Dealing with Injuries

Well, I’ve read a lot of posts on various injuries on different forums over the years. And heard all kinds of complaints from others about:

“I used to play this sport or I used to lift, but I can’t anymore because of this injury. If you felt like I do or if you had my injury you wouldn’t be able to do what you do”.

So, here are some random thoughts on this.

I wonder what people did hundreds of years ago?

I don’t think they just rolled over and gave up and died while crossing the oceans or crossing the wide open plains of the old west. Got injured, you patched it as best you could and soldiered on. You survived. You lived.

As we know, injuries are always a possibility in life.

So, I’m-a-bettin’ people just made do as best they could and still survived.

Now-a-days people should seek proper medical care and PT, re-hab, whatever to try to correct problems or educate/apply various forms of pre-hab coupled with sensible training to prevent problems.

But still:

The unexpected happens.

I grew up when people didn’t have availability to PT’s like hair on a dog. Especially in the country.

You got injured you sucked it up and kept going and figured out a way to make things work.

I know, I know, totally different world today.

But, I don’t sweat all this stuff.

I had a separation of my left A/C joint from full contact football (no pads) years ago. My clavicle was sticking up as high as my finger on my left top of shoulder. I went to work the next day and could hardly sleep for three months it hurt so bad.

Took no pain meds.

Had no insurance.

Minimum wage.

Came home and did my chores around the house for my Dad. I never whined about it. He knew I had hurt myself, but never mentioned it and I never brought it up. I fed animals, mowed a lawn, split and stacked firewood all with one arm.

I worked every day with my right arm. I would hook my left thumb in my belt loop and let my arm hang off that as I worked.

I forced myself to move the left arm as I could and gradually regained nearly full movement.

Started lifting whatever I could as soon as I could deal with it. And, yea, it hurt like the dickens as I worked out the knots over several months. It took years to finally look normal again.

Today, looking at the left shoulder you would not be able to tell I had injured it.

I blew my right sterno-clavicular joint out on the front side (anteriorly) from a dirt bike motocross accident. Don’t let anyone tell you dirt is soft! I was wearing full protective gear.

Now my right clavicle sticks out near my sternum. I went to a PT, but nothing they could do. I did not even consider surgery cause it statistically has little benefit in this type of injury and long term prognosis is better just letting the body fix itself as best it can.

Why am I telling you this?

I lift, OH squat, throw, run, jump, climb, pull-up, push-up, bench, draw my 60 pound bow to shoot arrows, beat a heavy bag, swim, press barbells kettlebells or dumbbells, etc.

None of this bothers me.

I  do get-ups, I do band pull aparts, mobility-joint mobility work, RKC arm-bars, face pulls and other things to keep things together and moving smoothly.    I figured out a lot of things that helped my issues by reading and talking to others back in the early 80′s.

In 1991 I picked up a book called The 7 Minute Rotator Cuff Solution. I used some of those moves, some I modified and performed with a band.

Others I modified by doing them lying on my back and moving my body (rolling like the RKC armbar) keeping the small weight plate out at an angle so the tension was constant on my shoulder and scaps as I rolled back and forth like a log to the limits of my arm/shoulders range of motion.

The whole trick with any injury, back, scaps, shoulders, knee, whatever, is:

Whatever caused the injury: Stop it!

Get with a good doctor. Not all are worth a hill-of-beans either. Seek out a qualified sports doctor who works with professional athletes if at all possible. Let them know in no uncertain terms you want to be active, mobile and strong and will not settle for just being Ok with a bit of re-hab and you are done.

Answer these questions:

Do you need surgery? (Not always the best thing) Did you get a second or third opinion? (always smart to do, but don’t look for an answer that isn’t there)  Have you explored all other options? (look outside the box, but also,there may not be any other options but surgery)

Get with a good Physical Therapist.

Ask the PT for further incite as to how to progress from PT onward. The goal is to get as full a range of motion/mobility as possible with as much stability and strength as you can.

If you just stop at the level you leave the PT at on your last visit, you WILL get injured again and probably worse.

