strength

From Russia With Love: Training With Kettlebells – Part 1

For More Like This Visit

Do you know your pood from your goblet squat? Or your swing from your get ups? If not, this is the article for you! For many, kettlebells are a relatively new piece of gym equipment. You may have even seen a few knocking around the gym floor, wedging doors open! Kettlebells have been around for decades, centuries in fact. And they are one of the ultimate weapons in your battle to get lean, strong and functionally fit.

In this article i am going to introduce to the #SacredSix, 6 exercises that when mastered, will arm you with serious ammunition in reaching your kettlebells-585x389-585x348fitness goals. Like all exercises, leave your ego at the door when it comes to kettlebells. They are awkward and physically demanding and even if you are used to throwing around the big boy weights from the dumbbell rack, kettlebells will place a completely different challenge on your body. Nail the techniques and get a feel for how the kettlebells move before attempting to chuck up the higher weights.

Speaking of weights, kettlebells are not measured in your conventional kilograms or pounds (although many do come with this engraved or
printed on them). The true measurment for k’bells is actually a pood and is the equivalent of around 16 kilograms (that’s roughly 35 lbs). Just in case you end up with a kettlebell that is measured only in pood’s keep this conversion in mind, as 2 pood is a whopping 32kg, a challenging weight by anyones standard.

One of the great things about kettlebells is the fact they are so unstable. This places a unique challenge on the body and makes kettlebells a great tool for srength and conditioning programmes, as well as a way to make any conventional dumbbell exercise a little more taxing.

**************************************************************
For the rest of this article and more, visit http://www.tbsperformance.com
The Brand New TBS Website!
**************************************************************

BRAND NEW TBS DAILY DIGEST

For More Like This Visit

back-soon

Hey guys, how have you been?

In the words of Aaron Lewis “It’s been a While..”

Well, it has on the TBS Blog anyway…

If you’ve been on the TotalBodySculpture Facebook page or over at our Website, you will have seen all the things we’ve been up to, including my nomination as one of the Top 10 Personal Trainers in the World, which led to me being flown out to Barcelona to showcase my skills and knowledge!

A brilliant experience and I can say I met some incredible people during my trip, as well as sampled the great food (and red wine) of Bar-ce-looonaaa -sang in my very best Freddie Mercury voice!!

However, i’ve also managed to throw up some new articles on kettlebells, sand bags and loads of other content!

The best way to stay in the loop is to join a couple of 1000 others and join the TBS Newsletter. In fact, joining now will ensure you get on the list for my brand new daily email, which will be going out on Monday, with access only available until the end of the year, before going to an invitation only newsletter. So head over to the website at http://www.totalbodysculpture.com and ht the sign up page whilst you still can!

Hang Tough: Perfecting Your Pull Ups (& Chin Ups) Part 1

For More Articles Like This, Please Click The Link Below!

Become ALPHA!

Pull ups & chin ups are 2 great bodyweight exercises that can be performed almost anywhere, with minimal equipment. Hitting a variety of muscles including the traps, lats, biceps and delts, pull ups & chin ups should be incorporated in to any strength & muscleImage building programme. In fact, there is no better exercise for building strength in the upper body. There are significant differences between the two exercises and this guide will illustrate not only the differences between the chin up & pull up, but also how to perform them correctly, even if at the moment you can’t even perform 1!

So what is a pull up? Grab a bar and hang from it. Now, pull yourself up until your chin clears the bar. That’s it! If you use an overhand grip (palms facing away from you), you’re performing a pull up. If you’re using an underhand grip (palms facing you), you’re performing a chin up. It’s as simple as that!  Of course you can make the exercises harder or easier depending on your level of strength, but both the pull up & chin up are still great exercises in this basic form.As we stated earlier, they are exercises that can be performed almost anywhere that you can hang from.

The full pull up technique can be broken down into 7 key points.

1. Start each rep from a ‘dead hang’, with the arms extended fully.

2. Using an overhand grip, take the bar close to the fingers not the palm.

3. Breathe at the bottom of the movement as this is much easier than trying to breathe at the top.

4. Focus on a point above the bar & pull up towards the bar, pushing the chest out and shoulders back. Don’t allow the shoulders to pull forward as this places unnecessary stressImage on them.

