The Barbell Isn’t For Everyone

Just because there’s a barbell in front of you, doesn’t mean you have to lift it.  If there’s one tool in the gym that has gotten more attention than any other, it’s the barbell.  And for good reason as you can load it with considerable amounts of weight.  Far more than you’d be able to do with something like dumbbells or kettlebells.  However, for many of us hitting the gym, it may be the wrong choice.

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One of the drawbacks, depending on the exercise, is that you can be locked into a certain range of motion or joint motion/angle. This can be potentially hazardous for those who don’t necessarily fit that mold of that position. It’s unnecessary to put yourself through that stress when there are so many other ways and tools to reach your goals.

“Just because something has always been done a certain way,

doesn’t mean that YOU have to do it that way.”  

But people tend to be dogmatic in their approach to fitness.  It’s either one way or nothing, and it’s hard to convince them of anything else. People will argue that it’s the ONLY tool suited for exercise, no matter what. Everyone must deadlift with a barbell from the floor or it doesn’t count, which ignores a myriad of variables that are suited for another article. It’s time to wake up and realize is that the tool is only as good as the user. If the user is unable to manage the tool effectively and safely, then how effective is it going to be?

 

What can you use instead of a barbell?

  • Dumbbells
  • Bands
  • Cables
  • Kettlebells

Each of these tools can be substituted for just about any exercise, and when it comes to our fundamental movements of push, pull, squat, hinge, and single leg movements, we can easily adjust to accommodate a different tool.

Push

Typically we thing the bench press or overhead press, which requires a barbell for either lift.  However, like we mentioned earlier, you get locked into a certain movement pattern, especaially at the shoulder joint.  And we want to avoid cranky shoulders where ever we can. Enter any of the tools previously listed.  More freedom to move which can mean less probability of injury.

Pull

The most common barbell pull is a bent over row, but again it can put some people in a compromising position.  This is especially true for anyone that has ever suffered from low back pain.  Enter the dumbbell, where you can perform just about any variation of row you can think of.

Squat

Everyone can squat, it’s just a matter of finding the right variation that suits your needs and abilities. Squatting with a barbell, whether front or back, presents some challenges in terms of mechanics that some are just unable to achieve. So why force it? Because it looks cool in the weight room when you have the bar loaded with plates?

Pick a variation, like a goblet squat and hammer away at that.

Hinge

The hinge or its most associated exercise example, the deadlift, can be one of scariest exercises to do.  More to do with images of guys picking up 100’s of pounds on a barbell, than the actual exercise itself.  But it can be an easy swap to use a kettlebell and learn in that capacity to keep you safe.

Training comes down to producing enough of a stimulus to elicit change in the body, whether the goal is more strength, more muscle, or less fat. However we need to be able to train smarter, which sometimes means steering ourselves from tools like the barbell that may not be a great choice for us now, to ones that are more manageable, like dumbbells.

This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t challenge yourself, but to do it smarter to avoid injury.

 

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To Squat or Not to Squat..That is the Question

The squat is one of the fundamental movement patterns that we use on a daily basis, and utilize just about every muscle and joint in the body.  That’s what makes it so awesome!  To let you in on a little insider secret, it is why most fitness professionals use it as part of their assessment or screening protocol.  It can tell you so much about how well a person can move.  From ankles, to hips, to thoracic mobility, you can get all sorts of information from watching someone squat.  Chances are, if they can squat well, they can probably move well.

“Squats are bad for your knees.” 

Have you heard that phrase before?  I’m sure you have, and it’s can come from anyone in any setting from the neighbor down the street to your doctor during a check-up.  This, the most common misinformation about squat, gives squatting a bad reputation as a knee killer.  Most of the time it’s because we’re squatting with poor form.

“Squats aren’t bad for your knees,

squats with bad form is bad for your knees.”

 

Think about how many times a day you squat.  Anytime you sit in a chair, or go to pick something off the ground, you’re using a squat pattern.  Are you going to avoid doing any of that?  Probably not.  I mean how are you ever going to go to the bathroom?

However, learn to squat with proficiency and you will be introduced to a whole new world of potential benefits.

