by Bret Contreras July 07, 2010
I’m getting some really good feedback on my “Random Thoughts” blogs so I’m gonna keep rolling with them. Whenever I read something that I feel is interesting or may be of benefit to my readers, I copy and paste the link for future use in my Random Thoughts blogs. If you are a fan of fitness, then I’m sure there are several links that you’ll find useful within this blog.
1. Fitcast Interview
For those who didn’t get a chance to listen to my Fitcast interview, check it out here. Overall I think I did a good job and gave a very informative interview. So far I know that my Mom loved it! If they ask me back on the show down the road, I’m going to try to be more brief, which is hard for me as I love to talk! Fitcast is an amazing resource and it’s so nice to be able to listen to fellow strength coaches, trainers, and nutritionists speak their minds. Best of all it’s FREE. I also love listening to Kevin Larraee, Jonathan Fass, and Leigh Peele talk shop as they are all great communicators/speakers, incredibly knowledgeable in regards to fitness, and quite humorous. Over time you’ll learn their inside jokes and feel like they’re part of your family (although you’ll likely consider Jon Fass to be more like your red-headed stepbrother than your real brother :)).
2. Load Vector Training
I got amazing feedback regarding my Load Vector Training blog. If you didn’t read it yet, check it out here. As a matter of fact, six different individuals who I consider top minds from the strength & conditioning field emailed me to suggest that I refine it and send it to various magazines/websites for publication. I think I’ll take them up on it as I believe it’s some really good stuff!
3. Oxygen Magazine Glute Expert
Oxygen Magazine recently published their special “Glute” edition in which I was consulted as one of their four “experts.” It’s good to see that more top-publications are realizing that I am the go-to-guy for glute training advice. No one out there has done more research (both in the literature and in EMG experiments) than me. I don’t want to come across as being cocky, but if you want to know about the glutes, you talk to me! I haven’t seen the magazine yet but my friend Roger Lawson sent me this picture message.
I know that the issue features Jamie Eason on the cover so I’m sure it will be worth the viewing!
4. What Women do I Listen to in the Fitness/Nutrition Professions?
In trying to support and promote the many great women in our profession, I would like to let my readers know which women I like to follow. They are:
It’s always nice when Sue Falsone and Shirley Sahrmann come out with a new article or publication as well as they’re both super-smart.
5.Mel Siff is Irreplaceable
Dr. Mel Siff died in 2003 at the age of 59 years old. In my opinion he was the smartest fitness dude to ever scour the Earth. I’m still disappointed that he passed away at such a young age as I would love to hear what he would have had to say about today’s current fitness topics. He was so intelligent it was intimidating. He was energetic and enthusiastic and really cared about advancing the fitness field. His book Supertraining is still the greatest fitness book ever written. Take a look at these articles below. Years ago Paul Chek wrote an amazing 3-part article series on TMuscle called “Back Strong and Beltless.” Mel Siff was able to take one of our smartest fitness writers and practically reduce him to an idiot. I wonder what Mel would have said about my work if he were still alive!
Mel Siff’s Response to Backstrong and Beltless Part One
Mel Siff’s Response to Backstrong and Beltless Part Two
It’s funny when I stumble upon a site that steals my work right out from underneath me. Personal Trainer/Life Coach Danny plagiarizes my Deadlifting article from Wannabebig here, here, and here. I encourage anyone out there to spread my methods and advice. It’s always nice when individuals give credit to the originator too. But if you use someone’s exact wording from an article, the least you could do is reference the article!
7. Getting Over the Suck Factor
This may be one of the most important things that no one ever talks about in fitness. Whenever you try a new exercise or new routine, chances are you suck at it. Your coordination and physiology have not been given the chance to adapt to the new stimulus. When I first tried a single leg RDL I sucked at it! Same goes for a Turkish get up, pistol, the Olympic lifts, and cable chops and lifts. However, within a few weeks I was markedly better as my body gained coordination. Had I given up on these lifts right away because I didn’t like them or they didn’t feel right, I would have missed out considerably since many of these lifts are currently among my favorites. Perhaps some individuals don’t feel hip thrusts in their glutes right away as maybe their using classic synergistic dominance patterns (hammies and erector spinae) to make up for weak glutes…
The same goes for new types of training. When I first tried HIT (High Intensity Training which is characterized by one set to failure) eight years ago, I had previously been doing HVT (High Volume Training which is characterized by multiple sets usually not to failure) for eight years. My body was great at doing a lot of sets but it sucked at doing one all-out set. At first I hated HIT and thought it was the stupidest training method ever. Luckily I stuck with it, as I gained more size during my 8-month stint of HIT than from any other 8-week period of training in my life. I attribute some of this to the fact that my body was probably consistently overreaching and bordering overtraining since I used to party a lot back then while lifting balls-to-the-wall five days per week 52 months out of the year. However, I attribute some of this to the fact that I got really good at HIT training. In fact, eight years ago I could do a set of full squats with 225 lbs for 30 reps. While my max is currently stronger than it was during that time there’s no way I could get 30 reps with 225 right now. HIT training is worth exploring as is HVT, HFT, and EDT. Only from experimenting with various training protocols can you learn how to incorporate and combine methodologies in order to create optimal programs.
The moral of the story is don’t give up on a new exercise or method right away. Give yourself enough time to get over the suck-factor so your nervous, muscular, and metabolic systems can adapt and allow you to reap benefits.