5. On the drive, pull your elbows towards the floor. This engages the stronger latissimus dorsi muscles.

6. Bend at your ankles behind you, this is a much stronger position than just having the legs hang below you.

7. Using your legs to aid in the drive is known as ‘kipping’. Only incorporate this when you are tired.

START OFF ASSISTED

The hardest part of the pull up is the actual pulling up portion. Only around 1% of women can perform unassisted pull ups. If you have a training partner, have them assist you in the lifting portion of the exercise by providing a platform for your ankles to push against or by aiding you at the hips. If you have suitable equipment, tie an elasticated band to the bar and hook it underneath where your ankles are crossed, again to provide some assistance on the lifting portion. Click HERE for an example on how to do this!

If you have one available, utilise the ‘Assisted Pull Up Machine’. This machine works by using a counter-balance, which reduces the amount of your bodyweight that you are forced to lift. The greater the amount of weight selected, the less bodyweight you are pulling up to the bar. This is a good machine for those with very little upper body strength, however as you are unable to control the decent or ‘negative’ portion of the exercise, progress can be slow. Therefore, it is much better to use assistance from a partner instead of this machine.

IT’S GOOD TO BE NEGATIVE

The lowering portion of the pull up or ‘the negative’ is a controlled decent from the bar to the arms fully extended & because you are working with gravity instead of against it, it is an easier part to perform for the beginner. Performing ‘negative only’ repetitions is a great way to build up the strength on route to performing your first full rep. This can be achieved in a couple of ways.

1. Using a Team Mate – As we stated above, have a partner aid you in the lifting portion & slowly lower yourself back down

Image2. Step Up To Achieve – Place a step or bench beneath the bar & jump up into the top of the movmenet before again slowly lowering yourself back down.

3. Challenge Your Negative – Some people may get to a point of being able to perform multiple negative reps, without being able to do a full pull up. Adding some extra weight using a dipping belt or a small dumbbell.

Chin ups are an easier exercise to perform than pull ups, so utilise the above methods using the chin up technique. However, try to use both methods as they do utilise slightly different areas of the body.

Once you can perform 10-15 full repetitions, adding resistance in the form of a dipping belt with added weight, or a dumbbell held between the knees will keep the exercise challenging.

In Part 2 of the ‘Hang Tough’, we will look at more challenging versions of the movement, including ‘muscle ups, ‘side-to-sides’ and asymmetric chins!

Pressing Ahead: Military Style

For More Articles Like This, Please Click The Link Below!

Become ALPHA!

The press is another of those exercises that can be used to develop strength and musculature in a variety of muscles. Along with the bench press, the shoulder press should be part of any training programme geared towards increasing strength in the upper body.
The type of form adopted for the shoulder press can be varied with the use of both barbell and dumbbells each bringing their own strengths and weaknesses. Here we will concentrate on the standing shoulder press, or ‘Military Shoulder Press’, although I will also touch upon the alternatives later.Image

The military shoulder press is predominantly a shoulder exercise, hitting all 3 of the shoulder heads (the clue is in the name!) However when performed correctly, with optimal weight, the military press also hits the traps, triceps and ‘core’ muscles.
When teaching the correct form of the military press, my preference is to use an empty Olympic barbell. If an Olympic barbell provides too much resistance, simply use a broom handle or similar lightweight pole until the correct form is mastered. Using too much weight at an early stage can cause technique errors to manifest themselves and become habitual, which if left uncorrected, could cause less than optimal performance and injuries to occur.

The steps below will allow you to master this multi-muscle strength builder in no time! Ideally the bar should be set up at around chest height, similar to if we were using the bar for squats, however, this is not always possible. A training partner or spotter that can aid you in getting the bar in to position can be invaluable, especially when performing working sets.

1. The first step in the military press is the grip. Simple human mechanics dictate how and where to grip the barbell. Grasp the bar just outside shoulder width so that the forearms are in a vertical position. This allows the bones of the forearm to be placed directly below the bar, on the heel of the hand. Positioning the bar here is optimal for the early stages of the ‘drive’.Image

2. The position of the elbows is an important point to consider for the balance of the shoulder press. Elbows under or behind the bar can cause the barbell to be driven away from the body, making a less than efficient and therefore less than optimal movement. This can also place unwanted stress on the shallow shoulder joint. Ideally, we want the bar to be resting on the front heads of the shoulders, with elbows slightly ahead of the bar. This will allow the bar to be driven directly upwards to a point over the crown of the head, in-line with both the shoulder blades and the middle of the feet. Yes, this means the bar will move towards your forehead, but as you will see below, we move the forehead out of the way first!