Benefits of Squatting:

  1. Improved Mobility– This specifically happens at the ankles, knees and thoracic spine. As you work on your technique, your body will adapt to the new movement, and usually this means better mobility through the hips and ankles to get to adequate depth.
  2. Improved Strength– Squatting just makes you stronger. You’re using just about every muscle in the lower part of your body.  No matter how you squat and what rep ranges you’re training in, you are going to see a strength adaptation.  Especially if you happen to be transitioning from one rep range to another.
  3. Improved Stability– Squatting requires a great deal of stability, especially in the torso. If you think about a back squat, the weight is trying to make you fold and collapse.  It takes a great deal of stability to stay upright.  The more you improve your squat, no matter what version you choose, the more stability you’ll get through the hips and core.
  4. Increased Muscle Mass– Being that the squat is a full body movement; you’ll be using a lot of muscles to complete it. By stimulating the muscles with a proper load, you can easily increase the amount of muscle on your body.
  5. Decreased Fat– In the same way that squats can build muscle, they can also help to decrease body fat. Just like above, it uses a lot of muscle to perform, and muscle is highly metabolic.  This doesn’t mean you have to lift heavy to lose body fat, but by doing exercises that require multiple muscle groups, you’ll end up burning more calories.  More calorie burn = more fat lost.
  6. Increased Performance– Now that we’ve gained mobility, strength, stability, and muscle while losing fat, our performance should improve. This applies to not only in whatever our chosen sport is, but life in general.  Think about running.  If you improved all the above, you’ll be able to put more force into the ground, which will propel you forward harder and easier.  You’ll cover more distance in less time.  Now let’s look at life.  That heavy bag of dog food or case of water you once couldn’t pick up is now a breeze.
  7. Increased Bone Density– By doing exercises that are weight bearing or loaded, like the squat, the body is forced to adapt to a new stimulus. As the muscles get stronger, then tend to exert more force on the bone.  The bone adapts to this by laying down more mineral deposits, thus making the bone stronger and thicker.
  8. Healthier Joints– When you’re able to move the joints through full ranges of motion, they become healthier. You’re joints actually prefer going through their entire range of motion.  So when you short it, for example doing half squats, your body adapts and will lose that full range.  So do yourself and your joints a favor, use your full movement, whatever it may be.

 

It’s All about the Technique

It all starts here with learning how to squat.  Try to avoid getting ahead of yourself when first trying to squat.  Even if you’ve been squatting for a long time and you think you have it nailed down, chances are there are things you can work on that will take you squat to a new level.   Remember, correct range of motion and form are absolutely essential in order to not only avoid injury but to gain an advantage in strength.  Better technique, better movement pattern, better chance of engaging the necessary muscles to lift the weight (if that’s what you’re doing).

Every time you squat, make sure you go through a mental checklist starting from the feet and ankles, then working your way up.

  • Feet- They need to be flat and stable, with heels on the ground. You want to avoid rolling side to side or having the heels coming up.  If you’re unable to do this, start working on ankle mobility.
  • Knees- They should be in alignment with the hips and feet. As you squat there should be no excessive movement out or in.  If there is an issue, you may need to look at mobility at the hip or knee, or strength in your stabilizing muscles.
  • Hips-They should be stable with no side to side movement while staying in line with the knees throughout the squat.
  • Low Back- The spine should stay in neutral with minimal to no movement or rounding.
  • T-Spine- Slightly extended or neutral
  • Head- Straight ahead

 

Take a look at our good squat on the left versus our poor squat on the right.  Notice the differences in where our checkpoints are.  Keeping these check points in order is a good way to ensure that your squats won’t be knee killers any longer.

 

 

 

Takeaway

Hopefully you see that the squat has a lot to offer you in terms of your overall fitness level.  Ignore the hype that squats can cause problems with your knees.  Avoid being afraid to squat because they once hurt your knees.  Chances are your form was off and all you need is a few tweaks and cues to fix the issue.

Your first step should be to hammer down technique before piling on weight and intensity.  Much like you wouldn’t build a house on a shaky foundation; avoid piling on top of the shaky foundation that is your movement pattern.

There are so many versions and variations to squats that you can experiment with how you do them each time.  Don’t get caught up thinking about just the barbell back squat.  Start adding some variations into your program with:

  • Goblet Squats
  • Safety Bar Squat
  • Front Squats
  • Plate Squats
  • Split Squats
  • Single Leg Squats

Each variation will have its purpose in your training and provide its own unique benefits outside of the ones listed in this article.

Happy Squatting!


Technique Tuesday: Lateral Band Walks

Knees Out

Lateral Band Walks are a big part of our activation series for our glutes along with clamshells and Fonda’s but its important to do them with intent and focus.

