Let’s face it, we spend a ridiculous amount of time sitting down. Even those people who work physical jobs spend most of their down time sitting. This can lead to major postural and strength issues if it’s not balanced out with the proper movement.
Most people have similar posture to the above picture. We round our shoulders and upper back forward, and push the head forward. When we’re standing up we’ll have a pronounced arching of the lower back and the gut will stick out. We have chronic neck, shoulder, and lower back pain. We also can’t even squat down to set in a chair without our lower back rounding let alone picking anything up off the floor. Instead of addressing the actual problems we pop more pain killers, limit our movement so as not to aggravate our back pain, or attempt to just stretch our way out of it. The problem is, those are either just temporary solutions or in the case of stretching, not even the problem at all. As Gray Cook says, “Don’t lengthen one area without strengthening another.”
Here are the real issues we face when addressing posture-
Weak Posterior Chain (upper back, spinal erectors, glutes, hamstrings)
Tight Hip Flexors
Poor Hip Mobility
Poor T-Spine Mobility
Crappy Movement Patterns
Now, for those who are starting at square 1 in addressing all this it can seem like a daunting task to get everything back in order. What I’m here to do is break it down in the simplest terms and make it easier to apply.
The very first thing that has to happen is improving the quality of the soft tissue in the areas you are trying to manipulate. This is done via foam rolling. Foam rolling helps to break up the adhesion’s in the muscle fibers as well as the surround fascia. This will allow for better extensibility of the muscle as well as helping to improve blood flow to it and the surrounding tissue. This step is very important. The areas you’ll want to focus on are the upper back (avoid the lower back), glutes, piriformis, hamstrings, adductors, IT bands, quads and calves. This video show how to do pretty much all those properly.
Foam roll for a couple weeks before starting with any hardcore mobility type movements. Initially foam rolling is going to be incredibly uncomfortable but after a couple sessions it won’t be quite so painful. I personally look forward to my foam roller because I feel much better after I’m done. Eventually the foam roller may not be hard enough to to do the job anymore (unless you get one with the stiff core) so you’ll need to move on to something like regular PVC pipe, lacrosse balls, or softballs.
Beginner Mobility Movement: The Goblet Squat
Read the article and begin with just your body weight. Once you can Goblet Squat just your own body weight you can move on to the other mobility movements.
For those that have been foam rolling for awhile and are ready to move on to some more specific movements these are two I really like.
#1- Squat to Stand with Reach (Hips/T-Spine): 10-20 reps
#2- Ankle Mobility (Ankles): 5 straight forward, 5 over the big toe, 5 over the little toe (don’t change foot placement)
#3- Hip Flexor Stretch: Hold 30-60 sec per side
#4- Naked Get Up (Shoulders/T-Spine): 10-15 reps per arm
If you have a job where you spend a large amount of time sitting, work up to doing this twice per day. These are also great warm up exercises before hitting the gym! Like the title of this post eludes, these are quick movements you can do to really help out your movement without taking up tons of time.
Alright, since I’m well on my way to the goals I’ve posted for my squat, bench, and deads I’m going to post up some side goals for along the way. At the beginning of each month I’ll get a video of my attempt at that months goal. The month listed will be the month I train for the goal posted next to it. My attempts at this goal will be filmed and posted at the beginning of the following month.
April – 1 Pistol Squat (each leg)
May – 315 x 1 box squat w/ full pause on box
June- 235 x 5 bench press with full pause on chest with each rep
July- BW+100 lbs chin up x 1
August- Bodyweight Snatch
September- Muscle Up x 5
For right now my training will be set up as it was before (M,T,T,F) but I’ll be squatting to a below parallel box with a full pause one every rep, wide grip bench (index fingers on rings) with a full pause on the chest each rep, and more single leg training. It’s nothing crazy, just a slight change up in two of my primary exercises and a variation in the assistance work. Over this year I plan on using primarily Wendlers 5/3/1 as a base program with some slight bastardization here and there. I’m going to experiment with some variations on the primary exercises to see how well they work.
As far as my diet goes I’m going to keep it mostly Paleo (I feel a ton better when I eat this way) and I’m going to experiment with a couple of weeks on the Lean Gains style of intermittent fasting to see where my bodyfat and performance in the gym go. Still not much in the way of supplements aside from Vit D, acidophilous, and digestive enzymes. My real goal right now is to slowly put on some lean mass while leaning out just a bit. The days I lift most of my calories will after my training, the days I don’t train I’ll back my calories down a little.
This last weekend I competed in my first powerlifting competition. I didn’t lift as well as I would have liked but I at least got 1 good lift on each event to get a total.
I was ridiculously nervous for my first attempt and just didn’t get set up right which is why I missed depth. After that first lift though I got back into the groove a bit and hit my next attempt. My third attempt I had Scott wrap my knees and it was my best lift of the three. I’m pretty sure I had another 15-20 pounds in me.
Smoked my first attempt and then just made to big of a jump and got pinned on the next two attempts.
This was the one lift that I thought I was going to perform well in but it turned out not be to so. I pulled my opener fairly easy, then pulled my second but got called for hitching. Since my first two events hadn’t gone that great I wanted to get a good lift at 450 since it was something I knew I could pull but I was just worn out and it didn’t happen.
The meet only had about 30 lifters so it went faster then I had anticipated and I didn’t really eat anything once the meet started. I also spent at lot of time walking around between attempts and events which probably wasn’t smart. Whatever the reasons, I didn’t lift as well as I had liked but it was a good first meet. There is another meet in July that I think I’m going to do and I’m looking forward to competing again!
If you have a little time for some knowledge bombs to be dropped your way these articles are worth reading. You need to read these in order for them to make sense. They’re a little long but well worth the read.
