Decades ago in an unnamed private school bathroom a group of grade school boys gathered. There was an underground tournament. I happened upon it on my way to the boy’s bathroom. Three of my peers were testing how far they could get from the john and still make the stream reach without missing the urinal. It was hysterical, partially because one of my peers showed a reckless disregard for his target the other reason was the sheer magnitude of distance another friend was making.
Regardless of this boy’s room fiasco there is a complexity to the scenario of competition, more specifically of all healthy competition. All competitions create a type of escalation. In society we see it in smart phones, politics, art, and life in general. In a lot of ways there is a cooperative competition much like powerlifting is a cooperative competition or cross fit is a cooperative competition. People gather to see who can best the other. This chronic one-upmanship is what makes sport interesting, but also what sustains a competition and builds people’s desire to compete.
Often time’s once our glory years are behind us it is hard to maintain our competitive zeal though I think our best efforts come from when we are competing and when there is a deadline. If anything competition can tell you a lot about who you are as a person, but also it can help you become more than you though you could be, or at least get you closer. I’m writing this to encourage people to compete, to compete in running, lifting, or even craft beer making what matters is your mastery of your art.
As a coach sometimes I once half-jokingly told an athlete that competing is a lot like breathing. You really can’t feel alive unless you are. I find there is some truth to that idea. It is a lot like Shakespeare’s quote “better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” Though I look at it as better to have tried, and failed than never to have tried at all.
There are many types of competitors and a myriad of fields to compete in. In weightlifting though I think if you have never left some skin or blood on the bar you never really lifted. Taking risk is all part of competing if you never expose yourself to some risk maybe you should start. Separate yourself from the spectator, and the critic, participate.
In the brother hood and sisterhood of iron with a quest to solve the riddle of steel there is a rite of passage into this order. Some young followers are not given a map and have to define it for themselves. There are a variety of followers some are Olympic, some Power, some Met con, and others Aesthetic. Regardless of your denomination we are all young at one time and we grow with each consecutive rep and set in this arduous journey towards the unattainable. This beaten path does not have a defined entry way so I decided to create one for beginners. I call it the rusted barbell outreach program. I have been gifted with a number of barbells in my day most have seen their better days some I have contributed to weathering. Either way the program will rely on barbell patterns and introduce variety to the lifter.
Over the years of lifting I have acquired a number of lifting apparatus and various implements to exploit progressive overload with. One apparatus that has stood the test of time is the barbell. When you think about roots of strength/physique sport, you have to realize men and women that were strong didn’t come from a gym. A gym in those days was manual labor. Though it seem likely that barbells were an evolution of the dumbbell. One of the greatest assets of the barbell is also it’s greatest weakness stability. The stability of a barbell provides a way to judge symmetry of movement pattern, but doesn’t allow you free range of motion that a dumbbell will.
As discussed a long time ago the cardinal planes of movement are basically the XYZ planes of movement. A barbell can que the lifter on symmetry. On a deadlift symmetry of bar contact with the body, symmetry of bar contact on touching the ground can tell you if a shoulder is lax. On back squat elevation of one side over the other can tell you about how scapula along with where your elbows are can tell you if upper body is tight. Symmetry of elbow position on a press can tell you about the shoulder. All if not most lifts can educate and que the lifter if he or she pays attention when fatigue sets in or when tension is to great to sustain form. For this reason I have created a program to help the beginning lifter.
It is an outreach program as I have gifted a few people used barbells that may have never seen the light of day again. Good luck, fellow patron of the bar.
There is a concept called critical drop off. It’s is the idea that there is a certain volume of intensity that is sustainable before the volume becomes less than optimal for recovery. I think the late Charlie Francis was the individual that coined the term, Charles Poliquin is the author, I believe who adopted it, but I also believe critical drop off parallels what Tim Ferris refers to as the minimal effective dose (MED). While (MED) can demonstrate the minimum dose critical drop off demonstrates the end of the spectrum where volume can tax recovery. Prilepin I think brought this idea forward earliest by examining optimal volumes at certain levels of intensity.
