Parts of a Whole

Posted in Performance on March 26, 2013 by razorsedgeperformance

This post is also written for Sports Eh!

Perspective is an important thing in training, especially with young athletes. As a former football player I can attest to the draw of the huge physique. Once you start getting a bit of mass from your program, it’s easy to get distracted and think that that is your primary goal – getting HYOOGE! The problem is, besides bodybuilders, that’s never the primary goal. How would you answer this question:

Would you rather get huge or dominate at your sport?
image

If your answer is #2 then you need to make sure you shift your focus. This all comes Back to the Basics.

As great as it is to focus on body parts and improve your aesthetics, you need to keep a focus on compound movements and sport specific movements.
For example, getting a huge chest doesn’t ensure a huge bench, you need to make sure you’re doing lots of compound work first and foremost and then think about body parts as an accessory to those movements.
The same can be said about your sport. Getting a bigger bench and bigger vert doesn’t necessarily make you a better football player, you need to work hard on your skills to be accustomed to your new athleticism. If you’re a receiver, catching the ball becomes much more difficult when either you or the ball move faster.

Arizona Cardinals v San Francisco 49ers

Here’s the bottom line, if you’re lifting, focus on being better and stronger at foundational movement, pressing, squatting, dead lifting and upper body pulling. In terms of lifting you’ll want to focus on: strength, rate of force development, movement quality and work capacity.
After that, be sure to get speed work in, ball work, positional technique work, conditioning and mobility/flexibility. If you haven’t focused on any of those things, it’s time to skip calf day or even chest day. Don’t be too caught up with aesthetics, if you train like an athlete you’ll look like an athlete.

Remember,
It’s About Getting Better!

Respect the Process

Posted in Performance with tags , , , , , on March 13, 2013 by razorsedgeperformance

There’s something exhilarating about setting a PR (personal record) in the gym. The feeling of conquering a lift, showing progress and putting it all together is rewarding. Those are special days. I think young new lifters don’t realize how special those days are and how much they need to be respected.

ryan-bracewell-Deadlift

When I talk about setting PRs I’m referring to some of the more intense and technical lifts, like: Squat, Deadlift, Bench Press, Clean and Jerk and Snatch. I’m not referring to your bicep curl PR. When I say that they don’t respect the process, I mean that they haven’t yet followed the process of getting ready for it. Too often I’m teaching a lift or at least correcting form and young athletes will push so heavy that they end up breaking form anyway. You’re ambitious, I get it, I was there once. Since I’m here now, I’m telling you to pick your moments. If your technique is spotty, those flaws will be exaggerated at 1RM. Don’t do it. If you haven’t been doing one of these lifts for very long, respect the process! Spend time at a lighter weight and get all the cues down. This means correct posture, full range of motion, ideal activation sequence and great stability. If you can’t master all the little details, you’re not ready for work close to 1RM.

bad-form-deadlift-300x290

If you step in to a gym with great coaching and experienced lifters, you see more consistency; whether it’s a max day or a light day the technique throughout the lifts should remain flawless (or very near).

Besides the technique aspect, programming for max effort days needs to be followed. You can’t just step into the gym every few days and try to do a max lift, your body will not respond. You need to properly program intensities and weights so that when you have scheduled max days, there’s a good chance you’ll hit a PR, otherwise plateaus are way too easy to hit.

Unless your form is flawless, I suggest taking a few weeks to drop the intensity and make sure your loading sequences and range of motion are perfect. That way, when you go back up, you won’t face the same injury risks at higher loads.

Remember,

It’s About Getting Better!

 

The Combine is a Trap!

Posted in Performance with tags , , , on March 11, 2013 by razorsedgeperformance

Editors Note: This post was orginally written at http://www.fitstoronto.com, but is written by Cory Kennedy, so there is no conflict reprinting it here!

As someone who is in the performance enhancement industry (for sport that is…), combine season is kind of exciting. It’s like the little brother of Track and Field at the Olympics. This is a time for the best football players in the NCAA to take a step back from some of the skills and complexity of football, and get an opportunity to display their athleticism for all of the NFL teams. It also proves to be a money maker for supplement companies, apparel companies (Under Armour sponsors it, but Adidas is trying to get in on the action too!), and of course Athletic Performance facilities. While everyone has their eyes glued to the screen of NFL Network for the 4 days, I ask young football players (and athletes of other sports as well) to heed my warning: Forget about combines!

