.

      Form first, strength will follow. From the strength we build, endurance will be a natural growth.
      Once the weights have been secured on the bar with proper collars:
  • Lie down with your eyes under the bar
  • Grip the bar with your pinkies on the thin smooth ring
  • Squeeze your shoulder blades together, arch your back slightly, keep your hips and butt on the bench
  • Lift the bar from the rack by straightening your arms
  • Lower the weight with control, keep your elbows at a 70-degree angle to your body, and forearms perpendicular to the bar and floor

Bent Row
      Proper form:
  • At the bar, squat down and grip the bar overhand, that is with your palms facing you and slightly wider than shoulders width; A wider grip will put more emphasis on the rhomboid muscles over our shoulder blades, while a narrow grip will engage the thicker latissimus dorsa
  • Keep your knees bent and your upper body level with the floor
  • Your back should be straight to slightly arched down. By this, Picture yourself standing at attention from the hips to shoulders, only you have that portion of your body over the floor. You do not want to have your spine arched upwards like a cat while moving weight.
  • Pinch your shoulder blades together when pulling the weight up
  • Hold the bar so that it touches your abdomen, then lower it with control until your arms are extended
  • An underhand grip will ensure that you are working your lats as the primary mover in this exerciser.

      As a former powerlifter, squats are nothing to be afraid of. Let me say that again, do not be afraid of or nervous about squats.

      Use a lighter weight than you think you should use. We are doing pause reps and explosive movement from the bottom of the squat.

Proper form:
  • Shrug your shoulders up and back, hands palm-forward around the bar, your head up and back. This presses the bar into that slot and keeps your back arched. Always keep your head up when squatting. From the bottom of the squat, there is only one direction we want to go, up. Pick a spot on the ceiling and get there.
  • Do not stop with your hips above your knees. This is cheating yourself out of all the benefits of squatting. Get those hips below the plane of your knees.
  • Once those hips pass the knees, do not bottom out ass on ankles. Doing so will tear your knees apart. Keep your legs flexed. The ideal position is about half-way between the ankles and the plane of the knees.

      Squat and Deadlift work much of the same muscle groups. Doing them both on the same day at three sets to failure is over-doing it and looking for an injury. So, don’t do them on the same day. Period.

      There are several stance widths for this, but we are going to keep this simple. Feet shoulders width, maybe just a little more or less for comfort

Proper form:
  • Squat down all the way so that we are almost sitting on our heels
  • Grab the bar just outside of our legs, the grip can be alternated with one palm forward and one backward or both palms facing the same way
  • Head up and back
  • Flexing firmly against the weight and the bar, pull steadily until standing upright, but do not lock the knees, keeping them slightly flexed
  • Bending the knees and thrusting the hips back, lower the weight until it touches the ground, then pull it back up again

      This would be the time to tell you do not bounce the weight on the floor. This is begging for an injury that you will get. Believe me, I have learned that first hand. Several times.

      You will know that you are leaning back and lifting your head up enough because the bar is rubbing up your shins. Yes, it will scrape up your shins if you do this lift in shorts.
Shoulder Press
      Shoulder press will be done on the scheduled push days, an example will be given at the end. The upright row, which follows, will be done on the pull days.

     This can be done sitting or standing, but for our purposes it will be done sitting. This offers better control of the movement.

Proper form:
  • Grip the bar slightly more narrow than the we did for the bench press
  • Lift the bar overhead, do not lock the elbows
  • Lower the bar in front with control until it nearly touches our collar bone
  • Pause in the lower position and hold it here for one or two seconds
  • Smoothly and quickly press the bar back into the starting position

Upright Row
      This exercise will be used on alternating workouts with the shoulder press.
Proper form:

  • Grip the bar slightly less than shoulders width
  • Stand upright
  • Pull the bar upwards until it reaches our trachea at the top of our breastbone
  • Hold it for one or two seconds, then lower the weight with control

Push or Pull Days
      Using both squat and deadlift we have more variety. We can alternate our lifting schedule in push and pull days. This could look like:
      In this two week cycle, we are alternating the push and pull routines. This rotation assures an equal amount of both push and pull exertion over the two week cycle.