Read and educate yourself.

Test things out carefully.

Learn what YOU can do to fix things and keep them fixed.

Strong muscles can help hold injured areas together.

Learning how to create tension and manipulate strength from other parts of the body can mitigate injuries and allow you to perform way better than you may realize. This takes time to learn.

Adjusting to limitations of an injury by recruiting other muscles and tweaking your form or method of performing a move is possible. You may have to do things a bit differently. That is Ok as long as it does not create other issues.

Learn how to lock up or stop an old injured body part from going too far into ROM and creating further trauma.

Appreciate that sometimes you are just going to have to accept that you can’t do something anymore. Just as an example: What if you love tennis but your shoulders just can’t hack it because of an injury?

Well, maybe you can play basketball or soccer. Rather than whine to others about how good you used to be at blank, but can’t do anymore because of an injury, why not just follow this course:

Grow up. Accept it. Let it go. Re-focus on a new challenge. Don’t look back. Forge ahead. Impress yourself and others with what you CAN do.

You never know: You might just be WAY BETTER at soccer than you ever were at tennis!

LISTEN to your body. It WILL tell you when you are doing something stupid, IF you listen. Stop the rep, stop the exercise and do something else that does not cause undue pain.

Learn to tell the difference between pain of training and pain of pushing an injured area or old injury too hard, or too deep into it’s range of motion.

Moving deeper into a range of motion that just touches on the edge of “if I go any heavier/farther this will hurt/re-injure” the area is a thing you have to learn.

IT can be a bumpy road recovering from an injury. Don’t give up. Persevere.

AS injuries heal, you will have to gradually test out the range of motion and strength. Otherwise it will NEVER get any stronger/mobile than it is at that point.

You are always the best person to decide how far you can go or how heavy, but ONLY IF you pay attention to what you are doing and how you feel.

I know this is long winded, but I carry a host of old injuries. I’ve worked and played with busted shoulders, a blown out back, fractured ribs, boxers knuckle, cracked nose, tweaked knee, hyper-extended elbow, broken toes, cuts from knives and razor wire, bloody knuckles, and the list goes on.

Funny thing is, I have been told by many I move like a man twenty years my junior. There is a reason for that.

Whining never helps anything.   Injuries, in time, become a badge of honor. The whole trick is wearing them well. You might have gotten a gimp leg from blowing out your knee making the final score that won your team the NFL Superbowl title or you might have gotten your limited range of shoulder motion from doing some dumb stunt for youtube sliding upside down and backwards on your kids water slide while trying to bench press a 225 pound barbell.

Regardless, rather than whine about it, laugh it off. Carry it with pride. Remember, it’s YOUR injury. You EARNED it. Whether it was doing something noble or doing something stupid, not everyone will know. Walk like a man or woman and carry your wounds well.

And keep training. Keep moving.   So, Heal up. Learn. Apply. Come back swinging!

Improvise, Adapt, Overcome!

Life is lived by the moving. So move!

Pay Attention to Tension

Think of tension in the muscles as being generated by loading the muscle or moving the limb or body through a range of motion.  Movement or the initiation of movement causes tension in the muscle. It is actually the contracting of the muscle that creates the tension.

However, we can tense our muscles up, making them contract or tense up without movement.

Straighten your arm out either at your side or out in front of you. Now, without bending it, tighten up your arm muscles. All of them.  Take your other hand and feel your arm. It should be tight or hard with tension.  With practice you will be able to create greater tension in the arm muscles through contracting the arm muscles even without movement in a joint.

Contraction and therefore tension in the muscles is accomplished by many factors:

Consciously tensing up the muscles with no outside force or load acting upon the muscles (as in the straight arm tensing), initiating any type of movement with just body-weight, lifting or absorbing any kind of load or force, etc.

We can actually train our body to create more tension.

Of course our muscles have to also relax and lengthen.  Relaxation and contraction or tension in the muscle are really two sides of the same coin.