I know how hard it is though. Everyone wants to be associated with their numbers…I jump this high, run this fast, and change direction in under 4 seconds…It is much simpler than just saying, I am really good at football!

The problem isn’t that the combine is broken, or that athleticism is bad, it’s about priorities! The NFL pays players millions, so players need to prepare specifically for this ‘job interview’ in order to ace it. The key take-home though is that these players spent 4 years of high school DEVELOPING…then 4 years of college DEVELOPING…finally 8 weeks mastering the test. Young athletes need to remember there is more to being a great football player than mastering these tests…

Case in point, Athletes Performance, probably the world’s most popular performance enhancement facility. Every year they represent close to the top 100 athletes in the NCAA to prepare them for the combine. At the same time, they are also working with players from around the NFL and NCAA on their regular off-season development. I can’t say for certain, but I am pretty sure the pros who aren’t at the combine have their own specific program, and rightfully so. All of the combine guys though? They all do the same thing…why? They aren’t developing as football players, they are merely mastering expression  of different tests.

Proper development is about doing the things necessary to prevent injury, prepare the body for movement variability, and to build a foundation that makes it possible to continually improve. Expression on the other hand, is the end stage. This is where you put the finishing touches on a particular quality to make it come to light. Most professional athletes will aim for this expression one or more times per year as their competitive season unfolds. A developing athlete though? It may not happen for the first few years. Why? Development is the most important part.

Embedded image permalink

(***Case in point…RGIII performing a Vertical or Broad Jump at 2012 Combine…contributing factor to later injury??)

It is easy for an athlete to get frustrated when they want that 4.5s 40 in high school, or a 35” vertical. As a coach, it is important to always make sure the compass is pointed the right way, and sometimes it means holding off on EXPRESSION to really make an impact on an athlete’s overall DEVELOPMENT!

Got Snatch? – An Easy Progression

Posted in Performance with tags , , , , on March 5, 2013 by razorsedgeperformance

When it comes to olympic lifting, the hardest part is getting direction. It looks like an awesome lift but if you try for the first time, or any time without having been coached, you could be totally lost or just horribly wrong. Even when you think you know what you’re doing, you may be missing certain key steps which will show themselves once you get to a much heavier load. You wouldn’t want to find out your technique is flawed because then you’d have a tough road of backtracking and damage control.

Lu

In the video below, you’ll see a very simple snatch progression. It includes: Snatch from the pocket, Snatch from mid thigh position and Snatch from below the knee position. The only other position after this is right off the floor and if you’ve gotten the technique down until that point you should have no trouble at all. If you’re a true beginner and have just begun to dabble in the olympic lifts then this video should be broken up. Spend lots of time being comfortable catching from the pocket and getting  a full depth overhead squat. Then, in subsequent weeks you can progress through the other positions.

If you’re a seasoned vet, or at least an intermediate, then this is a great warm up progression to make sure you’re moving well and catching well before moving up to higher loads.

As is always the case, if you’ve never done any olympic lifting then I suggest you hire a professional for guidance.

Without further ado, happy snatching!

 

The People Demand Answers!! February 2013

Posted in Health, Performance with tags , , , , , , on February 20, 2013 by razorsedgeperformance

The Q and A is back for more!

question

The first question I have relates to some of my speed training clients, especially hockey players going to dry land for the first time in a long time….

My shins are absolutely killing me, how do I make shin splints go away?

Shin splints occur for multiple reasons. One might have poor biomechanics, an imbalance in the lower leg or tightness in the lower leg. The first plan of attack is to reduce swelling and soreness by icing and light massage. Then you need to take on the soft tissue in the lower leg with foam rolling, massage and stretching. After that, make sure the anterior and posterior muscles are each getting adequate work. For most people that will mean adding some tibialis anterior work (resisted dorsiflexion) since calves are often overworked. So put a little extra work into your lower legs and your shin splints will be easier to control.

At what point will the foam roller hurt me?

