How Does Resistance Training Rank in Terms of Safety?
A misconception is that weight training and weightlifting (yes, these are two separate entities, more on that later) are dangerous activities and are to blame for several injuries that occur in the gym.
From a young age, parents will often elect safer activities for their children to participate in over resistance training for fear of a traumatic injury occurring. Even worse, individual coaches and athletes well into their professional and collegiate careers opt-out of resistance training for fear of it, making them too slow or bulky.
Unfortunately, abstaining from resistance training ultimately does the body more harm than good, and is not the culprit. There isn't any question that poor exercise technique can result in injury; however, the chances of that occurring are unlikely, particularly with proper instruction.
Don't miss out on the extraordinary performance benefits that lifting provides because of the fear of a rare injury. Every day that you drive your car, you run the risk of getting into an accident, but that doesn't stop you from driving. It also applies to weight training and weightlifting.
Taking the proper steps to learn sound techniques will enhance athletic performance at low risk.
To be clear, weight-training is any resistance training that takes place with machines, implements, or weights, while weightlifting is the Olympic sport that includes the snatch and clean and jerk explicitly.
Both modalities include a wide array of exercises, but together they cover resistance training.
Regarding the safety of these two activities, they are some of the safest sports in which one can participate. Weightlifting, as previously mentioned, is a sport in itself, but weight training includes powerlifting, bodybuilding, or any other type of exercise to improve physical fitness.
A 1994 research study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research1 examined the relative safety of both weight training and weightlifting in comparison to many sporting activities, including:
The results showed that per 100 participation training hours, weight training had the second-lowest injury rate and weightlifting had the lowest, an amazingly low 0.0035 and 0.0017 rate, respectively.1
The aforementioned safer option most parents elect to place their children in, soccer, topped the list at 6.2 injuries per 100 training hours.
Unfortunately, individuals are so quick to write off any type of resistance training due to unjustified fear.
While I still believe children should participate in a wide variety of sports, this evidence demonstrates that children and adults, for that matter, should by no means avoid any resistance training unless clearly stated by their physician.
Do You Have Self-Imposed Limitations?
One of the most significant issues I am confronted with when training a new athlete or client is the limitations they bring to the table before our first meeting.
My absolute favorite quote to that point is by Brett Contreras, who once said,
While I digress, he does make a fantastic point. Previous injury, health issues, and paranoia are no excuse to avoid resistance training altogether.
Now I must preface this by saying that your doctors and medical health care providers always know the best way more than somebody like myself, so please listen to them first.
The point I make is that if you have a fused spine and they tell you to never back squat again, that doesn't mean to never squat again in any capacity. (Unless explicitly stated by your doctor. Also, listen to them, not me). It merely means do so in a more intelligent way.
Giant newsflash, you will have to squat to get up and down from a chair or toilet at some point in your life again, might as well learn how to do it right. Falling prey to the assumption that herniated discs and torn ligaments are imminent when undertaking lifting modalities is close-minded.
Everybody should be able to:
They should be able to do each of these functions with some type of resistance at any age, especially if high-level athletic performance is the goal.
Take the barbell squat as our example; it is undoubtedly the king of all exercises, but it is not always appropriate for everyone. It's important to remember that we are loading this movement pattern to facilitate a particular adaptation in an athlete to prepare for their sport.
If one variation does not match up with what they are physically capable of, find another way.
Here are three significant variations.
1. The Goblet Squat
Goblet Squat: Once an athlete can demonstrate the sound technique in the squat pattern with their body weight, they can quickly move on to the kettlebell or dumbbell goblet squat.
2. The Front Squat
Front Squat: If an athlete demonstrates the sound technique in the front squat and requires more significant loading than what the goblet squat provides, another great variation of the squat is the barbell front squat. Similar to the goblet squat, it forces an athlete to use proper core stability to ensure they are maintaining posture.
3. The Zercher Squat
Zercher Squat: This squat variation is a significantly underused one. It serves as s great substitute or a workaround to the front/back squat variations when one may have a wrist injury or something similar.
Athletes who cannot physically grip a bar will often fall behind in their training because they can't do any of the big three conventional movements:
Supplementing this issue with the Zercher squat can make a huge difference.
