Archive for core

Grip it and Rip it!

Posted in Performance with tags , , , , , , , on September 1, 2011 by razorsedgeperformance

As you’ve probably noticed, many of the articles I write come from real world examples. Something in the gym or on the street which tells me that the public is dying for certain information. In this case, this article was sparked by some guys I saw training in the gym the other night. No, not the guy who was doing Barbell Military Press in the squat rack on a Bosu ball, that’s not worth an article; it was the 2 guys working hard but wearing lifting straps for their ENTIRE workout. Are lifting straps bad? Not necessarily, but they can have their place and are definitely not needed. They aren’t making you better as an athlete.

When it comes to separating yourself from other athletes, you need to start focusing on the little things that can make a big difference. In this case, what is being lost by these two young lifters is their grip. Grip strength is essential in any sport or activity in which you need to pull on anything or at the very least maintain a hold on something. So basically, grip is important for nearly every sport out there. Another way I like to look at it is, your hands are your point of contact for many actions and thus are a necessity for transferring power. Look at any climbing or pulling activity, what will monster lats or scapular retractors do when you can no longer hold on or maintain a tight grip? Nothing. The importance of a strong grip can be seen throughout most major sports. As a safety in football, tackling was a big part of my game. There are many times when saving a touchdown means pulling a guy down by his jersey. A strong grip could be the difference between winning and losing; a weak grip and the guy scores, a strong grip and they’re forced to punt. So ask yourself, when’s the last time you focused on your grip training?

How does your grip compare?

Before I get into specific exercises you can introduce  for your grip, let’s first look at what you can do to your existing program to help your grip get stronger. First off, ditch the straps. The more work you do with straps, the more your grip will lag in the future. If you’re training pulling exercises, all the muscles along the chain needed to be working, especially your hands and forearms. Sure, your grip is going to suffer a little early on, but how much you can hold with your hands will demonstrate your applicable/functional strength. Sure you can row 200lbs with straps on, but can you grab a 200lb running back and pull him down? Probably not, which makes your training somewhat useless.  Do yourself a favour and ditch the straps and anything else that will give you an “aid”. Choose bars/grips/tools that will make your grip work harder. Whenever possible, use barbells or dumbbells over machines, especially for any pulling. Next, try to use a handle that will require more grip: fat bars, added grips, towels.

If you’ve already started making the most of your programming but still want more grip work, you can add more exercises. One of the most underrated exercises out there is amazing for grip – Farmers Walks. Just adding farmers walks once or twice per week at the end of your workout will work wonders for your grip. Grab two fairly heavy dumbbells and do 3 sets of approx. 20 metres.

Farmers Walk for Grip Strength

Other exercises include pull ups, Deadlifts, Romanian Deadlift, DB 1-arm row, heavy shrugs, and plate pinches. All of these excercises will place a tremendous amount of stress on your grip.

The last option to improve your grip is to incorporate new tools into your grip training.

Gripper – The first tool would be to use heavy grippers. I’m not talking about going to walmart and buying a gripper, I’m talking about Elitefts for some heavy duty grippers. Look for something between 100lb-300lb.

Rice Bucket – Find a big pail and add at least 10lbs of cheap white rice. Once or twice a weak go through a circuit of various grip exercises using the rice bucket. This is popular with strongman competitors and baseball players.

Thick Grip – These tools can be added to barbells and dumbbells to create a thick bar response without having to own multiple thick bars. Options include: Tyler Grips, Grip4orce, Fat Gripz.

Now all you have to do is take some of this information and build yourself a crushing grip!

It’s About Getting Better!

Abs vs The Core

Posted in Health, Performance with tags , , , , , , , on June 29, 2011 by razorsedgeperformance

It’s really starting to heat up in Toronto, which means everyone forgets about function and starts focusing on their beach body. This is a good segway to broach the topic of core training and the mythical 6-pack.

First the 6 pack. Everybody has abs…so the determinant of how well they show is the amount of body fat on top. If you want your abs to show, get your body fat down. Abs don’t hypertrophy like biceps, so doing extra crunches won’t make them ‘pop out’ (not to mention crunches suck). I’m not saying core work isn’t important, I’m just saying there is no need for overkill. Do some sprints or jump some rope. If you are looking to see your abs, that is the way to get there.

Now the core.
This is an awesome piece of machinery when functioning correctly. It keeps our body in proper alignment, and is the bridge that transfers power through our limbs.
The core is made up of a slew of muscles that encircle your torso…I’m not gonna name them all, just think stomach, low back, abs, hip flexors, and you can also include lats and muscles that surround the pelvic girdle. You don’t need to know all of them, just know that when you do core work properly, you’ll hit the right spots!
When considering injury prevention think of the core as a bullet proof vest or a section of old medieval armor, it serves to keep your torso stiff, which protects the spine. This stiffness is also a great foundation for your body to produce movement. You would be surprised how many movement dysfunctions can be cleared up if the core is properly activated in the right sequence. Things we usually attribute to a lack of flexibility or strength of certain muscle groups is often caused by a lack of core activation.

One of the biggest mistakes I see, especially in athletes, is a lack of strength focused core work. You can do crunches til you are blue in the face, but they will not help you stay rigid against the application of high external forces. This is the true function of the core…maintaining rigidity despite external forces.

This is especially evident when you think of something like a heavy deadlift. Force application for the deadlift is through the feet, while the attachment to the bar is through the hands. If there is any level of disconnect in the middle of the system (your CORE), then you won’t be able to lift the bar off the ground with any semblance of good technique. Your goal as a lifter is to drive the weight straight up, but the bar is trying to pull you forward. A strong core allows you to resist a forward weight shift, and allow a smooth vertical lift of the bar.

While this is easy to see in weightlifting, it is twice as important to stay in a strong connected position during sprinting or sport performance, especially sports that involve physical contact.

How do we train it then? There are many different ways, and many more to be invented. The key thing to think about when you think core training, is whether you are trying to create movement or prevent it? Remember, the core is designed to prevent movement despite the application of external forces.

Serious Core Strength

My favourite simple core training exercise is the one-arm Farmer’s Walk. You take a dumbell in one hand, as heavy as you can hold, and try to walk a given distance with it. Key teaching points are ‘perfect posture’, ‘don’t let the weight rub against your leg’, and ‘don’t let your body tilt one way or another’. If you take a weight that is at least reasonable, you should feel one side of your core JACKED UP, while the other side is at least activated ‘sufficiently’.

Don’t be a fool. Train your core for strength. It matters more than any other body segment!
It’s About Getting Better!!!

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