This will be my third (and last) article of this month’s mini-series that can be applied to people making exercise New Years Resolutions…
Side note: before we get started I am currently conducting a survey on Survey Monkey to get feedback for the site with regards to its layout, practical use & content. It only takes 2 minutes (or less) so I would appreciate it if you could fill it out.
The internet training world is one of the most controversial aspects of the fitness industry. While there’s a lot of great, useful information out there the internet also has a lot of bad information or information that’s lacking in context and application. I understand that it’s hard to decipher all of that if you don’t have a Kin or Exercise Science background. I believe it’s also one of the reasons why people have a hard time beginning and sticking to a diet and exercise program.
Until I started consulting with many great coaches and trainers, as much as I hate to say it, I made the same mistakes and had to sift through a ton of information (and BS); and deal with a lot of plateaus, injuries, and burnout along the way; to really learn how to train properly – and it’s something I’m still learning and will continue to do until I die.
In this article I will detail some of the things that I wish I would have done differently in my training career…..
1 – Start with a solid base of General Physical Preparedness (GPP)
GPP basically refers to general work that you do to get in shape to do the specific preparation for your sport (SPP). It isn’t necessarily dragging a sled or pushing a prowler as it depends on whatever sport you do. Bench pressing can be considered SPP for a powerlifter but would be GPP for a football player.
The Soviet Union had their young athletes start by doing a broad base of general activities and as the athlete got older and older a higher percentage of training was devoted to the athlete’s main sport. This system gave individuals a much larger base of fitness with a lot less injuries in comparison to the American model of early sport specialization.
In my case I would have spent more time on general fitness such as jumping, sprinting, throwing, and calisthenics. In high school (and early university) I was a runner so running was not neglected but in hindsight should have been incorporated as part of a more general program. That would have given me a much better base of general fitness from which to progress into my powerlifting career.
2 – Learning how to squat and deadlift correctly for my body type
Some research has shown that people’s hips are built differently. This influences
- How deep you can squat before lumbar flexion (aka butt wink) occurs
- What stance will give you YOUR deepest squat
I tried to squat and deadlift using the “proper” technique and ran into a lot of lumbar flexion and back pain. Once I learned how to squat correctly for my hip anatomy than I was able to progress without issues. While lumbar flexion is a controversial topic amongst biomechanics and pain science experts I do believe it’s important to minimize flexion during high load situations as it reduces the stress on the low back.
This video shows you how to find YOUR ideal squat stance
Finding your ideal deadlift technique requires more trial & error. The main thing is that you want to keep a neutral spine and keep the bar as close to you as possible while maintaining a vertical bar path. You don’t want to have the bar so close to you that you have to arc it around your knees during a lift – but you also don’t want the bar so far away from you that your lift is mechanically inefficient. You also don’t want your hips so low that your knees and shins push the bar a mile away from you to start but you also don’t want your hips so high that it looks like a glorified stiff leg deadlift.
3 – Going in hand with #2 spend a bit more time on mobility
Mobility is both person and sport dependent. A 5’6” runner who has a small ROM to move through may not need any mobility work. In fact some research suggests that being “loose” can actually decrease athletic performance.
However, my 6’5” long femured frame needed to do a lot of mobility work to be able to squat and deadlift correctly. Now I’m at a stage where I only need to do 2-3 minutes of mobility twice a week (usually warming up just with an empty bar) and I’m good to go. However doing more mobility work in the early going may have saved me a lot of issues.
Assuming you don’t have any injuries, medical conditions, or balance issues mobility isn’t rocket science. Simple unloaded stuff such as hip hinging, air squats, goblet squats, lunges & split squats can go a long way in improving lower body mobility. For upper body mobility exercises such as the back-to-wall shoulder flexion and bench t-spine mobilization (look up Eric Cressey’s videos for these) can help a lot with squatting and overhead pressing flexibility.
4 – Hire a damn coach
Most people who go to the gym aren’t health and fitness professionals – nor do they have the desire to sift through tons of blogs, articles, books and videos like I did to really learn how to train properly. Thus they either
- Do a haphazard program consisting of bench press, bicep curls and situps OR
- Pick up a program off a book or a website that may be totally inappropriate for them given their goals, baseline fitness, anatomy, and medical history
That’s where working with a good coach can save a lot of hassle – even if it’s just for a few sessions or consultations to learn how to properly program and do the exercises.
I understand it’s tough to find good trainers given that it’s an unregulated profession. This article has some useful tips for what to look for in a trainer. If you are still having issues message me and I’ll see what I can do for you.
Every strength coach or trainer, no matter what they say, has made mistakes and learned lessons from them. I hope these will help you in your future.
Haubenstricker, J.L. and Seefeldt, V. (2002). The Concept of Readiness Applied to the Acquisition of Motor Skills. In F.L. Smoll and R.E. Smith (Eds.), Children and Youth in Sport: A Biopsychosocial Perspective. (2nd Ed.). Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt. (pp. 61-81).