It’s not uncommon to rush through these and “get them over with” or just step laterally multiple times and think that is the exercise.  With lateral band walks, you want to step slowly, while pushing the knees out via the hips/glutes.  With each step you are trying to avoid the knees caving in, both the lead leg and especially the trail leg.  Take a look at the image above.  Notice that the knees aren’t buckling or going in towards the midline.  This is important for any exercise where the knees are involved.  Think squats, deadlifts, even lunges and step-ups.  In all those exercises, it’s imperative to avoid that collapse.

When done correctly 10-15 reps should burn like crazy.  If you are able to do more without feeling like your butt is going to fall off, stop, refocus, and get to it.

 

Why Lateral Band Walks

Why do we have you do this exercise?  It’s not just to make your hips and butt burn.  There’s way more to it than that!

For one, we want to “wake up” your glutes after sitting most of the day. Odds are you’ve already spent a good amount of time sitting on your butt, so this gets you up and moving and activating an important muscle group for squats and deadlifts.

Second, it focuses attention towards pushing the knees out, and in most cases, we’re trying to cue that movement, especially during squat patterns. Doesn’t matter if it’s with a bar or a dumbbell. How many times have you heard us cue that correction?

Take your time, focus on small steps, and feel the burn.

Video Link Below:

Lateral Band Walks


What’s a Workout to You?

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What’s Your Definition of a Workout?

First, what is your idea of a workout?  Or what is the point of a workout?
We’d love for you to leave a response on our Facebook page.  We’ll have a post up for you to comment on.  

According to the dictionary its:
work·out  (wûrk′out′)
n.
1. A session of exercise or practice to improve fitness, as for athletic competition.
2. A strenuous test of ability and endurance.

It’s right there in bold. To improve fitness!

What are your trying to improve?  
Strength?
Conditioning?
Endurance?
Power?

Notice how it doesn’t say anything about calorie burn, or soreness, or sweating.

If you’ve been training with us long enough, or even if your’re new, you know that AMP’s workouts are designed to be more than just burning calories or getting your sweat on.  Yea, that’s going to happen because in general, exercise burns calories and your body will sweat.
So what is it about?  What is a workout?

A workout is meant to build your body, skills and physical capacities, not test yourself, not just focus on the calorie burn.  A workout should be challenging, but it also needs to stay within your recovery abilities.  Your workout should push you towards being able to perform to your potential, towards making the tasks of everyday life easier, to moving with ease and efficiency.

A workout, in the end should make you better and it should teach you something about yourself.

On our hierarchy of training, building strength is top priority.  Why? Because all things get better with getting stronger.  Even within your workout itself, your ability to be stronger will allow you to push yourself harder than last time.

Think about the next time you’re doing thrusters. Maybe you started with 15lbs and was able to get 10 reps in 20 seconds.  That’s 150lbs of total work.
Being stronger might allow you to do 20-22.5lbs on thrusters.  Even if you maintain that 10 reps in 20 seconds, that’s  200-225lbs of total work.  

A workout is not punishment for your eating sins, to make up for poor nutritional choices.  It’s definitely not just to sweat.  Hit a sauna for that.  A workout, in the end should improve your life.

 


Squeeze Ya Glutes

SQUEEZE YA GLUTES!

If you train at AMP you have heard this saying hundred of times over. We even have shirts with it printed across them, because this has become such a common phrase to hear. So by now you understand the emphasis we place on contracture of your gluteal muscles in every movement and exercises, but do you know why? Why do you “Squeeze ya Glutes”?

Your glutes are amazing stabilizers throughout different movements especially when it comes to walking. Your glutes help maintain proper alignment of your pelvis and hips. When lifting weights the glutes help guarantee proper form and maximal strength. Strengthening this integral muscle group will help not only your lifts but your movement patterns as well. At Active Movement and Performance, we’re kind of big on moving properly, so training your glutes is always on our agenda.

Did you know that strong glutes can prevent back pain? Its true! when many people perform an exercise, if they do not contract their glutes they are guaranteed to have poor form. Lets take the plank for example, yes even in the plank you need gluteal strength.  If you allow you glutes to just sit there inactive, other muscles have to pick up the slack and that means improper function. After a while of allowing the glutes to be lazy they will shut off, our common sedentary lifestyles already aid too much in this, so we become predisposed to gluteal inactivity. Now when we go to perform a plank, other muscles are overworking. a muscle called “psaos” comes into play, this muscles starts on the spine and inserts on our femur. This muscles pulls on the spine to pick up the slack for our glutes and now we have daily back pain., when our glutes are strong our body functions properly and back pain is eliminated.

So next time you hear “SQUEEZE YA GLUTES!” Squeeze them, hard! restore proper function, get stronger, eliminate pain and move better!