Age and Safety
I've worked with clients well into their 70s, 80s, and even 90s that can move more weight than they did when they were young because they put in the effort to improve themselves.
Athletes who come to me as freshmen in high school and can't squat correctly with more than their body-weight often cap their senior year by squatting double their body weight.
With the right programming and a little discipline, significant gains can occur.
The earlier one incorporates training into their life, the better off they'll be, mainly when they are young and can pick skills up quickly.
Most people wish they would have learned a foreign language as a child when it quickly becomes second nature, but unfortunately, every year that goes by, it becomes increasingly difficult.
The same applies to movement and training; learning to lift young and lift often ingrains healthy habits into your life that reach well beyond athletic performance.
If an athlete hears that they could take a pill guaranteed to increase their athletic performance while reducing their relative risk for an injury, I can't imagine one that would not take it.
When it comes to resistance training, that is what they are getting, yet some still refuse to engage.
I believe that this comes from a severe lack of misinformation and a lack of guidance.
If you are a coach reading this, help your athletes understand the massive benefits that a good training program can have, and if you are an athlete reading this, make sure you train, you'll thank your coaches later.
1. Hamill, B. P., "Relative safety of weightlifting and weight training." J Strength Cond Res, 1994, 8(1), 53-57.
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September 28, 2020 at 03:13PM
A Weighted Vest for Beginners
Franco Columbu, who was Arnold Schwarzenegger's best friend, a champion bodybuilder in his own right, as well as a competitor in strongman and powerlifting events, had his own views about adding weight to bodyweight exercises, famously saying, "Never add weights to your pull-ups." The thinking went, if you can do multiple sets of 8-12 reps of a pull-up with varying grips and perfect form, that was what you needed to do, and adding weight was a distraction from the ultimate goal, and not necessarily helpful.
There is, however, research on the use of weighted vests (WV) in training, and the recommendations indicate that a certain degree of thought needs to go into incorporating WVs in training protocols but, in some cases, they do produce results. In Effects of Sprint Training With and Without Weighted Vest on Speed and Repeated Sprint Ability in Male Soccer Players the researchers didn't find any conlcusive evidence to support the efficacy of WV training but did recommend its consideration as a supplementary addition to normal training because of improvements in repeated sprint ability. However, in The Effect of Extra-Load Conditioning on Muscle Performance in Athletes, researchers determined that the WV experimental group improved their jumping heights in squat jumps with and without extra loads; their jumping heights in drop jumps and mechanical power output in 15 second of jumps.
On the other hand, in Weighted Vest Exercise Improves Indices of Fall Risk in Older Women, researchers found that postmenopausal women benefited from lower body resistance exercises where the resistance was increased through the use of a WV. So, I am not going to advocate or deny the value of a weighted vest. When it comes to athletic or sports performance there are so many reasons to shy away from making any definitive statements because the one percenters in physical fitness aren't like the rest of us so, it's pointless to try and compare yourself. And, based on research of older populations, there is certainly some value to be had from WV training so, there's probably a middle ground usage criteria that can be applied to most trainees.
The Zelus Beginner Weighted Vest
Which brings me nicely to the Zelus WV that I had a chance to review for Breaking Muscle. The product used here is the 12 lb version, what we have designated as a beginner, but seeing as how the vest is avaiable in lower weight configurations, that might not be the case for you. Judging by the research, you could be postmenopausal, start off with a 4 lb weight and that might be heavy enough to start you off. 12 lb may not sound like much but you do feel the weight, no matter how fit or strong you are.
The picture at the top of the article is how this vest looks compared to a heavy duty, 80 lb WV. There's a world of difference, and not just the weight. Zelus's WV is comfortable and suited to rapid movement. It loops around your back and shoulder, fits nicely, and stays on firmly. It's definitely a good choice if you are going to be using it for a long stretch of activity.
I would prefer to carry a set of dumbbells if I wanted to do a loaded carry over a long hike, or use a heavier vest, much heavier, for ruck, but if it was a sprint, or jog then, Zelus's WV is a no brainer. Again, it depends on whether you think a weighted vest is a help or hinderance in sprinting.
It kind of gets marketed as a CrossFit friendly product. There's certainly a lot of people who like to add WVs to traditional WODs like Murph. Although, you may also like to wear a weighted vest to do your grocery shopping, and if you do, this is a great solution for you and will probably go unnoticed as just a fashion statement.
