Staggered Stance Landmine Bent Row

The Quick “Why” Behind Conditioning Work

I recently had a distance client of mine ask me:

What is the goal with the regenerate section?

For those who don’t know, this is in reference to my programs, which I break into seven sections based on what we are trying to accomplish. For example, any foam rolling work you do is always first (though I won’t prescribe it for everyone). After that, we do exercises to “reset” your nervous system. After that, you do a more dynamic warm up to prepare your body for training… you get the idea.

This post is not meant to be thorough and exhaustive, but instead to give you some ideas to help spark your own thinking.

The goal of the “Regenerate” section is essentially conditioning. I’m trying to

  1. Teach your body how to produce energy
  2. (Generally) teach your aerobic system to produce energy more so than the ATP-CP and glycolytic anaerobic systems.
  3. Train the shifting of your autonomic nervous system back and forth between sympathetic and parasympathetic activity.

I want you to be able to produce energy efficiently because then the world and any exercise you do is not as big a burden on your body. I specifically focus on developing the aerobic system in various ways because it’s more complex, and, therefore, has more room for improvement. That is, there are more pathways to increase engine efficiency. It will also not beat you down as much. Plus, it will produce wayyyyyy more energy over the long-term than the other two energy systems. These two points increase your capacity to do work.

The third reason is a little more complex. Let’s say, for example, I’ve given you repeat sprint intervals. You do 10 seconds of high intensity work, followed immediately by 50 seconds of resting.

During that work period, you are cranking up your sympathetic nervous system to get yourself to mobilize energy and go hard. After that, we need to get things back to normal, and this is where the parasympathetic system comes into play. Turn down the heart rate, re-equilibrate energy substrate collection pools, and prime yourself for the next bout of intensity.

As this activity goes on, your aerobic system becomes a bigger and bigger player. Hence why we’re trying to develop it (like we mentioned earlier).

This repeat sprint method can train the brain to rest hard. Ultimately, if your sympathetic response is active for longer than it has to be, you’re going to gas out more quickly. We’re–again–increasing your capacity to do work, which is why another term we may use for this “regenerate” section of your program is “resiliency”.

Having a bigger engine means more things are possible.

Don’t think that you’ll always see this “regenerate” or “resiliency” section after your strength work. Sometimes, your strength isn’t nearly as important as your energy output. If you’re doing something at a lower intensity or just to increase your lactic capacity, then I’m definitely going to put that after you’ve already exhausted your body with general strength exercises. If, however, you’re doing repeat sprints because it is your job to repeat a sprint (e.g. soccer play, hockey player), then I want you to be fresh for those sprints because you need to move as fast as possible.

It’s not always cut and dry.

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Training Tip: When to Use Offset Loading

Here’s a recent question from one of my distance clients:

Do you use offsets frequently? Always contralateral or do you use ipsilateral?

I love this question because I think it’s one of the best illustrations of the art of coaching. Not often are things black and white.

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Why the Romanian Deadlift?

Here’s a recent question from a distance client of mine.

Why RDL? Do you use it for almost everyone?

The RDL is the purest form of a hinging pattern and the easiest way to teach someone how to use their hips, glutes, and hamstrings independent of their spine. I would say that’s a pretty objective opinion of mine seeing as you’re minimizing complexity of the movement by all but eliminating the contribution at the knee. In terms of complex movements, it’s a pretty simple one.

I will start most people with an RDL, even if they already have lifting experience. Well, maybe especially if they have lifting experience because, often times, I need to re-teach their hip hinge.

Now, once you know this, I’m generally going to throw on more complexity. For example, when you can demonstrate a consistently (or semi-consistently) clean RDL pattern, I’m going to then have you RDL the weight to the knee, then squat the weight down to the floor.

Ta da! Then we have a deadlift pattern.

The RDL is a fundamental movement that I need all of my clients to know, and it’s arguably the easiest way to teach hip extension while keeping the acetabulum over the femoral head.

 

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All Four Belly Lift vs. Toe Touch or Sit and Reach Breathing

BACKSTORY: I recently gave one of my new clients the All 4 Belly Lift to do for homework.

This exercise is one I learned about from the Postural Restoration Institute, whom I highly recommend. But if you’ve been reading here for a while, you already know that (exhibit one, two, three, four, and five).

He was already familiar with the exercise and the above video I sent him, but wanted to know the difference between something like this and just doing a toe touch or sit and reach and breathing?

 

The All Four Belly Lift is a way to take a few degrees of freedom (a.k.a. compensation options) out of the equation. What I mean by that is being on your knees limits your ability to use your ankle to avoid expanding through your back and tucking your pelvis underneath you.

This exercise is also a way to inhibit your back side and teach your front side to turn on. Specifically, it’s really good for helping someone feel their abdominals working, helping them get all the air out, shutting of spinal extenders, and opening up the back of the hips.

A toe touch and sit and reach breathing can also accomplish these things. I like the belly lift because I think it’s easier to cue someone to keep their neck muscles off.

With the other two, you’re putting the hamstrings on a stretch. That’s fine for some, but for people who have extra flexibility in their hamstrings (most lifters, including you), they will get a lot of this motion from their hamstrings, not pull their pelvis underneath them.

For these people to get the motion of the exercise, they will tend to reverse their spinal curve. That is, their lumbar spine flexes and thoracic spine extends. If this happens, we’re actually accomplishing the opposite of what I want. See drawing below if it helps.

sit and reach

I know, it’s beautiful. One of my science classes last semester was in the art building, so I’m an artist now.

The same kind of thing can happen with the toe touch. One thing that the toe touch offers that the other two do not is the sensation of the feet in the ground. Being able to hold a toe touch and breath is a progression in terms of complexity, but a regression in terms of how much strength one needs to perform the exercise correctly. Most lifter types need a little bit of external load to overcome to help them feel the positions that I want them to achieve. This is why I tend to dole out more all four belly lifts than the other two variations.

They all can be effective, but there are differences to consider.

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