3. The military press requires a firm base from which to drive from. Using a stance not too dissimilar to one that would be used to squat, we are able to provide a stable base of the ‘kinetic chain’. The kinetic chain is the various muscles and bones involved in the production and transmission of force between the base of support and the load being moved, in this case starting at the ground and ending at the bar. This is one reason why it is important that the correct footwear is used when performing barbell movements such as the press, deadlift and squat. The standing military press requires the longest kinetic chain of the human body and is therefore a great way of building stability whilst under load.

4. Once you have established a firm base, it is time to stabilise the upper back by lifting the upper chest or “showing off your boobs”. Imagine you are pushing your chest up towards your chin by contracting the upper erector spinae. This movement along with the correct positioning of the elbows lays the foundation of the pressing movement.

Image5. When you are ready, take a deep breath*, hold it and press the bar overhead until the elbows are locked out. The bar should finish positioned over the middle of the foot, the shoulder blades and behind the forehead, not infront. Once the bar is locked out at the top, shrug the shoulders up to support the bar, The arms and traps working together will support the bar overhead, particularly when using heavy weights. Locking the elbows out and shrugging the traps up with the bar directly over the ears, produces a stable position for the shoulder girdle muscles and prevents shoulder impingement.

6. In 1972 the standing shoulder press was dropped from Olympic weightlifting competition. One reason for this was the bench press was growing as a preferred choice as a pressing movement (a movement with a very short kinetic chain ironically). Another reason is the amount of ‘lean’ permitted by competition judges was just too varied. However, as we’re not under competition rules, ‘learning to lean’ is key to not driving the bar into our nose and forehead. As the bar is starting a few inches ahead of where it will finish, some lateral movement is needed as the bar moves vertically. Pushing the hips forward whilst the bar is resting on the shoulders helps us to achieve this. The knees and lower back must remain locked out during this movement, as the hips are the only part of the body required here. This movement can and should be practiced without the bar. Practice isometric contractions the abdominals and quadriceps to stabilise the lower back and knees whilst not using the bar. This can be invaluable when it comes to incorporating this technique to a weighted barbell.Image

7. The Military Shoulder Press does not use any momentum from the legs to assist the upper body in pressing the bar. Towards the end of a set, you may want to incorporate the ‘push press’ as the shoulders begin to fatigue. It is performed almost identically as the military press, with the addition of a small, explosive ‘push’ with the legs. This produces momentum from leg drive, which will allow you to push past the early sticking point brought on by fatigue. See Tip Box on how to incorporate this movement into the end of your sets.

8. Once you have practiced this motion and feel comfortable with its use whilst under a weighted bar, it is time to incorporate each element together. Take the bar out of the rack with the correct grip, elbows in the correct position, chest up and hips forward. Do not begin to drive the bar upwards before you have pushed the hips forward. Doing so will cause you to push the bar forward slightly to avoid hitting the face, instead of straight up which is what is desired. Once the barImage has passed the forehead, move the hips back and the torso forward to get under the bar, don’t move the bar backwards. The forward movement of the torso aids in the lockout of the elbows and traps, bringing the upper arm and forearm into alignment.

TOP TIP

Utilising the push press is a great way to finish of the set, especially as fatigue has kicked in. From the standard starting position (A), bend the knees slightly whilst maintaining your stable ‘core’ (B). Drive the hips upwards explosively. With this momentum, drive the bar upwards and continue to lockout as with the military press (C).

Deadlift 101.1

For More Articles Like This, Please Click The Link Below!

Become ALPHA!

Following on from the Squat technique article I posted last week, what could be better than a 2-part series on Deadlifts! There are very few exercises that stimulate multiple gImagerowth like the deadlift can. It is one of the main exercises used as a benchmark of overall strength, simple to execute and a big strength and mass builder when used correctly. Unfortunately, it is also one of the exercises I see performed incorrectly more time times than any other in the gym. On a number of occasions I have felt the need to intervene before a serious injury occurred.
Below, i’ve split this King Strength Builder into 8 easy to highlight steps, that will have you well on your way to perfecting your deadlift. The advise below is for the conventional Regular deadlift. Part 2 will look at the variations of the deadlift, which include the Sumo, Stiff-Legged & Rack Pull.

1. Stand with feet slightly narrower than shoulder width, with the bar over the middle of the feet. Note that I said feet, not trainers.  Feet can be angled out slightly. This will allow you to establish a better back angle.