      As noted in an earlier article, physical changes will take 3 to 4 weeks for you to see results. Your friends and coworkers are liable to notice results sooner.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Preparation for Winter Sports Exercises

Preparation for Winter Sports Exercises
 By Marc Trepanier

            An article in Popular Mechanics from March of 2016 talks about skiing and the amount of force it exerts on our body. Olympic skiers experience up to 3.5g’s when turning. The article goes on to say that Space Shuttle crews don’t go through that much on launch! If you weigh 180 pounds and go through turns at maximum speeds, your knees are taking more than 600 pounds of force. The image to the right was found at
           Alpine and downhill skiers are making minute adjustments through their ankles, knees, hips, and torsos to perfectly align joints and muscles. One fatigued muscle can result in a broken bone, a torn ligament, or joint being ripped apart like someone twisting at a turkey leg at Thanksgiving dinner.
Let’s use this Fall Season to get ready for the slopes.

Toe Walk
Heel Walk
Inside and outside walk
           Peroneal tendon, which is on the outside of our ankles, rolls your feet out so that you are standing on the inside of your feet. Walk like this for up to 60 seconds. Then, roll your feet so that you are on the outside of your feet. This is curling in the tibialis anterior tendon. Yes, your you look ridiculous. Now, walk like that for up to 60 seconds. When you get to 60 seconds, it is time to add a second set. When you are up to two sets of 60 seconds, add a third set.
            When you go to buy your next set of ski boots you must keep ankle mobility in mind. Without the boots on, stand against a flat wall. Keep your shoulders, head, butt, and heels against the wall. Slide down until your heels come off the floor. If you can slide down 12 inches (31 cm) before your heels come up, you have good ankle flexibility.
          These ankle walks in all four directions will build both flexibility and the strength necessary to withstand the pressures of skiing.

Box Jumps
Skater Squat
Side Lunges
Deep Squat Jumps
Step Aerobics Box Set
           Use a timer and start at two minutes. Increase by one minute when you can. In all of these exercises, keep your knees flexed at all times.
The Step Aerobics Box Set is a series of exercises.
1.      Stand next to the step,
2.      When your time begins, jump onto the step with your feet parallel and slightly apart. Keep your knees flexed.
3.      Jump off the step opposite from where you started and land so that you toes are pointed slightly towards the end of the step you are facing
4.      Keep jumping on and off, alternating sides, as quickly as possible for the duration of your time
           The second exercise is similar. The difference is that you are facing the step perpendicular and jumping onto the step forward, then forward off it so the step is behind you. Then, hopping backwards onto the step and then backwards off it.
           The third is Fast Feet.
1.      Begin with one foot on the box, knees flexed.
2.      Hop up and quickly switch your feet while in the air.
3.      When you land, tap you lead foot on the step and quickly hop up again.
4.      Switch your foot position in the air again and tap upon landing.
5.      Repeat for the duration of the set time.

Russian Twist and Bicycle Crunch Combo
Leg Lifts
Atomic Sit-ups
           The Russian Twist and Bicycle Crunch Combo is my own twisted design. This is where the Russian twist portion is. Get your upper body into a half sit-up position. Unlike the Twist, place your hands beside your head and do not pull on your head or neck. Bend your legs and lift your feet. Alternately twist and crunch opposing elbow and knees to touch.
           The Atomic Sit-up is a wonderful exercise. Lie flat on your back and stretch your arms straight out over your head and straighten out your legs. Bend at the hips bringing your feet up and your upper body up simultaneously as far as you can.
           Do these in timed cycles or in sets and repetitions.

