Examining My Bias – The Squat

We are all biased in some way, maybe it’s political, historical, or as is the case here, being bias for a certain exercise.   And Still the King…. As regards getting stronger, more muscular, and thus losing body fat, or even improving a sport I believe that the Squat is one of the most useful movements you can perform. The question is why do I believe this? Why am I so biased towards the Squat?   I am somewhat ashamed to say that although I am aware of quite a few studies supporting the awesomeness of the Squat, the main reason for my bias is my personal experience, both in my own training and even more convincingly, with the training of others.   Ashamed, you may ask? Yes, because personal experience is a very weak level of evidence. If a chap from a remote village tells you he’s seen Big Foot would you believe him? Chances are probably not. If Big Foot is standing next to him you might be a little more inclined to listen. I am 5’6 and 106kg (233lbs) and almost as wide as I am tall. My training partner Muscle Russell is a kilo heavier and has visible Abs, and both of us are drug free.   OK, that’s only N=2, but there are many more I could mention, although you’ll be pleased to hear I won’t. What I will speak of is the evolution of the Squat. The Squat or Deep Knee Bend has been around forever but it wasn’t until the popularisation of Squat stands in the 20s and 30s that the Squat really took off;...

Why Are You Doing This?

Just an easy blog this week, as in it’s one of those blogs which needs to be said every once in a while, so whenever I’m struggling for an idea I can always go back to this old chestnut, or a variation of it.   Why are you…   Still doing Upright Rows? Some idiot trainer showed someone who showed someone and now every non thinking male (and a few females) do this. Don’t! According to Physio X you’re playing chicken with impinging on a nerve; the benefit Vs risk scale is swaying in the wrong direction. Stick to overhead pressing.  Stop playing chicken with your shoulders Doing Pulldowns Behind the Neck? Most guys do not have the flexibility in the shoulder girdle to do this exercise. It’s like having a shoulder lock applied every rep you do. Also Pulldowns to the front are just as effective but without the risk.   Press Behind the Neck (PBN)? OK, I can kind of understand this one. A strongman named Kamil who used to train occasionally at Darkside once did 180kg, that’s close to 400lbs for 5 reps in the PBN; now that’s seriously cool and I can understand the pleasure that can give but despite allowing you to use greater loads than the Press I think the extra stress on the shoulders isn’t worth the risk. Maybe it’s coincidence but many ex-strongmen have bad shoulders once they hit late 30s, but then again so did I!   Dumbbell Triceps Kickbacks? This one really winds Nick up; he says that in South Korea he sees Personal Trainers giving these to women, and all...

Certified or Certifiable?

Are you mad about getting certified?   I have never before posted a link to an article on the Ace Fitness website, and I may never do so again but this piece struck a cord with me.   http://www.acefitness.org/blog/3339/are-you-over-certified   For many years I have been in the rather nice position that my own CPD (continued professional development) has been done the way I chose and not by attending some silly course I was told to attend by some idiot boss. I have been suspicious and critical of fitness training courses for the last 20 years. In the mid to late 90s I actually had to do a couple of them as it was no longer enough of a qualification to just know what you were doing in a gym, you needed the piece of paper to back it up.   Oh the effort! It must be doing something???   I vividly remember standing in a gym being asked what muscles Hip Adduction performed on a Multi Hip machine worked. I rose to the challenge and answered “not a lot, it’s a piece of shit”. These days I stand by the statement but maybe I could have been a little more tactful because at the end of this course which I had easily passed the facilitator had mentioned that I was arrogant; a jibe I seem to receive on a fairly regular basis.   The problem that I see with many courses, aside from asking silly questions about useless pieces of equipment is that they rarely show trainers what they need to know in the real world. I have...

Do You Need a Training Partner?

One comment I occasionally hear is “it’s alright for you, you have someone to train with. But me….” Followed by excuses as to why they’re not training, or training hard enough. Ironically I don’t spend that much time training with Muscle Russell, the most consistent of my training colleagues, I train first to get out of his way due to the ridiculous programme he’s doing – Only kidding Russ you’re most accommodating. It’s a bit of a shame because he’s an excellent training partner, in many ways – just don’t tell him that.   The Best Training Partners Ever I’ll admit that over the years I’ve had some excellent training partners from the aforementioned Russ, to Nick (obviously), Daz, Tony, Mark, Steve, Julie, Ansel, and the others currently (and previously) training at Darkside. The mentioned ones are just the tip of the iceberg, there are others; my apologies if you’re not mentioned above. The key point about training with someone is that they bring something to your training, whether it be coaching, encouragement, energy, or even just a good attitude, but it has to be something because you really are better off training on your own than with the wrong person. I hope it goes without saying that you also need to bring something to their training. I really try to avoid negative types. I will be sympathetic when you tell me about your injuries – to a point, but when it’s time to train shut up and get on with it. As the great writer Emile Zola said “allon traviez”, which means “go to work”. Talking whilst training...

Ass to Grass Squats? I Doubt It!

The World of strength and conditioning is relatively sensible when compared to the rest of what we could call “The Health & Fitness Industry” if we were to use an umbrella term, but it does have its moments of madness. Maybe madness is a little too harsh a term, I’ll borrow a phrase from the great Christopher Hitchens and say that some can be a little “tender-headed”.   Now that’s low but is it good for you? The term “Ass to Grass Squats” has been familiar to many for a few years now. Proponents say that one should Squat as low as possible. They say this activates more muscle mass, and creates greater mobility. Sounds good doesn’t it? Sounds good until you look with a skeptical eye. What I see when people try to Squat A2G (as they say) is a collapsing in of the knees, as you can see with our very mobile friend above, and / or a rounding of the lumbar spine. According to Physio X, our resident physiotherapist here at Get Mighty Now collapsing in of the knees could cause weakening of the tendons and ligaments around the knee, which could result in serious injury. The rounding of the lumbar spine causes more shear force in that area which again could lead to serious injury. So, no A2G Squats probably isn’t what most of you need.   So what should you do? Box Squat to a depth where you can keep your knees and especially your spine in correct position. When Box Squatting fixing knees is relatively easy, as you sit BACK onto the box...

Critique of Rippetoe Throws Down

I like the work of Mark Rippetoe, I really do. I own a couple of his books, “Starting Strength”, and “Practical Programming” which I read a few years ago, and I remember rating them pretty highly; although after reading this article I might need to have another look.   An excellent book   I have also read many of his articles over the years and as with his books I have always been left with a good impression of Mark’s training philosophy.   This time it was a little different, while I liked much that was in this article there were also a few things I disagreed with.   Have a read through and see if you agree with my observations.   I have used the following code to simplify things.   What I like is in blue   What I dislike is in red   My comments are in green     Rippetoe Throws Down See  original article here – http://www.t-nation.com/free_online_article/most_recent/rippetoe_throws_down    So is understanding the difference between the basic barbell movements – the primary exercises – and the assistance exercises, the ones people seem to worry about the most.   What’s the difference between an effective strength coach and a physical therapist pretending to be a strength coach?   What’s the difference between a lifter who gets big and strong and the gym rat who’s been the same skinny kid for 3 years?   What’s the difference between a successful strength athlete and a frustrated P90Xer or CrossFitter?   What’s the difference between a productive trainer and a babysitter (highly paid, ineffectual personal trainer)?   In each of the...