8. Ideal Frequency Number for a Lift
Another idea that is rarely discussed in strength circles is the possibility that our programs are sub-optimal since we often confine ourselves to bodypart splits, lower/upper splits, or total body training programs based on weekly schedules and convenience. For example, I often do a type of squat and deadlift on Monday and Thursday and a type of bench press on Tuesday and Friday as I usually follow a lower/upper split and prefer to train during the week (so my weekends are rest days).
However, I’ve realized that I do best when I squat heavy three times per week, bench heavy three times per week, and deadlift heavy once per week (with a lighter or less stressful weekly deadlifting session to keep the nervous system primed, keep the grip strong, and reduce soreness that would incur from only training the deadlift once per week). Some people can handle more deadlifting frequency, while others can’t. The point is that we all have varying anthropometries (body segment lengths) and form so we distribute stress differently. For this reason some tall lifters who deadlift with high hips may receive much more low back stress when deadlifting in comparison to shorter lifters whose deadlifts closely resemble their squats. These taller lifters or long-legged lifters may not be able to deadlift as frequently as their shorter or short-legged counterparts. Ironically, shorter lifters and shorter-legged lifters tend to get a lot of carryover/transfer from squatting so although they could deadlift more often, they may see the best results when they purposely limit their deadlift frequency in order to allow them to squat more often. And although taller lifters and longer-legged lifters tend to get “beat up” more with deadlifts, they still need to deadlift frequently as they tend to not get as much carryover/transfer from squats.
Ideally every lifter would have excellent mobility and stability in their various joints as well as excellent motor patterns so they distributed stress across their joints as evenly and efficiently as possible, which would allow for maximum training frequency. Many lifters find that as time goes on and they get stronger, they benefit from training a lift less often. Some lifters hold onto strength better and can do higher volume and intensity to create deeper “inroads” into their recovery since they won’t be repeating the lift until a week later. Often these lifters can gain strength from hitting the movement once per week. Others lose strength rapidly and benefit from less volume per session coupled with more frequent sessions.
Some strong lifters such as Andy Bolton (the world’s strongest deadlifter) have found that doing speed deadlifts with 50-60% of their 1RM allows them to train the squat heavier and more frequently. For me this strategy would be detrimental to my deadlifting strength as my grip needs constant heavy stimuli or it weakens/detrains plus my body responds best to specificity. For example, I’ve found that box squatting and good mornings do not transfer much to my squat or deadlift, nor do speed squats and speed deadlifts. We also have different physiologies in terms of our nervous systems, endocrine systems, muscular systems, metabolisms, immune systems, etc. so we recover differently from one another.
At any rate, perhaps our programs are too “inside the box” and would benefit from some “outside the box” thinking. Whether you get strongest by training a certain lift once every other week or five times per week, as long as you aren’t damaging your joints then that is your ideal frequency for that lift. Perhaps it would be ideal to construct our programs based on these ideal training frequencies. Here’s an example:
In this example, the squat and bench press are trained heavy three times per week, while the deadlift is trained heavy once per week (with one lighter session in the form of speed rack pulls). Hip thrusts, chin ups, rows, incline press, military press, curls, back extensions, and core exercises are sprinkled in for balance. Of course, every lift you add in may alter the recovery and therefore frequency of a main lift if it hampers recovery of certain muscles or severely taxes the nervous sytem. For example, you may be able to squat four days per week if squats were the only lower body lift you performed, but add in deadlifts and two heavy plyo/sprint sessions and suddenly you can only squat twice per week. But the point is to simply consider training frequencies per lift and attempt to formulate a unique program based on ideal training frequencies for various lifts.
9. Alan Aragon is a Total Badass!
Check him out! He’s a nutrition/research geek during the week, and a lead singer/rockstar on the weekends! If you don’t subscribe to Alan’s research review service, you’re missing out!
10. Personal Training Experience Over Strength Coaching Experience
I’ll take my personal training experience over my strength coaching experience any day of the week. Let me explain.
Years ago I was an assistance strength coach for a high school football team. While the experience was amazing and allowed me to learn a ton about being a strength coach, I believe that my experience as a personal trainer has helped me tremendously.
As a personal trainer, you have more time to screen and assess individuals. You have more time to teach proper form. You can give cues and observe literally every single rep of every set they perform. You can make adjustments mid-workout based on client feedback. You learn the best possible motivational strategies for each individual. You gain a deep understanding for anthropometry/somatotypes and how the various body types move. You can get creative and utilize unique protocals that can’t be used as a strength coach. Your creativity and right-brained learning are maximized as you’re constantly thinking, monitoring, adjusting, and tinkering in order to get the training effect you’re seeking. It seems to me that the most creative exercise specialists tend to do a lot of personal training…
I’ve mentioned this in the past, but I believe that everyone trainer should get some experience as a personal trainer, small group trainer, and strength coach as they’re all different. For example, strength coaching requires excellent planning and systems-creation. Each type of training makes you better at a certain aspect of coaching.
11. World Record Muscle-Ups Performance
This badass busts out muscle-ups like they’re nothing! Muscle ups require some serious upper body strength and are an amazing exercise. Most individuals will never be able to do a muscle up simply because they’re too advanced!
12. Matt Perryman Articles
I love Matt Perryman’s articles! He’s definitely an expert at program design/periodization for strength and hypertrophy purposes. Check out these articles:
This one will teach you the basics of periodization
This one defends linear periodization
This one includes a sample auto-regulatory program
13. Great Reads for the Week
Mark Young’s Excellent Blog About Confirmation Bias
That’s all for Random Topics this Week. I think I’ll have a couple more blogs this week so be sure to check back. Have a great rest of the week!
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