If you can’t create tension in a muscle through contraction of it, then we couldn’t move, run, jump, throw, lift and even  live. We would not be able to land from a jump. When we jump in the air and then land on our feet the body tenses up to receive the shock of landing, absorbing the forces through tension. Otherwise, if our muscles did not contract, get tense, to absorb the landing of our jump, they would simply relax and we would fold up like a dropped sack of potatoes. We’d get hurt and never jump again.

So, what is the point of all of this?

If you want to get better at any sport or physical endeavor:

Create greater tension.

Do this by lifting weights of any kind.  A weight is a weight. Two hundred pounds of barbell verses 200lbs of sand bag still weighs the same, however, the mechanics of lifting the two will be vastly different and lifting the sandbag will take even greater tension and mobility to lift than the barbell.

So now you have an idea of why using different training tools is of benefit.

Another example of creating tension is a sprint from a stop. Whether initiated from a standing, kneeling or prone position (where you lie down and have to quickly get on your feet before you begin sprinting) your body will undergo rapid transitions of tension and relaxation in the muscles.

So it stands to reason if you can create greater tension in the muscles it will lead to greater propulsion of either your body or some other object you are attempting to move. It takes greater strength (and skill, technique) to throw a baseball faster and farther.

Thus, for most people looking to improve their athleticism, getting stronger, (i.e. learning to create greater tension), leads to better performance in life and in sports. However, if we can’t relax the muscles enough between contractions of tension, then we wouldn’t move very well either. It must be balanced between the two.

We can’t slow our body down without creating tension. We can’t initiate any type of movement without creating tension. And it has been found that if you can create tension, you can actually relax the muscle more after the tension  has been released.

One of the ways we can get ourselves to relax to fall asleep entails alternatively tensing up and then relaxing muscles, starting with the feet and working up the  entire body. Just a quick tensing and then a relaxation.

Funny thing is, this happens naturally when we go to sleep. It is called hypnic or myoclonic jerks. It is that sudden twitch or sometimes an almost violent jerking of a limb or the body that makes you almost jump in bed and kick the covers off, kick your mate or it wakes you up just as you start dosing off. It is simply a sudden contraction of the muscles followed by immediate relaxation of said muscles.

The harder we can tense the muscle the more strength we can exert. Pick up a light box and have someone squeeze our arm. It’s probably tight but not real hard or tense. Now pick up a real heavy box (you know, the large one that some friend loaded with a ton of books and wants you to pick up and move for them).

Now have your friend squeeze your arm. It will be much tenser and harder in response to the load. It takes more strength to pick up a heavier object and thus creates more tension in the contracting muscles. It takes more strength and thus greater tension in the contracting muscles to jump three feet in the air verses one foot into the air.

So, do you get the point?

If a greater load or force acting on the body elicits a greater response in the muscles leading to greater strength being demonstrated due to the greater contraction and tension in the muscles it stands to reason that we can create greater tension first leading to greater strength.

What??

Teach your muscles to contract harder with more tension.

How?

We do it all the time  without thinking. (More on the no thinking part later, and it’s not what you think :)

OK, you’re helping someone move (oh no! not again!) and as you begin picking boxes up or someone hands you a box to carry to the truck, you simply take the box and move it. No biggie.

Then as you go to pick up the next box or someone hands it too you they say:

“Careful with that (this) one! It’s real heavy.  It’s full of books (yup, why not in a smaller box, instead of one big enough to bury a Ford Fiesta?) “.

So what do you do?

Without thinking you get all tense, tightening up the muscles (literally contracting them) in anticipation of the coming load.

Why?

Because our body knows it will make us stronger and keep us safer in handling that heavier load. We didn’t even think about it, we just did it.

So why don’t we use that bit of knowledge in our training?

Tense up before you lift a weight. Get tight and then grab the weight and lift it with tension. This works great for slow heavy lifts. Even lighter lifts can be done this way. Things like dead-lifts, squats, bench presses, over-head presses, etc.

By tensing up that muscle even harder than is needed, we can create greater tension and thus get the muscle to contract even harder. Now we don’t need to do this on every set or rep. Definitely on the heavier sets and reps to keep ourselves tight for a safer more controlled lift.

