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A question of strength Part 28

Eine Frage der Kraft Teil 28

Are side raises an exercise for wimps?

Q: Are side raises for the shoulders an underrated exercise or an exercise for wimps?

A: If there is one area of the shoulder muscles that needs specialized training, it is the area trained by side raises. That's why you should include side raises in your program.

Side raises are also a good exercise for any athlete who plays a sport that involves a lot of pushing and shoving, such as defensive players in field hockey.

CrossFit analyzes

Q: In one of your last columns you talked about CrossFit and said that no athlete ever became a good athlete by doing anything like that. Have you had some time to get more involved with this type of training?

A: A lot of people love CrossFit. Many of them believe it's the perfect program to achieve their goals. They are also very happy with their progress. And I have no doubt that some individuals have never gotten injured doing CrossFit.

However, I have 6 primary issues with a CrossFit style workout:

1. a lack of proper testing protocols

When I looked at the detailed instructions of a CrossFit certification, I saw programs for beginner, somewhat intermediate, and advanced workouts that utilized multi-joint exercises. However, I have not seen any protocols for testing exercisers for structural balance issues.

I have worked with Olympic athletes from 23 different disciplines and countless professional athletes. And before I have one of these athletes perform their first set of power squats or deadlifts, I perform a series of tests to find muscular imbalances that could increase the risk of injury.

And if an athlete has a history of injury, then of course this is taken into account when putting together their training program.

I'll give you an example: Olympic hammer thrower Adam Nelson was unable to perform power snatches before he started working with me due to adhesions in the rotator cuff muscles. After we addressed these issues using Active Release Techniques (ART), Nelson was able to add this exercise back into his training program. Within a month, he was even able to set a personal best in this exercise again.

Jim McKenzie, a professional field hockey player, was able to go from 140 to 190 kilos in less than 4 months on a close bench press, focusing on corrective exercises - and not bench pressing at all for the first three months.

2. focus on a single training protocol

The training protocols used in CrossFit are not appropriate for developing the highest levels of strength or power or speed. I doubt you'll ever see an elite powerlifter, weightlifter or sprinter using CrossFit protocols as their primary training method.

For example, when I trained long jumper Dwight Phillips for the Athens Games, we worked on his structural balance first and then on increasing his eccentric strength.

Aside from winning gold medals at the 2005 World Championships in Helsinki and the 2004 Olympics, he beat some world-class sprinters over the 100 meter distance during training. I didn't accomplish this by having him do push-ups with high reps in supersets with runs over a mile.

Coaches often overtrain athletes' energy systems at the expense of other physical qualities. Pick up any exercise physiology textbook and look at the VO2max studies done on elite athletes. It's simply not necessary for a baseball player - or a basketball player - to reach a VO2max of 70 (a Vo2max in the high fifties is considered exceptional for a man in his late twenties).

The promotional material I've read about CrossFit implies that this type of training addresses all of an athlete's strength and conditioning needs, but the concept of specificity tells us that if you try to be good at everything, you probably won't perform at your best at anything.

This is also why we don't see athletes who can run a mile in less than 4 minutes and bench press 250 kilos.

3. insufficient instruction for teaching complex training methods

It takes more than a single weekend seminar to develop the competency to teach certain types of exercises or create programs for complex training methods. I would put Olympic weightlifting exercises, strongman exercises and plyometric exercises in this category.

These training methods are sometimes criticized by strength coaches as dangerous. However, if you look at why athletes get injured, it is often due to poor technique.

Interestingly, my first comment about CrossFit got my PICP coaches a lot of work. They were getting calls from CrossFit participants who wanted to learn how to train properly.

4. inappropriate repetition ranges for complex exercises

Although high repetition ranges and short rest intervals can be used to develop muscle endurance, these programs should not be used for certain exercises.

This is especially true for Olympic weightlifting exercises, where it is difficult to maintain proper form when performing high repetitions. And this is particularly difficult if you are performing Olympic weightlifting exercises in superset with deadlifts or any other multi-joint exercise. If you want confirmation of this, look no further than the videos of CrossFitters performing these exercises on their websites.

The Olympic weightlifting exercises should be used to develop speed strength and power. If you want to improve your muscular endurance, then you should use simpler exercises.

5 Inappropriate exercise sequence

In the CrossFit "Linda" workout, what is the logic of pre-fatiguing the lower back with deadlifts before performing power deadlifts? Not only does this prevent you from performing Power Repositions with optimal technique, but it also makes it more difficult to activate the motor units with a high stimulus threshold. This is the reason why you should perform all your sets of power squats before you start deadlifting.

Another problem is that combining exercises with weights with sprints carries a high risk of injury, particularly to the hamstrings.

6. advocacy of controversial exercises

I saw a video on a CrossFit website where young athletes were jumping on cars and standing on Swiss Balls. I appreciate the need to use a wide range of exercises with clients, but this does not include high-risk exercises.

Because of these six concerns, I cannot recommend CrossFit, which is especially true for those striving for the highest level of athletic performance.

But in the interest of open-mindedness, I will say this: despite its drawbacks, the CrossFit system continues to evolve. It will be interesting to see how it changes as more athletes participate in this program along with non-athletes.

The truth about balance training

Q: Balance training is one of the big fitness trends. This includes stability training on a stability ball, as this is supposed to improve balance. Can you really train balance in adults?

A: Adults can regain their sense of balance, but it is not possible to teach them anything new in this respect. If you haven't developed a good sense of balance by the age of 12, you won't be able to improve it dramatically as an adult - it's a waste of time.