What I am really trying to say is that this is a pretty nice addition to the WV firmanent. It's a good design. It fits nicely. I haven't had a chance to use it over a year of activity so, I can't tell you how reliable it is going to be but I can't see anything that would indicate that it is not well-made. I didn't really care much for the detachable zipper pocket that came with it, a way to store your phone and keys and stuff. But, to be honest, it's irrelevant to the product. If I am going to take my wallet and $700 phone into the gym or on a sweaty run, no one has invented a pocket that hits the mark, at least not in my experience. On a positive note, I do keep the vest near me at my desk, and every time I can get off the computer, I can hit a few sets of push-ups with it on. Right now, I am at home, but I could keep one in my desk drawer at work, which is kind of cool.
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September 26, 2020 at 03:31PM
Homeschooling 2020/2021 Update
Well guys, we are now a little over a month in our first homeschool year! I wanted to write this post as an update because, as I was saying on Instagram, you can’t really know what is going to work or what you’re even going to do until you just start. This reminds me of knitting, which I learned how to do during this pandemic season. I would have these lofty plans in my head and then get all the materials I needed for a new project (that was probably way too advanced for my newbie self). The hardest part was always STARTING. I didn’t know what I was doing at all but I just started anyway — I just dove in and learned as I knit. Homeschooling is sort of like that for me, I think.
So, if you read my previous blog post you know I had these grand plans to teach allllll these subjects and was even writing my own curriculum to go along with it. Okay well, real life — that worked for maybe four days. Well, it’s not that it didn’t work, it’s just that it was way too much for all of us. I spent my mornings anxiously trying to fit it all in and feeling stressed.
Grayson loved it but I have two other little kids to think about, too. It got to the point where I just needed to be more flexible and adapt our curriculum to, basically, be less. I actually realized through this experience that I can really only do half of what I think I can do. And you know what? That is okay. That’s where we are at right now. If doing less makes me a less stressed out mom and my kids are still happy and learning, I count that as a win. Right now, my two year old literally doesn’t let me do read alouds on the couch or teach math while he is awake (and destroying things). While that’s annoying, I know it’s only for a season. We can work with this!
So, here’s what we found to really work for us. Every morning, we have what we call Morning Time. It’s when we all gather around the table and soak in our beauty for the day (while the two year old throws rice and beans on the floor and the four year old does play-doh). Morning Time right now is literally only ten minutes. I’m okay with that. Every morning we sing a hymn, read the Ology, sometimes do some scripture copywork and work on our memory work. Right now, we are memorizing Ephesians 6: 10-20. We also have been following the Classical Conversations history memory “jingles” via the app (“In 1620 the piiiiiiilgrims sailed from Plymouth, England and signed the Mayflower compact….”). It’s quite catchy and we all have been very much enjoying it! Then, after that, we sometimes listen to a piece of classical music, sometimes look at an art print, sometimes paint, sometimes read a poem, sometimes I read from a picture book…whatever works for the day.
After trying a few different things we finally decided to go with the literature and project based curriculum for elementary students, The Playful Pioneers, from Peaceful Press. It’s all early American history that uses either the Little House on the Prairie books or the Little Britches books (we chose the latter since we already have read laura ingalls wilder last year) as a spine. After trying a few different things, I can safely say this curriculum is AMAZING. We all love it. It’s really just read alouds and projects, which my kids thrive on. This curriculum covers us for history, science, geography and language arts. I just add in math (here’s what we use) and it’s a complete day.
Playful Pioneers is also super family friendly because you can just adapt it for the ages of your kids. It’s also very flexible. I teach “morning time” right when we start school (little kids at the table with their sensory activities like playdoh, rice bins or lots of snacks), then we take a break. When we come back, we do some table time work. Grayson works on his copywork for the day and does some phonics from an Explode the Code book, which he loves. We take another longer break then later, after lunch when Brooks takes a nap, I teach reading, math and we work on labeling our US map according to what we are currently studying. At night right before bed, we do the “big” read aloud for the day from Little Britches (it’s a great book but not appropriate for toddlers or preschoolers. It’s like a step up from Little House on the Prairie).
Playful Pioneers teaches American history through amazing living books, which I have Grayson narrate back when I read them. Once a week he works in his narration notebook, where he narrates, I write and then he illustrates his own narration.