Lighter weights can be lifted with a little more tension than is needed just to train ourselves to create that tension at will rather than create the tension only in response to the load or weight lifted.

Of course, when a person is first learning how to do this, it is good to use more tension than is needed on even lighter sets until they have become adept at creating the tension and then lifting the weight with tension.

It is good to relax and shake the muscles out between sets. High tension lifting is tough to do. Thus, lower reps and fewer sets are in order until you have acclimated to it.

Tensing the muscles and the body up for a lift does not mean we move jerkily throughout the movement because of the great amount of tension we are using. It’s not like that.  Tense up and get the body tight and lift with control but also with skill of movement, lifting smoothly.

Once you can create the tension and control it during your lifting, you can vary how much tension you use for various weights and lifts.

If you step up to a loaded bar and get tight before you lift it, you are teaching your nervous system to prepare for a load first, rather than merely responding to a load once it hits you.

Which do you think would be easier on your body?

Picking up a heavy suitcase and as you begin lifting it you realize

“This thing weighs a ton!” as your body tweaks sideways and you feel your muscles get strained.

Or:

You get tight, grab the suitcase handle and squeeze it hard and begin lifting with way more tension than you need. You think “This thing is heavy, but not too bad. I can handle it.” and you safely load it into the trunk of the car.

Be aware of your environment. Be aware of what you are lifting. Create tension first and adjust it as you begin the lift. Creating tension in response to the mental thought of lifting something before you actually lift it is feed forward tension or a feed-forward loop. You put your hands on the bar, grip it tight and tense every muscle in your body  and then pick up or accept the load.

Responding to a load with tension after you have accepted the load is feed-back tension or a feed-back loop. You grab the bar, get under it or accept the load as you begin lifting it and you think “This thing weighs a ton!” and then you start trying to get tight.

Sorry! To late to get tense!

Once a heavy  load is accepted or lifted, so the weight is fully supported by your body, it is very difficult, if not impossible to tighten up properly for the load.  You are already pushed out of good mechanical advantage, losing  your form and on your way to an injury or dumping the load.

Use the feed-forward loop when lifting anything. Get tight first. Then lift.

And then, once the load is felt, use the feed-back loop to adjust your tension, either decreasing the tension (as in the case of a box you thought was heavy but it only has Tupperware in it) or use the feedback of  “this thing weighs a lot, but I’m ready for it. Yet, still,  I’m going to get even tighter to control it better” to create even more tension as you begin to move.

Such pre-tensing of the body works wonders in keeping you injury free, not only in the weight room, but also at work or anytime you lift something that might shift, is awkward or you have no clue as to how much it weighs (like a closed box full of you -don’t-know-what).

As you get better at using this tension thing, (paying attention to tension), you will notice that running and jumping and other movements become easier, faster.

Why?

Because any movement starts with tension in the contracting muscles.

If I can contract my muscles harder, faster than the next guy, I will jump higher, run faster than someone with my same physical proportions. This is why people get fooled by big guys that look like they are slow. If you are strong, from heavy lifting of anything, then your initial movement will come from all that strength or tension you can generate and you will explode over a short distance.

That is why a huge 6’5″  350lb NFL lineman can cover a few yards faster than some 5′ 9″ 150lb marathon runner.  The NFL lineman has huge amounts of potential strength or tension in his body he can unleash. Whereas the 150lb marathoner has little strength, little tension he can use.

Lift heavy for low reps and few sets. Learn to create tension. Learn to use the feed-forward loop. Learn to manipulate the feed-back you get from heavier weights. Become a master of your body.

Relax between heavy sets. Shake out the tension so you learn to tense up but also to relax. We need both to move well.

Practice movements with body-weight and other implements you might swing, throw, etc.  This will help you meld the new found strength into other movements so you get faster at recruiting your new levels of contracting strength induced tension and relaxation.