However, if you have lost these skills over the years, then balance training can help you get back to where you were. This could help older people prevent injuries from falls.

Before the age of 12, balance training is a very good thing. Children should play on unstable surfaces. Imagine a child jumping from stone to stone in the park. Each stone has a different shape, so the child has to balance on it. Walking on a narrow bar during gymnastics can also train balance.

One expert from Canada goes so far as to say that balance needs to be trained before the age of four. Some will even say that you should start with toddlers, pushing them slightly off the side as they walk so that they have to compensate.

This is of course extreme, but when it comes to developing balance, younger is better. Skiers often have the best sense of balance and many of the elite skiers were on skis for the first time at the age of 2.

By the way, swimmers are the exact opposite of this. They can barely walk and chew gum at the same time. They spend so much time in the water that their depth perception becomes poor. Have you ever seen swimmers playing soccer to warm up? They look like penguins having epileptic seizures.

Balance training may be trendy, but it's pretty worthless for adults.

Neck pulls: Don't do it!

Q: I used to see neck pulldowns and chest lat pulldowns in bodybuilding magazines. Now people are saying that neck pulls lead to injury and that we shouldn't use this exercise. What do you say to that?

A: I agree. Don't use this exercise.

A simple approach to gaining weight

Q: I'm skinny and can't manage to gain weight. How many calories per day should I aim for assuming my workout is optimal?

A: If you are really skinny and your body fat percentage is below 10%, then I would use the following technique that I learned from Mauro Di Pasquale. Eat 52 kcal per kilogram of body weight on 4 out of 5 days and eat 77 kcal per kilogram on the fifth day.

So if you weigh 70 kilos, you would eat 3,640 kcal on four out of five days. On day five you would then increase your calorie intake to 5,400 kcal. In my experience, this works wonders if you need to build muscle.

Of course, I am talking about high quality food and not sweets and pizza.

In my opinion, many skinny guys also suffer from fat phobia. I'm not saying you have to get fat to get muscular, but these guys have such a fast metabolism that there's really nothing to worry about.

Some skinny exercisers simply lack appetite and I am often asked if there is a way to increase appetite. A lack of appetite can be caused by a lack of B vitamins, among other things. A good multivitamin can often 'cure' a poor appetite. A vitamin B9 and B12 injection from your GP can also help.

Limited time for training

Q: If I only had 30 minutes three times a week for hypertrophy training, how should I train?

A: Well, training for hypertrophy three times a week is like farting against a hurricane. It's not going to make you muscular - it's more like training to maintain the status quo.

I just got back from the International Strength Symposium and the scientific facts are pretty clear: the hypertrophy response is a function of volume assuming the weights are at least 70% of your maximum weight for one repetition. Mike Mentzer is probably spinning in his grave right now.

But let's say you're studying medicine, have very little time and don't want to be called a weakling all the time. In that case, here's what I would do:

First, I would stick to four main exercises: Squats, pull-ups, dips and deadlifts. Your nervous system would get bored of the exercises over time, which is why you need to use variations of these exercises:

  • For deadlifts: Deadlifts with a wide grip, deadlifts with a trap bar, etc. I would vary deadlifts every six workouts.
  • For squats: front squats, classic squats, etc.
  • For pull-ups: Variations in grip width and the angle of the hands to each other and the angle of the body - you can do pull-ups to the sternum, for example.
  • An alternative for dips could be dumbbell presses.

Use an A-B-A, B-A-B split. Monday and Friday were pull-ups and dips in one week. That's your training session A. Wednesday would be deadlifts, a variation of presses and maybe dumbbell rowing. This is your training session B.

During the next week you do your B training session on Monday and Friday - and your A training session on Wednesday. In the third week you go back to the original plan.

This type of training plan with these exercises will at least allow you to make better progress than most exercisers with their programs from Muscle & Fitness with exercises like kickbacks.

Abdominal training with additional weight

Q: I know you like to use extra resistance when training your abs, but what's the best way to do this?

Try accentuated crunches on a bench. I was first shown this exercise by John Sullivan. This exercise will expose the rectus abdominis to a different stimulus with the right amount of eccentric load.

This exercise is performed as follows:

  1. Place a bench in front of a cable pulley. Adjust the back of the bench to a 35 degree incline with the highest part of the bench facing the cable pulley. Adjust the height of the pulley to approximately medium height and attach a long rope handle to the cable pulley.
  2. Grasp the ends of the rope handle, lie on the bench with your back to the cable pulley and start with your hands on your shoulders. Roll your shoulders forward just far enough to feel the resistance.
  3. Then straighten your torso until it forms a 90 degree angle with your legs. Make sure you maintain a natural arch in your lower back - you should not round your back.
  4. In the highest position, stretch your arms above your head and slightly forward.
  5. Then lower your upper body back to the starting position in a controlled manner, keeping your arms straight and your elbows slightly bent. In the lower position, move your hands back towards the front of your shoulders.

You will feel this exercise the next day!

Curls for athletes

Q: Do competitive athletes have to do bicep curls?

A: If you are a badminton player, then no. However, if you are a rugby player who needs strong elbow flexors to hold the ball, curls are beneficial.

It's a function of how much strength you need for your sport, how involved your biceps are in that sport and how much time you have to train during the off-season.

"Athletes don't need curls" is one of those blanket statements that simply isn't true. And most coaches who say this have never made an athlete strong anyway.


By Charles Poliquin

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