Friday, April 4, 2014

Fitness Friday - Fitness News and Information You Can Use

In this week's Fitness Friday, a primer on front squats from Eric Cressey, a collection of the best. exercises. period. from Christian Thibaudeau at T-Nation, and a new article on kettlebells from Bret Contreras.

As a bonus, there is an interview of Chad Waterbury by Eric Cressey. Enjoy!

As always, I am only posting a little of the beginning of each article - follow the link to read the whole piece.

How to Front Squat: Everything You Need to Know

Published on December 4th, 2012
Written by: Eric Cressey

The squat is one of the most revered strength training exercises of all time, and the front squat is a popular variation on this compound lift. However, like many lifts, it's often performed incorrectly, and in many cases used by folks for whom it isn't a good fit. To that end, I thought I'd devote this article to outlining everything you need to know to be successful with the front squat.

What Makes the Front Squat Different?

A few primary factors differentiate a front squat from a traditional back squat.

First, the bar is positioned on the front of the shoulder girdle rather than on the upper back. In the process, an athlete is given a counterbalance to allow for a better posterior weight shift, which improves squat depth. If you need proof, check out your body weight squat, and then retest it while holding a ten-pound plate out at arm's length; most of you will improve substantially.

Second, because the arms are elevated (flexed humeri), the lats are lengthened. This is in contrast to the back squat, where the lats can be used to aggressively pull the bar down into the upper back and help create core stability. I firmly believe the lack of lat involvement is what accounts for the significant differences in loads one can handle in the front squat as compared to the back squat. However, "quieting down" the lats on the front squat is likely why athletes with such dramatic lordotic posture can often squat much deeper/cleaner with the front squat. Of course, if they have an excessive lordosis and anterior pelvic tilt, you may not want to squat them in the first place!
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This is a great post from Christian Thibaudeau at T-Nation:

The Best Exercises. Period.

by Christian Thibaudeau   
Posted 04/01/14

Here's what you need to know...
•  Nothing will build up the yoke like the snatch-grip high pull.
•  While using a Prowler is great for fat loss and building muscle, the farmer's walk with a trap bar is better.
•  The bench press is not the best exercise to build the pectoral muscles. Rather, it's the dip.
•  The best exercise to use as a test for power, speed, and explosiveness isn't the 40-yard dash or the vertical jump, it's the underhand forward medicine ball throw.
One cautionary note before I jump into my list of favorite exercises. I'm assuming proper form and performance on all of them. A great movement can be turned into something totally worthless if not done properly.

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A new article from Bret Contreras and Chris Beardsley in Strength & Conditioning Journal.

The Role of Kettlebells in Strength and Conditioning: A Review of the Literature

Beardsley, Chris MA (Hons); Contreras, Bret BSc

Strength & Conditioning Journal: 12 March 2014
doi: 10.1519/SSC.0000000000000048
Article: PDF Only


Studies support the use of kettlebells for improving power, although evidence for using them to improve strength and aerobic fitness is still equivocal. Studies investigating the biomechanical properties of kettlebell training have been fruitful, and it may be useful for developing sprint running performance and for injury prevention. However, we still do not know the optimal loads for maximizing system and joint power production, how the mechanics, joint moments, and electromyographic activity changes as loads increase during kettlebell swings, nor whether kettlebell training transfers to sports performance.

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Catching Up With Chad Waterbury

Written on April 1, 2014, by Eric Cressey

This Saturday, Chad Waterbury will deliver his Advanced Training Workshop at Cressey Performance. And, since I hadn't caught up with him here for quite some time, I thought it'd be a good time to bring him back for an interview. Check it out. -EC

EC: Welcome back to! It's been a while since we last touched base, so we ought to get up to speed on what you've been doing. To start, what would you say is the biggest change you’ve made compared to when you started training?

CW: The most significant change I’ve made is the way I assess clients. In the early days I would do some basic range of motion tests and ask a client which joints felt stiff or painful. Then I would do a combination of soft tissue work and PNF stretches to correct the issues. It helped clients move better and have less pain for the workout that followed, but those were usually just temporary changes. The next workout the client would often complain of the same problems.

Take the IT band, for example, since it’s usually stiff and painful to the touch on many athletes. I used to have my clients foam roll the IT band before training to release the tension. It hurts like hell to foam roll a super stiff IT band, and it’s easy to associate the pain of foam rolling with a gain in tissue quality. But that’s rarely the solution. In most cases, the IT band would be right back where it started the following day.

So a few years ago I started studying more progressive corrective approaches, namely the Postural Restoration Institute (PRI) and Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization (DNS). What I learned from those two approaches is how imperative it is to identify and correct the position of the ribcage and pelvis.

In my early training years I would look for muscles that were tight or painful and find a way to eliminate the tension through stretching or foam rolling. But I learned that instead of figuring out how to release a tight muscle it’s much more valuable to ask yourself: Why is the muscle tight?

When you learn to ask the right questions you put yourself much closer to the solution.

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