2. Bend at the waist, keeping legs straight, gripping the bar with a tight overhand grip. A split grip of overhand & underhand can also be used.

Image3. Now bend the knees until the shins touch the bar. The bar should be over the middle of the feet, with shoulder blades directly above the bar. This should establish the correct back angle for the lift.

4.Taking a deep breath, take the tension of ther bar. Maintaining neutral alignment in the neck, lift the chest and pull your shoulder blades back and down, looking forward at a point roughly 15-18 feet infront of you. This will allow you to gauge your body position throughout the movement.

5. Pushing your heels through the floor, lift the chest, pulling the bar upwards in a smooth motion, maintaining its proximity to the body. Be ready to suffer some shin scraping.

6. Once the bar has passed the knee, drive the hips through & the chest forward as you pull the shoulders back. Some people may feel the benefit of using the latimus dorsi to pull the bar upwards towards the waist. Hyper extension of the hips is unnecessary, locking out is the aim. Try to maintain the deep breath as this will support the back and core.

7. The eccentric (lowering) part of the movement will be performed much quicker than the concentric part. Lower the bar by pushing the hips back and when the bar reaches the knee, start to bend the knees.
Don’t try to control the weight too much, just go down with it.

Nothing builds & shapes a great behind like the deadlift.

Nothing builds & shapes a great behind like the deadlift.

8. Keep the chest up and your focus forward as this will stop you from rounding the back & which is better for the back.

 

Hints & Tips

*TIP 1: When deadlifting, use flat soled shoes such as Converse Chuck Taylors, Adidas Boxing shoes or as a last resort, bare foot like Arnie. This will allow you the proper stability when pushing through the heels. Just don’t drop weights on bare feet. It hurts. A lot!

*TIP 2: Avoid using wrist straps where possible. Relying on wrist straps will not only take away the added grip strength benefits, but will also place stress on the wrists where the straps dig in. Use straps for big PB efforts.Image

*TIP 3: Need some added grip? Chalk up!
Climbing chalk or powerlifting chalk will reduce moisture on the skin, which is how calluses form. If your gym doesn’t allow the use of chalk, your gym sucks & you should trade up!

Wide or Narrow Grip Pull-Downs/Pull-Ups: Does It Make a Difference?

Although my bread & butter is personal training, my background involves a combination of athletics, martial arts and strength & conditioning. I have various S&C qualifications and along with competing next in fitness/muscle model competition, S&C coaching will become more prevalent in my TBS life. I have always been a keen advocate of training both the mind & body and “everyday’s a school day” is a term often used. So, following on from the recent Poliquin articles i’ve posted, here is another strength related article written by Brad Longazel from EliteFTS. I make sure to read consistently and an article regarding an exercise all of my PT clients will be familiar with, pull ups/chin ups! Enjoy!

Wide for wide, in for in, in for out, out for in—we’ve heard all the catch phrases for where to hold the bar on a lat pull-down. But do a few inches in or out really make a difference? The latissimus doris (LD) primarily works to create two major actions on the arm. It works in adduction (pulling the arms to the sides of the body) and extension (pulling the arms down from a horizontal position past the torso; 2). Muscles contract in the same fashion, fibers become shorter, and this creates movement. If muscles all contract the same, why does a changing in hand position on pull-downs and pull-ups feel vastly different?

The Department of Kinesiology at Pennsylvania State University took on the challenge of answering this question. They looked at electromyographic (EMG) action of the latissimus dorsi, biceps brachii, and middle trapezius under varying hand positions on the lat pull-down to determine which created the greatest amount of muscular activity in each of the muscle groups.

It’s all in the grip

Much of the way lat pull-downs are performed is based on personal belief and experience. Though the lat has a few anatomical variations from person to person, it still ultimately performs the same two major actions for everyone. With the movement, the bar path will go in one of two directions. The bar can be pulled in front of the head or behind it (or you can rock back like your dodging an undercut (not the optimal method) for a few). Any pull-down movement performed behind the head can narrow and impinge the tendons that run through the subacromial space and lead to pain or even tendentious in the glenohumeral joint if it is done repetitively (2). There is an endless number of ways to perform the movement. But which one is the best for muscular development and shoulder health?