A friend of mine led me to the idea of using power clean as a marker for critical drop off. The concept for me works a lot like this. You ramp up to a load where you are able to maintain technique at. I typically use 95% of my one rep max of the power clean. The goal is to demonstrate technique @ 95% or greater without going to the hole for as many reps as you can sustain. Once you go to the hole 3 times you have hit critical drop off. The nervous system has potentially been taxed to the point where it can no longer generate enough power to maintain technique above or at parallel.
There a multiple other ways to measure critical drop off, and I am not saying that this way is any more effective than other versions. I am using it as an example for people to build upon their understanding of of critical drop off. In some instances you will get a false positive due to technique and mental readiness however this could also demonstrate that the nervous system has yet to recover from previous training.
In the past I have addressed unilateral work as it helps to maintain range of motion. I think an area I have not addressed is how conventional lifts may increase susceptibility to injuries usually related to pronation and internal rotation be it at the hip or at the shoulder. My best example I see is the squat and people’s tendency to allow the knee to travel in on the concentric phase.
In the past I used to think of the concentric phase as how the body elicits force, but today it makes more sense to me to look at it more like part of an isometric contraction or a fluid series of isometric contractions. Before I go on, I can understand how this doesn’t make much sense as an Isometric is stationary. Though what I am referencing is in stages of the concentric there are permutations of a movement pattern, and compensation patterns that when repeated can lend themselves to injury. Knees traveling in is a tendency to use hip internal rotators while extending at the knee. When an individual contracts, and internally rotates into the bar as they move out of the hole the pattern can lend itself to injury. Standing with the bar in the squat, but not removing the lordosis at the end range of motion is another common occurrence. Both patterns (knees traveling in and the lordotic “end range” are counter productive and strengthen each other towards the forward lean and lack of hip extension or glute end range of motion. This is comparable to the mobility crowds focus on gaining range of motion without the needed strengthening in a range of motion.
When you overload the back squat with above rep maximum weight you can feel the tendency of anterior hip tilt/lordosis to be demonstrates as in most case scenarios it is the body’s natural compensation pattern for a load. The main thing I want to demonstrate in this article is that gait, specifically loaded gait has the ability to lengthen the hipflexor and provide needed range of motion that is lacking in some squatters. Though a loaded gait requires correct stance swing posture. Lead leg favoritism may contribute to a non-symmetric tilt. Where the dominant leg will tend to have less structural issues than your non dominant leg. I have seen it in Olympic lifters where the non-dominant leg is the back leg in the split jerk, but I have noticed it in myself in my tendency to rack back squat weight or front squat weight with my dominant leg. What I think this may chronically lead to is the tendency for the non-dominate leg to have more internal rotation on a back squat due to dominate leg favoritism in these sometimes subtle habits. This pattern of asymmetry and dominate leg may also present itself in boxing and pitching (1) as well thought I’m uncertain of any studies on the subject.
In summary, there are some minimal solutions to dominant leg asymmetries. Backing out of the rack further so you have a 2 step approach, racking with non dominate leg forward, variations of split squat and step up. Though I think the super yoke, farmers walk and other carries could be a powerful tool in increasing strength and range at the end range of a typically lordotic pattern. Though being cognizant of how gait should feel and limiting deviation of the knee in the gaits pattern. Loaded posture will be most significant in correction when the pattern is symmetrical.
Many a man have fought countless battles against the machine. John Henry was one champion of the movement although he wasn’t called a Luddite. This program was written with the intent to sidestep any use of machines even cables for that matter. Allowing the machine to dictate the range of motion would be a grave mistake. As I write this I am deeply saddened that I am using a machine and would like to apologize for my hypocrisy. Luddite 1.0
This program is not for the faint of heart. The goal of the program would be weight loss so it would be advisable to revisit previous post on carb cycling and marcos. My suggestion would be Carbs .5 LBM on days at work and .35 fat 1.2-1.5 for protein. Then evaluate first week by consulting end of week bf% and weight. Days off would be lower carb. Feel free to send me some feedback. I would suggest you take first week pic prior to starting. Also make your peace with God in the case he decides your time is nigh. Much Love