Suns out - guns out

It's been one year since I underwent a major shoulder surgery for an injury suffered while bench pressing.

The stupid bench press. Just weeks before that injury I had made commentary on how bench pressing is over rated and though my "bench" was inching up on a supposed state record, I just didn't care. Yet I rehabbed, crushed my first Spartan Race mostly one-armed, and rehabbed some more. I managed to put together a few productive and injury free training cycles.

One year later I can close grip bench press 280 pounds for 6 reps. There's no 350+ for reps anymore but who cares? I can chin-up, row, dead lift, and overhead press more than before surgery. I can jump higher and possibly run faster than a year ago - at the age of 36. Yes I'm also a bit more achy but what do you expect? We all know where this ship is headed!

One year later I continue to write more about training and sports performance than rehab because that's what I enjoy and my blogger stats show that relatively few care to read about plantar fascia pain or holistic treatment of shin splints,

At Bonny Lane Club we have a pretty strict dress code. You train with your shirt on unless maybe killer bees or fire ants are actively attacking during the session. The guys and I sporadically joke about those who train like mad in the spring in order to look good in a swim suit. But at Bonny Lane Club, it's always swimsuit season. On my one year shoulder surgery anniversary, it was sunny and I was in the mood for showboating this 85 pound standing shoulder press. The bees and fire ants were miserable that day ; )

The shoulder is moving fine! And two days per week of total body work with basic gear is more than enough when you are consistent, willing to use some resistance, and respect recovery.


10 Best Exercises to Make You Look and Feel Foolish

First a note:

The snarky tone and exercise elitism are usually not my thing, but the tone here is intentional. In the grand scheme of things, who am I to care or tell you how to move your body? Even these Foolish Exercises are awesome badass moves compared to sitting on the couch eating Doritoes all day. Also, some of these may be well justified in the context of rehabilitation or specific physical or mental impairments. 

Now that the disclaimer is out of the way, please do not let me see you doing these unless you have an excellent reason to feel and look like a tool.

To qualify for the list, the exercise had to be a fairly mainstream movement, not a ridiculous gimmicky contraptions like the Shake Weight, the Thigh Master, the Gazelle, or about a dozen other tool makers.

And now, without further ado, introducing the

10 Best Exercises to Make You Look and Feel Foolish and needlessly drain you of the limited time and energy you are given on this planet:

#10 Concentration Curls:

Really? You're seated with both hands between your legs, using one inner thighs for leverage, working precisely 1.2% of the body's muscle mass? You're making deeply stern and serious facial expressions as if holding up an elephant while solving the problem of why cosmic inflation is not self sustaining through quantum mechanical fluctuation.

Now that's one serious exercise!

! Instead: The long head of the bicep is ALWAYS larger, sharper, and more awesome when you can pull
-up, row, and dead lift 25%, 50%, and 200% of your body weight respectively.

#9 Tricep Kickbacks

These are just dumb. Enough said. I don't care if you're 1976 Arnold. You always look and feel foolish while bending over and waving a 30-pound dumbbell, even if you're not out of the house wearing ungodly undies.

! Instead: The triceps are ALWAYS something to reckon with once you can bench press 150% of your body weight, press your body weight overhead, or at least complete 30 continuous "diamond" style push-ups.

 #8 Hip Adduction Machine

You have to be kidding me. When these powerful inner thigh muscles are involved with pretty much EVERY movement of the legs? Go ahead and look it up for yourself! When the hip is in a flexed position (in front of the torso), the adductors extend the hip. When the hip is in an extended position (behind the torso), the adductors flex the hip. The hip adductors stabilize the pelvis and control rotation of the femur during hip abduction (movement away from the mid line). They adduct (move the leg toward the mid line) when that's called for.

! Instead: As an alternative to sitting on this silly piece of technology, try moving your legs! Go ahead. Any thing will do. Congratulations! You have successfully worked your hip adductors! Seriously though, squat and dead lift and lunge and sprint your way to amazing inner thighs.

#7 Hip Abduction Machine

You took this seriously for a moment? You're going to mount what was probably the result of a dare taken amongst a group of frat brothers in their last ditch effort engineering project idea?

! Instead: The hip abductors and external rotators are important protectors of both the knee and hip. They're completely hammered by practicing good form in any and every single leg lower body exercise. Try some single leg split squats or even band resisted side stepping to effectively work this very important muscle group.

#6 Dumbbell Side Crunches

Wow. Um, no. Not worth it. Especially the version where you place one hand behind the head. Repetitive loaded side bending of the spine is a bad idea even when it doesn't look like an awful dance move, white boy.

! Instead: Hold the torso and pelvis super stable with minimal to no frontal plane (side-to-side) movement while doing loaded carries (farmers walks). Do high step-ups or lunges with a relatively heavy dumbbell in one hand.

#5 Wrist Extensions and Flexions

 You have time for this?

! Instead: If you're talking size, the most effective thing you can do to add forearm girth is gain weight. For strength, grip something heavy and lift it. Dead lift, chin-up, hang, row, farmer walk. Leave the gym and be awesome.

#4 Upright Rows

Just...why? When this places the shoulders into combined flexion and internal rotation under load, which is an active, nonawesome position of shoulder impingement?  When the anterior shoulder is hit far more with horizontal and vertical pressing movements, and the side and rear shoulder is worked far more with heavy rows? When the biceps are worked far more with various rows and bicep curls? There's no excuse for this movement.