A young athlete running at the track was complaining of tightness so I showed him how to use a foam roller. After using it for about 10 minutes, he was afraid it may hurt him. The truth is, extended use of a foam roller really won’t hurt you but it also won’t continue to give you benefits. The main goal is to promote blood flow and return elasticity to the fascia (soft tissue enveloping muscles) and muscle fibers. Generally the foam roller helps with mobility, flexibility and recovery. So once you’ve used it for a few minutes you’ve probably already received its benefit. The only risk would be bruising but you would need a lot of pressure and a very hard object. If you’ve never used one, try adding in a few minutes pre workout and watch you positioning improve!

foam roller

I’ve been eating low fat foods and haven’t been losing weight, what gives?

I feel like the word is slowly getting out, but it’s still not there yet; Fat is NOT the enemy – unless it’s transfat or everything you eat is deep fried. The truth is, most individuals, especially if they’re fat loss clients, could benefit from increased fat intake and decreased carbohydrate intake. As mentioned in Carb Timing, starches and sugars should be saved for post workout times. If you stick to protein, fats and veggies for most meals of the day then fat loss will come more easily. I mean you’ll still have to exercise and not overeat, but at least you can just do those consistently and you’ll lean right out. The point of a low carbohydrate diet is to reach what’s called nutritional ketosis. This is the point where your body switches from glycogen for energy to ketones which come from fat stores. In order to reach that point though, we need to significantly reduce carbohydrate intake ( <=50g/day). At that point, even though we’re starting to use up fat stores for energy, we still need additional fat intake to meet energy demand. For that reason, you can’t really have low carb and low fat, it just won’t work. If you decrease carbohydrate intake you must increase fat intake of all types.

low-fat1

If you want to see your question in next month’s Q and A, shoot us an email at: info@razorsedgeperformance.ca

Remember,
It’s About Getting Better!

Weightlifting is the Answer! Here is why…

Posted in Health, Performance with tags , , , , , , , , , , on February 9, 2013 by razorsedgeperformance
We have spoken a number of times on this page about why weightlifting exercises (SEE Snatch, Clean, and Jerks) are awesome for developing speed and power in athletes, and thus why they should be included in many training programs.
While that is still true, I am going to discuss why weightlifting is EVEN BETTER for recreational athletes, and for that matter strength and conditioning coaches!
Let me talk about the second group first, because that is my cohort. As strength and conditioning coaches we are usually a competitive bunch (most are former athletes) and so love to compete no matter how old or out of shape we get. Add to that thought the concept of the high power output that is present in these exercises and it makes for the perfect avenue to compete in that still stays true to what we preach all day in the weight room! Wait, there is a cherry on top…these lifts are highly technical, and require a lot of practice and some good coaching. So as strength coaches, we always want to be working on our craft to provide the best coaching to our athletes. The more you can practice the lifts on your own, the better you get at coaching them and picking them apart.
Now let’s get to the recreational lifter and with that the crossfit population. I will go on record and say there are some things I really enjoy about crossfit. People seem to love it and love getting to the gym. This is great for the health and fitness of overall communities and the individuals within them. It is a system that also works well to improve overall physical capacities and body composition. So why do people hate on it, especially in the health and fitness community? Probably because they break people…some of it is from the crazy amount of volume everyone is expected to do, and some of it is just from the fact few members get taught proper technique for the weightifting exercises (let alone basic barbell exercises!!)…
Here are a few reasons why they are actually amazing lifts for the recreational lifter, even though they seem too technical and only for the ‘elite’…
Mobility! Here is the world record holder in both lifts at 77kg class, Lu Xiaojun. I have a huge man-crush on him for his weightlifting abilities. Not only are we talking about crazy amounts of power to move the bar, but he is catching the weight in a full-depth overhead squat. Even go back and see his starting position; Weightlifting requires a high level of mobility in your hips and ankles, as well as shoulders and upper back. These are the kinds of things the office-warrior loses quickly as they age, so just working on getting to these positions is highly valuable. Posture is such a large emphasis for these lifts that these muscles will get a ton of attention, and have no choice but to get their act together!
Metabolic Demand! These lifts use the entire body. So when you do a set of 8 or 10 reps at a submaximal weight, you are burning a ton of fuel. No wonder all the elite lifters are shredded (save for superheavy’s)…
Even working with a dowel (wooden stick, step 1) to get the positions and transitions correct, will be a great workout for most people as the volume is typically high and the attention to detail as well.
Cool Factor! Because they are so technical, not a lot of people do them well…walking into a gym, taking over the platform, and rocking some double body weight clean and jerks will definitely get you some attention. You will make a lot of friends that day. A lot of people can squat, but throw the same weight overhead as fast as you can? My mind just got blown.
It is with all of these reasons that we have begun a weightlifting club out of FITS Toronto where we work with weekend warriors to master these lifts, and so far the response has been impressive. If you want to really kick your training into another gear, and find something that you can really pour your focus into…then start learning how to weightlift!! (Consult a professional!!)
BONUS: Here is me hitting some PR’s yesterday as I journey to a bodyweight snatch…join me!
DOUBLE BONUS: Here’s Kyle beating Cory‘s PRs