#1- Just Say NO!– Life in Synergy
#2- Here We Go Again– Tony Gentilcore
#3- You Just Got Served– Brett Contreras
#4- Woe Be Unto Ye Who Contradicts the Glute Master!– Tony Gentilcore
You obviously have links to Tony’s blog so if you want to read more of Brett’s ramblings check out http://bretcontreras.com.
Click the picture for a full picture tour of Al’s facility.
My numbers are all screwed up because all the plates at the gym we were at are in kilo’s instead of pounds.
330 x 1
340 x 1 (cut it high though)
315 x 1
450 x 1
The plan was to head out to Al’s and just hit a couple decent singles and figure out my opener for the meet. I actually ended up deadlifting too so that I can hit some assistance work at home over the next few days and rest a bit. I did more sets then what I have listed but my weights were all messed up because of the kilo’s instead of pounds. For instance my first set of squats I thought I had 315 and it was actually 330. On deads I thought I went 315, 365, and then was going to jump to 405. It actually my first set was 350 and my second was 400. Since 400 moved pretty quick I went up to about 420 and then finished up with a 450 pull.
Once everything here gets dried out I’m going to break out the sled and drag it. I’m also going to do some heavy(ish) swings and some single limb assistance training over the next couple of days.
185 x 3
205 x 3
225 x 1
235 x miss
235 x miss
Paused Fat Bar CG Press-
85 x 8
175 x 5
195 x 5
205 x 4
This week’s arrangement is changed around because I need to get all 3 lifting days in before Friday. This week I’m just aiming figuring out my openers. I thought I had the 235 but I wasn’t even close. I’ve never trained with a pause before and I trained my grip width in the last week too. I’ve always been more comfortable benching with a closer grip and I widened out just for the purpose of the meet. It’s not working out at all though so I’m going back to a closer grip. On Monday and Tuesday next week I’ll hit my squat and bench openers again so I’ll probably try 235 again.
One of the common reasons for people not to lift heavy is that they have back problems. As someone who has had back and hip issues since high school I know they can be a giant pain in the ass (literally). I used that excuse for a couple years but due since I decided I wanted to try a powerlifting meet I had to find some way to squat and pull big without ruining my back. Here are the top 5 things I’ve done to help me be at least 99% pain free. I still need a chiropractic adjustment from time to time, but nothing serious.
1. T-Spine/Hip Mobility- If you don’t have the hip mobility to get to parallel you’re going to end up rounding your back and shooting your knee’s forward to get deeper. In order to improve my hip mobility I needed something simple I could do not only as a warm up but on my off days as well. Enter Defranco’s Agile 8. Some other incredibly useful movements were the cossack squat, the squat to stand with reach, the glute stretch (00:16-01:10), the piriformis stretch, and the hip flexor stretch. For the t-spine mobility try these two (1, 2). Nick Tumminello also has some great upper back mobility exercises.
2. Ab Strength- Typically if you have lower back pain the exercises you want to focus on are STABILIZATION. That’s the primary function of your abdominal complex (which also includes your spinal erectors). Rollouts, fallouts, pallof press variations (1, 2, 3), and landmines are all great exercises.
3. Upper Back Strength- This aspect is critical for finishing deadlifts, creating a shelf for the bar when you squat, and acting as stable platform when you bench. It’s also great for posture. For this one I used pullups (and it’s variations), kroc rows, face pulls, pendlay rows, and pull aparts were the staples for this.
4. Learning to Use the Belt- while I don’t advocate that you use a belt for everything you do in the gym, when it comes to the 1-3 rep sets where the weight is up near your max I do feel you should use one for protection. Most people, however, use them completely wrong. Quite often people will suck in their stomachs as far as they can then crank the belt down just as far as possible so that it’s so tight they can’t hardly breathe. After that they’ll take a deep breathe into their chest before attempting the lift. The belt should be tightened down to the point its very snug, but not cutting off your breath. Next you need to breathe into your BELLY in order to create the intra-abdominal pressure to protect your spine.
5. Form, Form, FORM- You’ll never hit the lifts you want if you can’t maintain the right form when you’re putting out 100% effort. It’s not hard when the weights are lighter but when it starts getting heavy, your form will crap out before you actual strength levels do. When you can give 100% effort without your form breaking down you’ll be a great lifter. In order to get the proper form engraved into your nervous system so that it becomes automatic you have to perform every single rep right. Just because your earlier sets aren’t max effort doesn’t mean your form should be slacking! EliteFTS has a great series on how to squat and bench, (at their site search “So you think you can Squat, and “So you think you can Bench”) and with any luck they’ll be doing a “So you think you can Deadlift” series as well. For those who pull conventional check out this video HERE, and for those who pull sumo check THIS out.
315 x 3
365 x 3
405 x 2
95 x 10
105 x 10, 10
That was pretty much it for the day. Opted not to push for the 3rd rep with 405 because my lower back tightened up pretty good during second rep. Tried some DB curls but something was jacked up in my left forearm so I called it quits. Trying some openers for the meet next week.
175 x 3
205 x 3
225 x 3
125 x 10
135 x 12, 6
Incline DB Press-
85 x 5, 4, 3
BW x a ton (these were just thrown in between sets of the other exercises)
The 225 was a big PR. It was the first time I’ve ever benched with a belt and it made a huge difference.
275 x 3
305 x 3
325 x 2
225 x 8
245 x 8
255 x 6, 3
135 x 15
EZ Bar Curl + Rev Curl Superset
Didn’t count weight, reps, or sets
Felt great last night. 320 was a massive PR for me. I’ve never singled anything over 300 so I’m really happy with were I’m at right now. My deadlift is also coming along nicely. The only lift I’m still not confident with is the bench press. I’m not going to be throwing around huge numbers but if I can stay tight I should be able to hit a PR on Thursday.