Upper Body
Wide Space Push-ups
Diamond Push-ups
Parallel grip pull-ups
           Do each of these exercises as one set, each to failure.
The varied grip positions and hand spacing is done to work our muscle groups through the widest ranges and to target the most muscles possible.
           By combining the three exercises here, we are preparing the pulling muscles in our back for the sudden changes and challenges of downhill and alpine skiing. To learn nore about the difference between pull-ups and chin-ups, click here for a previous piece I did looking at the two.
           Remember the muscles along the spine. Exercising these powerful muscles is too easy and can be done watching TV. During commercials, lay on your stomach and extend your arms in front of you and point your toes behind you. Pull your hips and shoulders towards each other while keeping your arms and legs extended straight from each.
           Hold that position until the commercials are done.

           Until next time. Stay strong, stay healthy.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Preparations for Winter Sports

Preparations for Winter Sports
By Marc Trepanier

          The days are getting shorter and cooler. Leaves are just starting to turn colors. Yes, fall has started to creep in. This means, of course, that winter sports are around the next corner. Skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, and whatever else charges you up.

          Winter sports, in particular, place a heavy emphasis on our legs. Our legs rely on our ankles for stability: our ankles and knees, to be precise. We will go over some exercises that will have you ready for your winter sport. Some of the exercises I have chosen are also used in rehabilitating joints from injuries and being isolated and unused for extended periods.


          Stretching and warming up is an important part of working out. I can’t make you do it, that is your choice. As for me, I stretch and get warmed up before jumping in these days. Time and again, specialists have proven that stretched, limber muscles are less prone to injury. What about strength? What about power? Yeah, I’ve asked those questions, too.

            Bruce Lee had no problems with lack of power, speed, strength or flexibility. From the bottom to the top, calves to neck. It’s too easy. Let’s go.

           Calf stretching is easy enough, as this image from Tribe Sports shows. I have no idea if you’ve ever tried walking on stiff calves before, but I can tell you that it is no fun. Ouch!

Hamstrings, the back of your thighs, you can stretch standing, sitting, one at a time, together, by yourself, with a partner. There are clearly several ways to stretch this muscle group. I will offer one way to stretch this group. If you want to find any of the other ways and work with those, then more power to you.

           When it comes to stretching hamstrings, I had always been admonished to keep my legs straight.  Why there is an example given with legs bent, I have no answer. I keep my legs straight.

           Of all the odd and the myriad ways of stretching the thigh muscles, the single and most effective stretch I have done is the one pictured to the right. In martial arts classes, I have been able to do this with a solid stretch while balancing on one foot. Yes, I impress myself. While in this position, you can increase the stretch by rolling your hips forward and pulling your foot back away from your hips as if you were the bow in an archery set. 

          The butterfly stretch is going to loosen up your hips and the muscles of your inner thighs. Believe me, if you have never done this, it feels great! It also touches on your lower back, which always helps.

As indicated, you put the bottoms of your feet together and pull your heels in toward your hips.
            You press down on your knees with your elbows as you lean forward and try to touch your forehead to the floor.
            As the stretch becomes easier, pull your feet in further.

           I have no clue what this stretch is called, but it’s the best one I have used for the core and back.
           Round about midterms, when I’m exhausted and among the walking dead, my sack of books feels like a ton, and my posture has gone the way of the Dodo, my back looks like Quasi Modo. It hurts! This is my go-to stretch to put things right. This is the stretch that will keep your trunk and back limber and loose for the slopes or for that class in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu you've been considering. Do it, that's great stuff!
            Pectoralis stretches, pec stretching is so simple. All you need is a door frame. What could be easier than that?
           Stretching out your shoulders and upper back is a piece of cake. You’re at the door frame, so … as illustrated, you can pull your arm across your body to stretch it or you can grab hold of that door frame and lean the other direction to pull against it. This way, your body weight will stretch out your upper back and shoulder.
            For your neck, do slow, deliberate head rolls. Start by tilting your head toward your right shoulder. Let the weight of your head stretch the other side of your neck. Roll your head back slowly so that you’re looking up at the ceiling. Continue to your left shoulder. Then, around to the front so you are looking down at your feet. Roll your head around about five times and then reverse directions.

            Now, that you’re stretched, on to the workout.

            No. It’s not Burpees. Not this time. But, they sure wouldn’t hurt … much. The workout will be posted within the next two weeks.