February 20

The42.ie Never Published This…


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You may remember a while back I said I was going to be writing a bit for the42.ie?

Well, it seems I was wrong.

Not sure what the craic is, but I never got an acknowledgement for my previous article, and only found out it was up when someone else mailed me on it.

Being the inquisitive young man I am, I followed up afterwards, and was told that if I send articles on X day in future, they’d be published 24 hours later.

So the week before last, I did just that. And again – nothing. No acknowledgement, and this time – no publish. To say it’s frustrating to put so much work into a FREE article and get shafted like that is a bit of an understatement.

So… since it’s a great shame to let so much good work go to waste, here’s the article in full to be shared with you today 🙂

Previously I cautioned; “Everyone in fitness is trying to sell you something. A product, a program, a diet pill or a magic juice. The truth is there are no shortcuts or magic bullets. Hard work and consistency isn’t sexy. But that’s what it takes”.

Then I went on to list 8 myths you may have fallen foul to.

Unlike most PTs, I don’t like to just rant and rave, I try to provide some valuable solutions. So here’s 4 random gym things I like more than a good bicep pump.

  1. The Serrano Press

Everyone in RevFit describes these in a word that starts with “mother” and ends with “uckers”. They look easy, but they suck harder than the toilets on an airplane. They’re one of my favourite upper and shoulder movements because they require you to stabilise one shoulder blades as the other moves.

Everyone is wild about rotator cuff work, but fails to recognise the rotator cuff originates on a big boney floating structure (your shoulder blade) in your upper back that’s not really attached to anything other than with muscle. If that bad boy isn’t being controlled properly thourgh correct muscle sequencing and action, the strongest rotator cuff in the world will do nothing to stabilise your shoulder.

Think about it this way – you can have the world’s strongest bike lock, but if you lock your bike to an empty shopping trolley, it’s useless. Same story with your upper back and shoulders. Forget about the rotator cuff for a while. Give your scapular stabilisation some love.

Here’s the creator himself demonstrating how it’s done:

WARNING: start way lighter than you think you should. I bench press 160kg and deadlift 280kg while struggling to do these correctly with 4-5kg. We start everyone in the gym doing these with no weight at all. It’s much more important to control the movement than to get “strong” on the movement.

2. Tempo Work

There’s a number of ways of changing the difficulty of an exercise or workout – at least 7 variables I can think of off the top of my head – more weight, more reps, more sets, less rest period, a more difficult movement, combining exercises, and changing the tempo of execution.

Changing the tempo of the movement is very potent. The idea is your body does not know “weight” it only knows how much tension and effort it most produce to perform the movement you’re asking it to perform. By slowing down the movement muscle fibres are forced to contract repeatedly, tiring them out more and producing a bigger stimulus than would otherwise be achieved at a given weight.

There’s 3 main kind of tempo changes – slowly lowering, a pause somewhere in the movement, slow lifting the weight. Your body will ALWAYS be stronger at lowering weight (eccentrically) than it will be at lifting it (concentrically) – in effect the lowering portion is “easier”. If you want to make it more challenging – try increasing the amount of time it takes to lower the weight to the bottom position by 3 or 4 seconds. I warn you now, it will humble you.

If that doesn’t destroy your ego, try lifting it slower. 3 to 4 seconds on the up portion of the lift. I recommend you start at about 50% of the weight you’d normally use for the movement (keep the same reps and sets) and figure it out from there.

You’ll see tempo written as 3030 or 40X0 in some training programs. The first number is the lowering phase (3 or 4 sec down), the second is the pause at the bottom (0 sec), third is the up portion (3 sec or eXplosive up) and the last is the pause at the top (0 sec).

3. Toes Elevated Squats

I’d been squatting 10 years before I ever saw a toes elevated squat. Last October I spent 5 days with one of the most winning powerlifting coaches in the world in La Manga, Spain at a coaching course. This one tip made the entire trip worthwhile.

Next time you’re squatting, try elevating your toes on 2.5kg or 5.kg plates. Take your normal stance, and for your first few warm ups, keep the toes elevated. Do NOT worry about squatting down all the way. Just make an honest effort to squat as deep as possible while keeping your chest up, knees out and hips under.

There’s two fold effect with the plates – every squat becomes a loaded ankle stretch, and they block you from pushing your knees too far forward which means they have to go out – opening up your groin and adductors for better squat positions.

If you squat 80kg for 10 reps, try it this way; elevate the toes and do; bar x10, 40kg x5, 50kg x4, 60kg x3, remove the plates, 80kg x10. You won’t believe the difference it makes.

David (4th ranked 93kg lifter at 2015 world championships) demonstrates toes elevated squat

4. Weightlifting Shoes

This one is one the list mostly because of Al’s squats yesterday morning. He just got a pair of squat shoes (replacing his asics) and the difference they’ve made is outrageous.

If you’ve never seen a pair of squat shoes, they’re like hard runners. The design is pretty similar (some have straps, others laces, others buckles) but the major difference is the sole of the shoe, particularly the heel.

Where a pair of running shoes are designed to absorb impact as you land with their squishy foam sole, weightlifting shoes are designed with the exact opposite in mind. A hard plastic, wood, or compressed foam heel that does not deform or change shape under load.

That makes a lot of sense – the last thing you want with a couple of hundred kilos on your back is a shoe that moves. The heel elevation also helps with balance, and mitigates the poor ankle mobility most people have, allowing you to achieve a better, safer and stronger squat.

I have 3 (soon to be 4) different pairs of adidas weightlifting shoes, including the first pair I ever bought in late 2006. All are still in perfect working order, and the only reason I’ve updated them is because of new designs and pretty colours. Treated well, and worn only in the gym, they’ll last you a lifetime.

Each one of these “things” could be a full article in itself, so if you’d like to see anything expanded on please pop a message in the comment and let me know. I’ll use it to create the next series of articles.

And, as always, if you’ve anything you’d like clarification on, or expanded upon, please just pop a comment below. It’s impossible to clarify and qualify everything as tightly as I’d like while still keeping the article accessible, but I’m always happy to discuss the “whys” of each one in further depth 🙂

James Hanley is head personal trainer at Revolution Fitness in Glasnevin. A gym that specialises in getting exceptional results for real people who live high pressure lives. He can be contacted on social here https://www.facebook.com/revolutionfitnessireland or through his website here https://revolutionfitness.ie/contact/


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