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5 Steps to a Successful Workout Warm-up

by admin

This article will not propose any new idea of particular novelty, but rather synthesize ideas in – hopefully – a novel understanding.

What is a Warm-up and why do we do it

My operating definition of warm-ups at the moment is simply: any work you do before a work out to better prepare yourself for it.

So, why warm-up? Most people know warming-up is of critical importance for injury prevention,etc., but do not know why. Here is what warming-up accomplishes and why we do it:

  • improved blood viscosity
  • decreased risk of injury
  • performance assessment
  • nervous system preparation
  • body temperature increase (perhaps the origin of “warming up”)

My Warm-up Philosiphy

Before the 5 major tips I would like to outline the rational. My philosophy on warming-up is that you bring yourself into increasing states of preparedness – much similar to the law of specificity.

This means that your least specific work is done first, followed by movements of increased specificity until you perform the major sports task(s) at hand.

1 Static stretch/ ROM work/ Smashing

This is what you do first in the gym to warm-up. Some people may need more time than others, but the general idea is the same. Use a lacrosse ball or stretches to deal with anything too tight. Many powerlifting athletes need a lot of work here just to be able to squat, for example.

If you have any injuries or tight muscles, address them here.

2 Cardio

Yes, cardio is scary. No, you are not going intense.

Hop on the treadmill or do any other form of cardio for 5-10 minutes. This is to get your blood flowing, body moving, and temperature up. Do not put in so much effort into cardio in warm-ups that it will make you tired and detract from the work out. Just get that heart rate slightly elevated.

3 Joints/ Muscle activation/ Movement pattern work

This portion of the warm-up is where you start to consider more of what the workout demand will be and prepare accordingly. I will not provide a list of everything you could possibly do here.

For example; If the bulk of your workout is squats then you will need to consider lateral and posterior hip activation, posterior chain activation, scapular and core stability,etc.

Carrying on with the example this would lead you to do exercises such as glute bridges, banded lateral walks, paused squats, counterbalance squats, internal/external shoulder rotations,etc.

4 Blood flow into the muscles

This is when we start touching some weights. Think about the muscles involved in the major sports task of your workout and pick a few movements to go light on.

If we are squatting I would do a few sets of hack squat, leg extensions, and hamstring curls. For bench press I might to tricep push downs, DB press, and lat pulldowns.

The idea on number 4 here is to activate the muscles even further by putting them under a slight load.

5 The Sports Task

The last step of a good warm-up is to now perform the sports task itself. This means if you are bench pressing during your workout then you are bench pressing here.

Do multiple sets with just the bar and then do multiple sets of increasing load until you feel comfortable to move into the working sets.

TAKE-HOME

Warm-ups are of critical importance. If you only remember one thing from this article it is understanding how specificity applies to warm–ups. You are funneling yourself from an unprepared state to a ready state by addressing general needs and then getting specific.

If you have questions PLEASE DO contact me. I will respond and would love to give my classifications or further input.

Supplements: The good, the bad, and the ugly

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My Philosophy on Supplements

Despite owning a supplement company and extensively researching supplementation I do not hold a whole lot of stock in sports supplements in any performance or nutrition intervention. Here is why.

Supplements are named as such for a reason – they are supplemental. Protein powder is inferior to food. Caffeine is not a substitute for sleep. And fat burners will not make you lean alone. Supplements are the icing on the cake to proper nutrition, training, and lifestyle.

That being said, I am in the industry for a reason. Supplements can work very well if you take the right ones, and also many people have lifestyle limitations that supplementation can help with.

THE GOOD

These listed supplements are some of the sports supplements that I think are safe and effective. Supplements make this “nice” list by have substantial bodies of research supporting them, being reliable, and accessible.

  • creatine monohydrate
  • protein powders
  • CoQ10
  • Electrolytes

This list is by no means exhaustive, but is a decent core of priducts that can benefit most people. There are plenty of more supplements that work well in context. For example, joint supports, sleep aids, preworkouts, vitamin and minerals, etc.

THE BAD

This naughty list is some of the supplements that are unethical, do not work, or are particularly unhealthy.

  • Fat burners
  • Prohormones
  • Excessive stimulant preworkouts

Again, this list is not exhaustive by any means, but still relevant. The resource linked at the end can help you see what supplements are good, bad, or ugly.