That’s about it! I went from thinking “I had to do school ONLY in the morning and be done by lunch” to spacing it out throughout the day because that’s what works right now. We are also planning on joining a co-op next month so that will be our school day one day a week.
It is exhausting, to say the least. I rarely have time for myself these days and at 1pm I literally shove my kids in their rooms with their books on tape so I can take a short breather with a cup of tea. However, the self sacrifice is worth it because I see how much my kids LOVE learning! It is a joy to learn alongside them. Grayson tells me frequently that school is his favorite part of the day and I would have to agree.
As Charlotte Mason said, “Education is an atmosphere, a discipline and a life”.
I think I will post again at the end of our term in December and provide another update. In the meantime, feel free to follow along in our crazy days on Instagram, as I’ve been sharing more and more frequently there.
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September 24, 2020 at 11:28PM
How to Keep Yourself Upright During a Squat
We all know we shouldn’t look like we’re bowing to worship the gym floor when we do a barbell back squat. That’s a lot of what you see at gyms, though.
These are usually simple and single-joint exercises that work on only one side of the body at a time. But sometimes, and more often than not, we can develop what we need by just spending more time in the positions we want to improve.
Addressing Posture and Position in the Squat
Moving through positions is what the 1.25 squat does best.
It keeps you moving through the positions that are frequently harder to maintain.
More time practicing the bottom positions of the squat means we have more opportunity for sensory learning - feeling the muscles that contribute to a movement where and when they should.
The continuous controlled movement from the bottom of your squat to a quarter standing, back down to the base causes you to maintain the type of balance and posture that creates a great squat.
It’s better than just doing more straight reps because of how challenging it is to lower into that second squat without resetting at the top like you usually would. It helps you feel any shift in the pressure of your feet and the tilt of your torso.
The Benefits of the 1.25 Squat
Some exercises are just variations for advanced lifters who need some new kick to get stronger.
It does that, but it’s also great for inexperienced squatters.
It can be a focused movement practice for anyone trying to make their squat pattern fluid and strong. And, it can be a way for someone who already has an ingrained good squat to strengthen their quads and glutes while they work on the skill of keeping ample tension at a depth of their squat.
The 1.25 squat doesn’t just strengthen and train the coordination of the muscles that do the moving.
Posture breaks down, and squats fall apart because of a lack of control over these muscles during the most challenging part of the movement (reversing from the bottom to standing back up).
With this exercise, you train this capacity for tension better because you spend most of your time in that part of the movement.
How To Brace, Lower, and Hit Your Squat
Set up under the barbell and walk out just as you’d do for a standard squat, Take your breath, and make sure to focus on creating a proper brace. You’ll need it to stay rigid for this extended rep.
Lower into your squat and once you hit your depth, come up a quarter of the way to completely standing. Think of coming up 3-5 inches above parallel.
Immediately go back to the depth of your squat and then stand up entirely from there. That’s one rep.
Make sure not to pause at any point.
Don’t do more than five reps on this exercise, and be aware of how much weight you use.
The focus is on the quality of the movement, posture, tension, and feeling the muscles working well in one coordinated effort.
Don’t worry if you’re coming too high or not high enough on the quarter rep. If you’re going in-and-out of the bottom of your squat twice, you’re doing the exercise correctly.
Change It Up
The point of this exercise is to make sure the right muscles are working where they should and to increase stability in the movement where you’d often lose it.
The muscles of the upper-back aid in creating a structure and posture that you need for a solid squat, so a 1.25 front squat can be a significant variation to this end.
Front squats require that you keep tension in your upper back and keep the chest from falling forward because if you don’t, you’re dumping the bar on the floor in front of you.
Rotating 1.25 front squats with back squats will improve the posture and muscular coordination for a strong squat.
Challenge Your Squat Technique With Pauses
This exercise can be pretty tricky, even if you have a lot of experience.
But if you’ve been training with them, try adding pauses.
Pauses force even more control to keep tension in these positions because you’re spending even more time at the bottom.
Using a one count pause at the bottom of the squat, again after you rise a quarter of the way up, and then also the second time at the bottom is plenty to challenge and advance you for some time.
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September 24, 2020 at 03:40PM