Think of it this way:

If a certain person (A) who weighs 150lbs can squat  or dead-lift 100lbs, when he begins running, his reserve of strength or tension he can use is 100lbs more than his body weight. Yet many runners don’t lift weights (B) and if they do, they never go heavy, not that 100lbs is heavy.

So, let’s just say he (A) can propel his body with an extra 100 pounds of tension as he begins a sprint or jump. He will jump higher or start his sprint off faster than another guy (B) who weighs 150lbs but never lifts anything.

Now put them both up against a guy (C) who weighs the same 150lbs. But this guy dead-lifts 300lbs. When he takes off in the sprint or he jumps he has a reserve ability to create enough strength or tension in his body to lift 200lbs more than the first (A) guy and 300lbs more than the second (B) guy who doesn’t lift at all.

Do you think his body is going to feel way lighter to him?

I’ve experienced this in two ways. For a year I played around with a weight vest. Built up to doing various things with an added 60bls on my body. When I took it off I could run faster and jump higher. I also, at one point in my life, got very ill and weighed 295. I lost 60lbs within about 6 months. When I lost all that weight, same thing: I could run and jump faster and higher.
I had the strength and ability to create the tension needed to move me plus another 60lbs in both cases. So when that weight wasn’t there, that reserve capacity of strength let me exert more force when I did something.

It’s like this:

Two cars weigh the same.

One car puts out 100 ft.lbs of torque and 120 horsepower.

The other car has a motor that puts out 300ft.lbs of torque and 350 hp.

Which do you think will be faster?

I know which one I would buy!

Get stronger.

When you engage in athletic movements, running, jumping, tumbling, throwing, etc, we don’t think about tension, about tensing up and relaxing our muscles. It just happens. So continue to do things that help you move smoothly and effortlessly to blend the strength and tension with relaxed movements.

Remember, the body has to tense up to move. There is no way around this.

But you also have to relax between the explosive contractions of tension to move. People that are really strong but are tight or carry around too much tension, are stiff, they can’t move very well.

Lifting 1,000 lbs is impressive, but if we can’t dig a ditch all day long without 40 breaks to catch our breath, we are in pretty sad shape for life, though not for power-lifting. To get strong enough to create the tension needed to lift 1,000 lbs we would need to focus on getting bigger and on pure strength training. In this case, something is gotta give. And that would be generally our endurance and flexibility.

Strength or tension has it’s limits before it gives diminishing returns.  But that is way higher than the average person ever gets too.

For a professional athlete, say a MXer (professional motocross, you know, the guys who ride dirt bikes for a living) being able to lift 1,000 lbs would not be advantageous. It takes too much bulk and size to lift that much.

But, being able to dead-lift 300-400lbs would definitely help them throw their bike around better, and if they wipe out, picking up that 230-300 lb bike (MX or open desert bikes)  will be a lot easier. And they could gain the strength to dead-lift 300-400lbs, in all likelihood, without gaining much body-weight, if any.

Too weak and we will not have enough capacity to create tension. We will be a  slow moving person, we would not be able to generate enough muscular tension at high enough loads and fast enough to jump or sprint well.  We would have little  strength endurance also, because there is no reserve of strength to draw upon to repeatedly move an object heavier than our own body-weight repeatedly.

Marathoning does not take great levels of strength or even medium levels of strength. Try pitching hay bales all day if you never do anything but run or bicycle and you will see what I mean. It will kick your butt even if you can run 26 miles.  You don’t have reserves of tension producing capacity in your body to pitch 80lb bales all day. Most people who run or bicycle long distances usually weigh quite a bit less than an average person of their same height.  It is not just because they have low body-fat. It is also because they have low muscle mass for their body-weight and height.

We need balance in both.

Train to be in between the power-lifter and the marathon man.

Get strong.

Learn to manipulate tension in your body.

Get fast, mobile and agile. Learn to move your body.

Learn to manipulate other objects that you carry, throw, swing, etc.

If you get stronger through generating tension in your lifting and you develop a faster more flexible body, you will do everything else with greater ease and enjoyment, even as you get older.