THE UGLY

The ugly category is reserved for supplements that are dishonest. Because the FDA does not regulate sports supplements, amongst other reasons, there are far too many products that do not have what the label says it contains. There are some common offenders:

  • SARMS
  • Multivitamins
  • Mushrooms
  • Herbal supplements

Not all of these are inherently bad, but many companies have been found over the last decades with discrepancies in those above products.

TAKE-HOME

IF YOU GET NOTHING ELSE FROM THIS BLOG POST READ NOW!!

When it comes to supplements do your research. Make sure what you take has science backing it and that you can tell what is in it.

HERE is a resource that you may plug in any individual supplement that you may have questions about to see a very readable report of the current research.

Use that link and plug something in.

10 Tips to prepare for your first powerlifting meet

by admin

So you want to be a powerlifter? Welcome to the community. Regardless if you actually intend to compete or not here is the information you may need.

USAPL WEBSITE

In that above link is the logistical information you may need including where and when to locate local meets, the rule book, and state/national records.

Do NOT Cut Weight

Unless you are attempting a state or national record and want to be in a lower weight class, do not cut weight for the competition. Many experienced and nationally competitive athletes will do so to compete, but your first power lifting meet should be just to get your feet wet. A fed state helps deal with the potential anxiety of doing things for the first time and will allow you to express more strength on the platform.

Schedule the Competition in Advance

Try to find a competition at least 6 weeks out. We do this so that you have sufficient time to prepare peaking programs and wrap up any current training blocks. Also, depending on your city, you may be traveling and have to make overnight accommodations.

Bring More Snacks than you Think Necessary

A lot of us powerlifters are always thinking about food so this might not be as surprising, but bring enough snacks and water. Meets can get pretty long and you may not have time between lifts to run and get more food. So, whatever you were thinking about bringing – double it and carry on.

Bring a Friend

But make sure that friend is into strength sports themselves. Powerlifting is not the best spectator sport for those not involved in the community, so keep that in mind before asking someone to spend a full day at a meet.

Plan the Competition Day

To help ease the anxiety of competing for the first times, plan your day out. This means think about food, transportation, the 9 attempts you plan on taking, and even warm-ups.

Take Conservative Attempts

The colloquial recommendation for first time competitors is that your primary objectives are to build confidence and not get injured. This is not to say do not challenge yourself, but don’t attempt three lifetime personal bests on your first competition.

Peak for the Meet

This is to say run some sort of peaking program. These sorts of programs are designed to taper your training blocks off for a one-time maximum expression of strength. If you follow the second tip, then also plan out your training and peaking blocks in advance.

Double Check your Equipment

Different federations have varying rules, but if you are to bring shoes, a belt, straps, etc. – make sure that it adheres to the rule book maximum size. It sucks if your whole mesocycle is done with a belt that is too thick for competition and you can’t wear it. Also BRING KNEE HIGH SOCKS. This is important and they will not let you dead lift without them.

Bring Headphones and a Phone Charger

Additionally make sure that your headphones are charged if necessary. You may not be one that needs to listen to music on warm-ups, but headphones are nice to have when it is time to focus. There is a lot of ambient noise between the audience and lifters.

JUST DO IT

My 10th and final tip was going to be to have fun, but that is a guarantee. If you are one of the people that is on the fence about competing I HIGHLY, HIGHLY encourage you to just sign up for a meet and follow through. You do not have to be strong or even competitive. This powerlifting community is phenomenal, so just sign up for one. Click the link at the top of the page.

Blog 1

by admin

The not-so quick fix for tight hips and low back pain

This blog post was inspired by a job interview question I recently heard that asked if the interviewee had any competencies that could be explained in depth, yet concise. It got me thinking about what I would say. Take a stab at quantam physics and try to show off? Marketing principles – or is that too similar to the job? I decided on a movement based approach to curing low back pain; one of my passions and a modality that could would help most of the population immensely.

Majority of modern human beings live in a workplace or academic setting that demands of us to sit down. At the end of the day we eat, watch TV, commute or drive elsewhere – all seated, These contemporary lifestyles are the main reason we develop tight hips and nagging low back pain. Now, understand that it is our human adaptive ability that allows us to survive or thrive almost anywhere, and that is a wonderful thing. It means you can smoke cigarettes, have no nutritional awareness, watch television all day, and still be a relatively high functioning individual. However, it also means that our body can adapt in ways we do not want it to. One example, and the focus of this blog post, is how the neuromuscular systems adopt the positions we spend the most time in. And when the bulk of life time (literally) is spent sitting down, sleeping wrong, and driving then that becomes a major posture issue.