Penn State took twenty regularly active men and had them perform wide over-handed, wide under-handed, narrow over-handed, and narrow under-handed gripped pull-downs (3). Due to negative effects of behind the neck pull-downs, all pull-down styles where performed in front of the head. In efforts to see how hard each muscle was working, EMG electrodes were placed parallel to the muscle fibers’ anatomical orientation on the latissimus dorsi, biceps brachii, and middle trapezius. Then the men performed each style of pull at 70 percent of their one rep max.  After all results were analyzed, it was found that wide grip over-handed lat pull-downs had elicited greater muscular activity of the latissimus dorsi than either wide or narrow under-handed pulls. Results also displayed that there wasn’t any significant difference in wide or narrow gripped over-handed pull-downs. Further, EMG results from the middle trapezius and biceps brachii muscular activity failed to show any difference between any styles of the pull-down (3). What does this all boil down to? If you’re targeting specific lat strength, grip the bar over-handed. It doesn’t matter whether it’s wide or narrow. Just make sure that it’s over-handed in terms of muscular activity.

Why over-handed?

Over-handed lat pull-downs and pull-ups reign as champion. This is purely an anatomical reason when the movement is broken down. When the forearm is placed in an over-hand (pronated) position, it places the shoulder in a mechanically disadvantaged state (1). This causes the lats to perform a greater amount of work compared to an under-handed pull. Many may think that this is due to the biceps compensating and taking over in the under-hand pull-down, but this isn’t so. The EMG results from the study cancel out this idea. Biceps brachii showed similar activity in all four styles. The real reason is linked to the fact that when you hold a bar in an over-hand position and look out at your elbows, they are positioned more to the side of your body than in an under-handed position. When the elbows are out, the shoulder joint has to travel in a greater range of motion to complete the pull-down, which explains why the lats were activated to a greater degree when held with an over-hand grip (1). Optimizing this fact in your training can be done with a rotator bar, which forces you to move your elbows even further out to your sides. Over-handed pulls reign supreme, and the debate is finally settled. Wide or narrow is of no matter. Just hold the bar over-hand, right? This is true with one slight limitation. The latissimus dorsi’s anatomical structure is generally the same on everyone, but the joint that it directly influences has a few more considerations to note before you grip the bar and start spreading those lats.

Shoulder joint limitations

The shoulder is a highly mobile joint. It needs to be strengthened to produce force yet mobile enough to move through a full range of motion. Over-handed grip pull-downs and pull-ups are great for developing the lats, but they will also place the shoulder into a externally rotated state, which can be a problem for people suffering from rotator cuff tears, tendentious, or even frozen shoulder in extreme cases (2).

When pain is present in the shoulder, proper movement should be a greater concern over which movement is going to give you the biggest bang for your time spent in the gym. Under-hand gripped pulls are great for keeping the shoulder in a more neutral non-rotated position, but there are better choices. Neutral grip pulls with bars such as the Swiss multi-grip cable bar, the fat grip double D handles, and the fat grip neutral lat pull-down bars are better choices for two reasons. The neutral hand position will place a greater amount of work on to the lats without compromising the position of the shoulder joint. It also disperses the load over the entire hand, which helps maintain forearm and elbow health in the lower arm. A neutral grip will be the most beneficial choice with the presence of shoulder pain. Once the pain or issue is relieved, it’s time to rotate that grip around and get the most out of your pull-ups or pull-downs.

Conclusion

The debate over the best method to perform the lat pull-down has lingered for years in the minds of self-proclaimed gym gurus and professionals alike. We can all now sleep better at night knowing that the debate has finally been settled. Wide or narrow doesn’t matter. Just make sure that you can see the back of your hands when you do your pulls. This will ensure optimal lat development. But we aren’t all created equal. Limitations to training arise with injuries, and modifications need to be made to ensure that movements can be performed safely. If the shoulder joint is limited in movement—be it flexion, abduction, or external rotation—switching to a neutral grip is the best approach. Removing external rotation from the pull-down will allow you to continue working when pain limits optimal movement. Lat pull-downs are a wonderful exercise when working up a client or yourself to a full pull-up. Make sure to select your grip appropriately based on shoulder health and then unleash the potential packed in your back.

Works cited

  1. Antinori F, Felici F, Figura F, Marchetti M, Ricci B (1988) Joint moments and work in pull-ups. J Sports Med Phys Fitness 28: 132–37.
  2. Crate T (1996) Analysis of the lat pull down. J Strength Cond Res19: 26–9.
  3. Lusk S, Hale B, Russell D (2010) Grip Width and Forearm orientation Effects on Muscle Activity During the Lat Pull-Down. J Strength and Conditioning Research 24:1895–1900.