After-all, would you rather have the body of a 20 year old or an 80 year old?

When you reach your upper years would you rather get there with a non-trained body or one that is physically (not genealogically) 10-20 years younger due to smart training and lifestyle?

What’s the difference in the two strength, endurance and mobility wise and how did they get there?

I rest my case.

Get strong and learn to manipulate  tension.

Learn to relax  physically, mentally and athletically.

Get mobile, agile and flexible.

The fastest guys in sport are strong and very smooth, even appearing relaxed in their efforts.

Learn to move with speed, strength and smoothness without thinking and you will be awesome.

We could all use a little more awesomeness in our life.

Go get some.

 

 

 

 

It’s In the Movement…

The more we can tune into what we are doing, get the feel of the movement, the more we will get out of our training.

Control of our body-weight  or some outside object comes from manipulating many factors.

I'm not counting rep speed here...

At times a thought of:

“In this movement I need to step one two throw” can help, such as initially learning a sequence of moves,

but the point is to move from one point to the other and feel the flow of the movement, whatever it happens to be.

Changes of direction should not be exclamation points, they should be V’s with a tight curve at the bottom or point of change of direction.

Though at times the point of change of direction may have a faster or slower or sharper or more gradual or flatter turn-around.

Smooth comes from learning to feel what’s going on in the movement and then going with it and amplifying and controlling it rather than counting rep cadence.

or here...lift, move! Feel it!

Like comparing a dancer that dances versus one that counts his steps.

Maybe initially count but then quickly get away from that and feel it. I think in one session with a client or when teaching ourselves a new move, we can get away from counting our rep speed fast.

We need to ask:

Which one will be smoother, (whether they are moving fast or slow)?

Which one will have better balance and control throughout the entire exercise or movement?

The person counting their rep speed or the person who has learned to feel the movement and control it by spatial awareness, balance, force input and manipulation, leverage, etc ?

Of course, pause reps have their place for certain applications, but that is another story.

Running as if I'm chasing dinner...

The more the general trainee who is looking to merely “get in shape, lose weight” (as they themselves say) , can learn to feel what is going on with their body while exercising, really getting into the moves, the more feedback they will get from their environment, their training.

They will learn when to root or plant themselves, when to move fast and touch and go, when to glide or when to move slower.

We should guide them in this learning process by helping them get into the movement, not by counting rep speed.

I’d much rather see a guy learn to control a weight, for example in bench pressing or dead lifting, by focusing on doing the move correctly and feeling the load and forces  as he does it and learning how various inputs from him: speed, minute adjustments, muscular tension, breathing, etc can change the exercise rather than relying on counting rep speed to try to teach that.

This gives them a greater sense of control and input as to how things affect their body.

And that can help them as they develop that awareness and apply that to other habits in life:

Like what they eat and how they live and sleep and how those things impact their recovery, their strength or endurance, the composition of their body, their overall quality of life.

It’s all about balance and control and moving smoothly through a movement, a rep,  a set,  a routine, a job, a life.

Smoothness creates stability and control. This gives confidence in a exercise or movement. Rep speed counting does not.

Rep speed or cadence counting: what happens if it gets thrown off somehow, like from fatigue or a slight loss of balance or loss of focus?

Side bends...think I'm counting rep speed?

We, the coach or trainer will not always be there for them or even be 100% focused on every inch of a  movement during a rep. Injuries happen fast, many times.

Feeling the movement itself, when fatigue sets in or as one maybe losses control of the bar, for instance, I think the person who is focused on feeling the action of his body in the movement, feeling the object they are lifting, will adapt and complete the movement safely or bail out if needed without injury, versus the rep speed counter who isn’t aware of what is about to happen because he’s focused on:

“Up, one thousand one one thousand twelve,  pause one thousand one, down one thousand one one thousand two, pause one thousand one, up one thousand one one thousand…man this is getting hard, where was I? oh yeah two thousand one or was that two?…down one thousand…what rep was I on?”

as they perform the next few reps in some sort of mentally induced counting rep cadence stupor.