*Side Note: Posture derives from a word meaning position. The colloquial understanding of posture is usually limited to sitting and standing, but that is wrong, Posture should be looked at as maintaining positional integrity in any movement. For example, picking up a pencil off the ground is as much an expression of posture than sitting in a chair with your joints stacked properly.

How does our lifestyle actually lead to back pain?

First, I would like to limit the scope of this blog post to the pelvic and lumbar positioning, in addition to the immediate surrounding musculature, as to allow more granular explanation of the topic at hand. The proceeding information will not be given its due explanation or reasoning, but should suffice for this conversation. As always, for more further conversation you can check out the various social media links on the home page.

Back to the topic at hand – your pelvis positioning is maintained mainly, but not exclusively, through three mechanisms: torsion and articulation from your feet, activation and awareness of the lateral hip and glutes, and lastly your abdominal muscles. When you sit down two of those three stabilizing mechanisms become irrelevant and you’re left with just core strength and a small supporting cast. The body will compromise and sacrifice your pelvic positioning in attempts to maintain a neutral spine postioning and expend less energy. So, instead of using your glutes, hamstrings, core, etc. to maintain posture throughout the day the body learns to tighten other muscles. The most common offenders: the Quadratus Lumborum, Piriformis, Hip flexors, Psoas, and Hip Flexors, will become very tight and overtime your body adapts to these compromised positions. Then we up the ante on these issues by improper gait, poor breathing patterns, and bad sleeping posture. A daily 5,000 steps and 20,000 breathes are 25,000 events per day that your body is forced into inadequate being.

How is this lifestyle fixed?

Well, the remedy is as self explanatory as it may seem – you need a lifestyle change. The big question is HOW. Before being prescriptive in stretches and movements I would like to substantiate the lifestyle point once more. If all you do is stretch to ameliorate your muscle tightness or weakness issues then nothing changes in the long term. A relevant analogy thrown around the fitness industry is as follows: stretching is like putting out a fire. You may get a temporary resolution, but if the stove is still too hot then you only get more fire. If you stretch to fix the muscle tightness then you may feel relief, but if nothing changes with your lifestyle or kinesthetic awareness then you will always just be putting out fires.

Stretches

Stretching, as previously mentioned, will not be the cure-all for tight hips and low back pain. However, it is a fantastic place to start, and any daily efforts in the right direction is what we are really after. Below are a handful of stretching ideas or jumping off points for you to look into. Because every person has such varying degrees of posture, and may have different deficits for reasons other than general sedentary lifestyle (such as a genetic lordosis or sport training with bad form) then it is difficult to prescribe stretches applicable to the masses.

  • lacrosse ball on feet, calves, ql, piriformis, pecs, traps
  • lunge hip flexor stretch
  • frog yoga pose
  • pigeon yoga pose
  • twisted cross stretch
  • upward dog yoga pose

Movement Patterns

Movement pattern implements will be very productive work, particularly before working out. You can look up some of the movements up online to see tutorials (please do). In general the idea is to train your body to pattern movement correctly – activate the correct muscles and joints in the correct sequence. In general these ideas are founded mainly on increasing lateral/posterior hip activation, scapular stability, and general proprioception.

Lifestyle Changes

This is where the rubber hits the road. Will you actually learn how to change your lifestyle to a movement rich environment for your body. Perhaps future blog posts will cover some of these things in depth, but regardless I recommend learning how to do the following:

  • walk: do this more; learn the musculature of the feet and ankles; learn a proper gait; find a shoe (or none) that suits you.
  • sleep: breathing through the nose; using a mattress/ pillow and a position that stacks your spine and other joints in proper position.
  • breathe: learn the various types or breathing, how it is supposed to be executed, and the musculature used.
  • sit: learn how to sit less and how to sit when you have to.
  • stand: which muscles to engage, cues to think about, and where joints stack

Take-Home

You alone have responsibility over your posture and integrity, and for most of us it requires a lifestyle change – but those do not happen over night. Start by doing something – anything – in the right direction and keep moving (literally) towards the light. Stay mobile friends, and I wish everyone who made it this far the best. Thanks.

Matthew David Watson , MD(W)

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