The People Demand Answers!! January 2013

Posted in Health, Performance with tags , , , , , on January 16, 2013 by razorsedgeperformance

I’ve decided to start a question and answer post to change things up a little bit. This will allow more different topics to be answered without necessarily getting into the depth that a full post/article would require. That being said, please feel free to email in questions, use the comment box, post on our facebook page or send us a tweet. This installment is made up of either questions I’ve been asked lately or things that I’ve heard that need correcting. Enjoy.

image

On the cardio machine, the fat loss setting picks low paced cardio; Is that really the best way to burn fat??

Fat loss is an interesting topic because there are a number of different ways of achieving it. To decide what’s BEST is a whole other story. Let’s get into some basics about energy systems to answer this one. I’m putting it in layman’s terms so if you’re another coach, try to keep this in mind. There are 3 main energy systems that our body uses for energy. These are: the phosphagen system, the glycolitic system, the oxidative system. The phosphagen system uses ATP stores to produce energy used in extremely short and high intensity movements (think sprint or heavy lift). The glycolitic system uses glycogen stores (carbs essentially) to produce energy for moderate intensity exercise and kicks in after ATP up to about 20 or 30 minutes. The Oxidative system uses fatty acids to produce energy for long, low intensity movements. So technically, this setting is correct for activating the oxidative system. However, if we do bouts of High Intensity interval training (HIIT) then we will burn through all 3 energy systems. Your body can only produce so much ATP in such a short amount of time [note: supplementing creatine can help with this], so your body will be forced to jump to the next system when the first runs dry. Thus, we can actually start activating the glycolitic system earlier with intervals than with slow paced cardio. So it still will burn fat, but intervals will allow a much better, more complete energy system response.

If I want to get faster, should I just do interval running?

Following up on the post above, interval work should be meant for conditioning or fat loss work. What people need to realize about speed is that it is extremely technical and also extremely demanding on the body. In order to truly increase your speed you need a structured program and a qualified coach to help you with this. With your coach you can work on the two determinants of speed: output and direction. When you are fatigued during intervals, both of these values would be negatively affected; Your output will be significantly dimished and fatigue will adversely affect your coordination. More often than not I see (from others) intervals as continuous repetition of bad mechanics. So in closing, use intervals for conditioning work but high quality, high output repetitions are necessary to increase speed.

image

When doing weights, should I progress up to heavy weights or start heavy (over the course of multiple sets)?

To lift a given weight, your body will only try to recruit as many muscle fibers as it thinks it needs. Over the course of multiple sets, those fibers will become fatigued and you will no longer get efficient functionality out of them. So that being said, if you start with 20lb dumbbells and then discover after each of the first two sets that you need to go up by 5, you may not be able to lift 35lbs efficiently by the third set. This is why tracking your weights is important. On the first set start as high as you think you can (realistically) for that rep range because you can always decrease the weight as you get fatigued, plus you know that you’ve also recruited a maximal number of muscle fibers for that rep range.

Disclaimer: Do warm-up sets to get used to the movement and the loading if you are working with more than body weight, then start counting your sets after you’ve progressed through these warmup sets!

That’s it for this installment of questions, if you have any questions you’d like answered, again, use twitter, Facebook, email or a comment below.

Remember,
It’s About Getting Better!

%d bloggers like this: