14 Oct 2015
By Evan Yoak
Welcome back everyone . Last week’s highlights include the greatest crying-out-in-shock-and-pain reaction reel of possibly all time – why I don’t have more video is beyond me – as well as the MVP of the Week for the person who interpreted “body weight lunges” to mean “lunges with an external load equivalent to your body weight.” Kudos to Lady for the inadvertent masochism, and for what must surely be a strong set of glutes.
Warning: this blog is a bit long, so if you desperately need the homework without the jib-jab, click here to jump down; be sure to watch the video as well. I recommend reading, however, as everything will make more sense that way. Also, apologies in advance for the terrible sound quality. Maybe I’ll refilm it in Spanish and actually, ya know, enunciate if there’s a public outcry that nobody understood anything.
It’s important to keep in mind last week’s lessons going forward because we’re going to shift gears a bit this week. If you’re coming late to the party, or didn’t read between the lines, the takeaways from last week were:
- Your daily postures are wreaking havoc on your body, resulting in massively tight muscles you didn’t even know were tight (e.g., calves)
- Body weight reverse lunges are not as easy as they sound
- Having friends makes for a better mashing experience
Let’s take a look at that last point. Having someone else stretch or roll you out has a huge advantage, in that you will never inflict as much pain on yourself as your good buddy will inflict on you. This is why I like partner stretches: it’s really easy when you’re by yourself to be lazy and pretend like you’re doing yourself some good because, hey, I’m stretching something, right?
Nope, wrong. Lazy stretching and massage are insidious because they make you think you’re making improvements, while in reality you’re just fooling yourself and not changing anything. It’s akin to putting toothpaste on a toothbrush, sticking the toothbrush in your mouth, playing Angry Birds for five minutes with your toothbrush hanging out of your mouth, and then removing the toothbrush without ever having done any actual brushing. And then wondering why you have seven cavities a month later. Likewise, if you constantly stretch and have been wondering why you still can’t overhead squat to full depth – and full depth of course means full depth, ass to ankles, not just below parallel – without having a train wreck happen with your shoulders or without your torso swaying forward like a drunk on a bender, read on.
There are two secret ingredients to fixing these stretching/rolling problems:
- Correct positions
That is, you must stretch in the correct positions, and you must do it for enough time. Sounds simple, right?
Weellll, sort of. Time’s easy: put a damn timer on and don’t quit til you make it through. It always amazes me when I tell people, “Two minutes each arm,” and then I see them walk off to the dressing rooms after thirty seconds. Like, most people’s sense of the passage of time is horrible. Not a big deal, this is why we have Science, and measuring: put a clock and stick to it. One minute, minimum, and I mean minimum: 2-3 accumulated minutes (doesn’t have to be consecutive) for whatever you are doing is usually best.
The first bit, correct positions, is a bit tougher. A lot tougher, actually – no one that I know of in the mainstream teaches how to adjust someone properly to make their stretches effective. Kelly Starrett does sometimes, but not often enough. The better yogis and yoginis probably do, but then you’d have to do yoga. Kidding! Yoga’s great. But you do have to find someone who knows what he or so is doing, and who knows how to make proper adjustments, which is only slightly less uncommon than finding a unicorn.
Fortunately, you have your own body to listen to, which only you can hear, and which can tell you a lot more than anyone else ever can about what’s going on inside it. Which translates to, if you don’t feel some sort of change happening, no change is happening. Brilliant, right? For example, when your homie was rolling that barbell up and down your calf, you could veritably feel the tissues adapting, reverting to their original positions whence they had been diverted so cruelly by the evil Desk. Hooray, change.
I used to hate when people asked me, “Where am I supposed to feel it?” It sounds like such a Globo Gym question. Which it is, taken in the context of isolation movements, which are indeed generally stupid. If you’re spending all your time figuring out how to do better concentration curls so you can “feel it” more in your biceps, you’ve got issues. And if you’re doing pullups, or better yet squats, and find yourself asking, “Where should I be feeling it? In my quads? In my glutes? In my abs? In my hamstrings? In my back?” then the answer is of course, “Yes.”
But notice I said “generally” stupid: isolation movements have their place, and yes, you should feel the isolated muscle working when you do them (cuz otherwise it’s not). I like isolation movements for waking up inactive muscles, fixing muscle imbalances, prehabbing the body’s transmissions like the shoulders and hips, etc.
I would also consider stretching to be an isolationist activity. I don’t think it’s usually a good idea to say, “Ok, now I’m going to stretch my triceps, and then my quads, and then my adductors,” since you need don’t just need to lengthen those muscles, but rather lengthen them in a position in which you are going to be moving. So, for example, it makes more sense to say that you’re going to stretch your front rack, rather than your triceps.
On the other hand, sometimes you do need to isolate a muscle and loosen it up. After all, what is rolling if not massaging specific muscles? You don’t have to know that you just stopped rolling your latissimus dorsi and started rolling your teres major to know that you need to specifically relax the muscles on the sides of your trunk in order to raise your arms overhead; you’re still in a sense “isolating” the lats and the teres. Semantics aside, the point is that you ought to feel some response in your body. It will often be pain, particularly if you’re tight (and I should point out here that too much pain is indeed too much: you shouldn’t walk away with bruises, for example. If it hurts too much, your body will treat the “massage” as an intrusion and shut down, having the opposite effect of restoring the muscles to a supple state and instead tightening up more. A good rule of thumb is that it should hurt about a 7 on a scale of 1 to 10).
So that’s a good starting point. If everyone else is crying like little girls whilst doing couch stretch and you’re all like, “This is so easy!”, chances are you’re doing it wrong. Take responsibility and try to observe what part of the position your body is avoiding, or ask a coach to check you out to see what’s what. The human body is really good at avoiding inflicting pain on itself, so one must be extra vigilant to ensure the stretch is doing what it’s supposed to be doing.
So now we’re going to take an example of a simple stretch that I constantly see people doing wrong, and we’re going to all do it right for the next week. Then you can call out all your friends when you see them screwing around pretending to stretch and politely fix their posture.
- Lateral opener with band – 1 min. with hand up + 1 min. with hand down. 3x week. Try some pushups or overhead squats before and after to compare.
- 3 x 20 Glute Bridges (2220) + 20 Reverse Lunges – That’s 20 Glute Bridges and then right away (no rest) 20 Reverse Lunges. You can rest between sets, but no dilly dallying. Tempo for the Glute Bridges is 2 up, 2 pause at the top, 2 down, and no pause at the bottom. Tight, controlled – as I talked about above, with this type of movement you should be actively trying to squeeze your glutes throughout the movement. 2x/week
- No sitting on couches or chairs while watching TV, with minimum 5 minutes of squatting. You can lay, you can mobilize, you can sit Indian style or in lotus (with a neutral spine!), you can and should try all sorts of different positions, but you must squat for at least 5 minutes total. Should be a relaxed squat, the back can round here in the squat since it’s not under load. 7x/week (i.e., any time you watch TV or movies or whatever).
There you have it, round number two. If you’re doing a lot of jumping, running, or squatting, and the calf rolling helped, it’s recommended to hit it before those activities. Happy WODding!
05 Oct 2015
by Evan Yoak
Good Monday to all you CrossFitters out there. I wanted to take the start of this week to introduce a new aspect of training at PTY – everyone’s favorite, homework. Now, before you get all hot and bothered and complain, “Homework?! I already work out 5 days a week! Isn’t that enough?” to which the response is, “Eh, sort of” – hear me out. You see, for general health purposes insofar as keeping your heart safe and your waistline trim, one hour a day for five days is certainly enough; the point isn’t to do lots of extra physical labor just because. If, however, you want to move well, then no, you can’t just go to the gym for an hour, work til you puke your guts out, and then forget you have a body to take care of the other 23 hours in the day. We as modern humans simply spend far too much time in horrible postures that cause us to get tight and have dysfunctional movements. For example, if you spend 8 hours sitting at your desk (probably at a computer hunched over), another hour sitting in your car driving to and from work (gotta love that tranque), another hour sitting watching TV (also probably hunched over), and another 2 hours sitting and consuming your meals, you’ve worked up to sitting over half your life. Allow me to let you in on a secret: the human body is not designed to sit, and certainly not for half of its time on this planet. Standing, lying, crouching, kneeling, squatting, sitting in lotus or Indian style, etc., are all natural postures for the human body. Any time you deviate from a natural. good posture, your body tightens up to compensate.
There are a lot of remedies for this problem (e.g., standing desk, squatting when you talk on the phone, being continually cognizant of your posture), some more practicable than others, but at the end of the day, as human athletes, you’re going to have to put in some maintenance work if you want to optimize your movements and not end up looking like the hunchback of Notre Dame when you’re 40. Thus, homework. Obviously we mobilize during our classes, but again, not to beat the point to a pulp, but if you have a desk job, stretching for a few minutes is not going to compensate for all the hours and hours of horrible postures with which you’ve abused your body. So what I propose is to give all you PTYers weekly homework, both mobilizations and exercises, in order to be better prepared to come in to the gym and kill it. We’re talking maybe 10 or 15 minutes a day, most of which you’ll be able to do at home. We’ll follow some sort of theme (e.g., hip flexors, internal rotators, glute activation) for several weeks, and then mix it up. So, without further ado:
A) 100 Reverse Lunges (body weight) for quality, 2x/week
B) Roll each calf for two minutes, 3x/week
Let me ‘splain. I was inspired to proffer up the first bit of homework after witnessing many people Farmer’s Carry big heavy weights this morning, and then promptly grab a lower weight with which to lunge. CrossFitters are notorious for being weak unilaterally – anyone remember 2013 Regionals, with the 90 ft. of Walking Lunges at 160 lbs.? And people were like, wow, Froning did it unbroken! And then everyone realized that that was sort of pathetic that it was a big deal to do it UB, since lots of guys should have been strong enough to do it UB. Anyway, your glutes should be strong! I could write a 3000 word article about why the glutes are so vital, but no one wants to read that. So instead, just do the damn lunges so I don’t write that article and make everyone read it as homework. Keep in mind as well that, in spite of what some strength coaches will tell you, your glutes will not get sufficiently strong just from squatting and deadlifting (clearly, look at the Regional athletes in 2013). As for the lunges themselves, we want good, controlled lunges, fairly slow, making sure to squeeze the glute as you come up off the floor and again at the top; drive through the heel and keep your torso upright at all times. This is for quality, not for time. Obviously make sure to keep the knee back so that the shin remains nearly vertical with the ground (the angle will be slightly more acute than 90 degrees). If you don’t feel your glutes the next day after having done this, you probably did something wrong.
The second part is just what it sounds like. Either with a roller, lacrosse ball, or barbell, spend two minutes on each calf working out the kinks; partner style with the bar is the most fun. Everyone suffered horribly this morning rolling their calves, which tells me everyone has really tight calves; I mean, do you really want to do 5000 double unders and run 50 kilometers in a year and never stretch or massage your calves? Yikes. This is going to impede your ability to squat low, to burpee efficiently, to avoid shin splits running, to box jump well, to avoid knee pain, and on and on. The calves are the first muscle in the kinetic chain for any lower body movement, after all. One other bit to keep in mind is that there are really two major muscles in the calves, the gastrocnemius (the big meaty part) and the soleus (the part below the big meaty part). I would roll it all, but pay particular to the soleus, and where the soleus connects to the gastrocnemius. That will give you the most bang for your buck for squatting movements.
So that’s it for this week. Add this in apart from the normal training and mobility work you do and let us know in the comments how you feel in a week.