! Instead: See above paragraph.

# 3 Seated Calf Raises
Yeah, I'm aware of the whole thing where plantar flexing (pointing down) the foot while the knee is flexed isolates the soleus muscle. And I don't care. When was the last time you had to simultaneously flex the knee and plantar flex the foot anyway?

! Instead: Jump rope. Sprint. Lift and carry heavy things while on your feet. Work those hard, become functionally awesome, and see how much you care about the circumference of the distal 1/3rd of your lower leg.

#2 Supermans/Womans

Great idea! Use your private parts as a fulcrum to support the weight of the entire body. Cause unnecessary compressive loading to the facet joints of the lumbar spine and potential shoulder problems. Repeat.

! Instead: Do prone press-ups or standing backward bends if you have spine issues that respond well to stretching into lumbar extension (as some disc problems do). Improve the strength of the spinal erectors and glutes with goblet squats. Perform glute bridge, prone plank, and dead lift variations while fighting hard to maintain a neutral position of the thoracic and lumbar spine.

#1 Cable Crossovers

Honorable mention goes to Kipping Pull-ups because that's not a pull-up, it's a momentum seizure with your hands clamped on a bar. But since "Top 11" lists are illegal, Cable Crossovers take the cake.

While a good rule of thumb is that if it feels awesome, and looks awesome, it is awesome, Cable Crossovers are one exception.

Cable crossovers do look awesome. You're standing between two pillars, the ground zero of most commercial gyms, striking repeat front double biceps-like power poses in front of an audience. You're hogging up a significant amount of space, and a lot of things appear to be moving. It feels like you're about to be torn in half, yet you lean in to overcome all odds, crushing the bad guys in a Samson-like display of courage. Nothing else makes you so want to shout White Goodman motivation with every rep!
White Goodman

But the movement, in fact, is not awesome. There's no significant amount of weight being moved. There's no stability challenge or real penalty for failure. You let the 50 or 80-pound stack (which allows for less than half the amount of force due to pulley leverage) to settle down into its spring protected nesting site. You walk out of the center of the universe with fresh legs, barely breaking a sweat and feeling kind of empty.

Okay let's have it! Do you LOVE any of these and want to redeem them? Can you add to the list?

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Weight training for endurance athletes

I don't even train endurance athletes. But I rehab some of them. I know right where to begin...

A few weeks ago I was speaking to the parent of a fairly high level endurance athlete.

"What he [the high school athlete ] needs is to hit the weight room with some high reps and lower resistance in order to keep his conditioning and increase muscle endurance." 

Without the time or desire to stir the kettle, I nodded and went about my work. I know the athlete in question. He completes 90+ minutes of sport specific endurance training 5 days per week, sometimes more than once per day. The last thing this kid needs is to add endurance work. Training that's metabolically different would serve him much better for the sake of improving performance and staying healthy.

Heavy lifting is dangerous and counterproductive for endurance athletes. They need light balance and stability work. Air squats, burpees and crunches between back-to-back bouts of 400 meter runs. Right??

cardio for JSP (MMA Champ)
Giving endurance athletes light resistance activities that primarily demand endurance is like enrolling a mixed martial arts champion in cardio kickboxing, or like switching a diabetic from cookies to cakes. Instead they should work on pure strength and power with low reps and (relatively) heavy loads done safely, at least for the off-season.

I'm not advising training like a meat head, or even like a power lifter, Olympic lifter, or CrossFitter. All these are weight lifting for the sake of weight lifting, which is fine if those are your sports. But if your event takes place in the pool or on the court, track, or field, a little iron can also do wonders, such as improved neural drive, running economy, and metabolic efficiency.

Unless you have a disability or are rehabbing an injury, get off the machines. Quit working your "core" while on your back. I suppose you can can get a decent looking midsection from tons of mat work and a super strict diet. But by the time you can squat, overhead press, and pull a significant load with good form, your core will be functionally epic and at least fairly eyeball shattering.

Lifting heavy demands the brain to move with greater efficiency - because it has to. Heavy lifts done well challenge the entire athlete to maintain good posture and stabilize torque throughout multiple body segments. The rotator cuff (swimmers), IT Band (runners), and on and on will thank you for the solid posture, balanced joint alignment, and tight core from which to leverage.

So what should I do then?

I don't know the finer nuances of endurance training. But I do know that it will be well worth your while to find time for variations of the squat, dead lift, overhead press, single leg movement, and rowing movement, that are well suited for your body type and goals, and get strong in them.

And what's that, but 5 exercises each done maybe once or twice per week? Don't tell me there's no time in your long drawn out workouts for that.

Begin light. Use about half the resistance of what the typical endurance athlete uses for the partial-range-of-motion, crappy-movement-pattern circuit reps. But instead take the mentality of a strong man or woman using perfect form through a full range of motion for just 5 or 6 reps. Rest and repeat. Bump the resistance up from week to week until those 5 or 6 full ROM, perfect form reps are starting to waiver.

Heavy is relative. You're lifting not just for the sake of lifting. Your cardiovascular system is already beastly and receiving tons of attention. So for heaven's sakes, UP the weight!!!