We don’t ask a trainee how their rep speed was after they completed a set of movements.

We ask how it felt to them.

BINGO!

How it FELT.

Did you feel strong? In control? Did it feel too heavy? Too light? Did you feel you were losing your balance?

Do we think they will be able to tell us much if they are counting their rep speed or we are counting it outloud for them? Do we think they will focus on the movement if they are counting or they hear us counting?

Better to say:

“Try doing that a little faster or slower.”

“Try slowing down that initial pull off the floor  a little more. Try to squeeze it off the floor”

“Pop it up once it reaches here…”

“Slow down a little”

“Faster”

“Stay tight”

“Loosen up”

Or:

“Man, that didn’t feel right to me. I need to drop with my feet a little closer as I catch the bar.”

Not:

“Well, it looks like to me in the first second of that pushup you were going too fast but in the second second of your pushup you slowed way down. Try to keep both seconds the same speed.”

“You’re counting too fast. Count like this…”

“Well, maybe if I shave a half second off my rep count as I pull the bar up I can drop under it better.”

We seek their input so we can adjust the movement, to make it safer, more effective and get them stronger, faster, etc.

They/we can’t provide that input if we are focused on counting rep speeds.

As a coach or trainer will we notice form flaws as readily if we are counting rep speed? Try switching from counting rep speed outloud for the client and then suddenly saying:

“Drop it!” or “Let the kettlebell go!” or “Stop that push-up!” on a rep going bad or getting too out-off balance.

Do we really need to count rep speed? The rep or movement either felt strong, controlled, balanced or it did not.

I think counting rep speed is a crutch for us when we are not sure what to focus on when teaching movements.

Imagine a dance instructor who teaches students to dance not only by counting the steps but also the speed of each step.

Now the student has to think about each step but also think about:

“Is my step too slow, too fast?”

Just teach them the steps.

The steps make up the movement.

Each movement or exercise has various steps to it and also has a rhythm to it, a flow of movement from each individual step. Once all the steps of that movement are being performed correctly, then we can begin to change the speed  of that movement.

So once the rhythm or cadence of a particular exercise is learned, we can speed it up or slow it down.

Better to teach proper form, on a push-up for example, and then when we or our client can do it properly, make adjustments in the speed of each rep to create differing variables to get the results we are seeking from performing that movement at that speed.

Such as:

A Plank, pausing at various points of a push-up,  a push-up done slow,  a push-up done fast, a clapping pushup. Various speeds creating various results to our body. All based off a basic posture held during varying degrees of zero to explosive speeds.

Endurance, strength, explosiveness? Adjust the speed, leverage, weight or load, etc, accordingly, depending on the movement.

As Miyagi said in one of the Karate Kid movies:

“Move faster.”

And we don’t need to count the rep speed to do that. Let the client feel the changes on their body from making subtle changes in speed of movement by verbally giving them cues, not counts.

Or have them do a set and vary the rep speed as they see fit during that set and note how each rep feels.

Or do a few reps super slow, rest, try a set slightly faster, etc.

Get their input after each set. You might ask:

“How did it feel? Did you notice this _____ happening  at that speed?”

The most athletically inclined people, and those who seem to pick things up quickly when learning new exercises or movements are those who put themselves into the move and feel it.

Don’t stutter step through learning movements strung together.

If it must be broken down a section at a time, like in the TGU,  as each section is learned, make those two sections flow together before going on to the next section.

Seek to teach seamlessness in movements.

learning to fly...

The more we, or those we teach, learn to feel movements and exercises, the more we can pick up new movements safer, faster and with better results.

Watch a good dancer, gymnast, sprinter etc,   learn martial arts or the kettlebell swing versus some  guy who counts his rep speed all the time to make sure he gets whatever he thinks that rep speed is going to give him.

We should teach those we train to feel and move rather than count.

Tune them in to the music of training and movement, not to the amount of frequency waves in a particular beat.

Teach them to run, to jump, to fly.

Give them wings, not a calculator.

One Brick at a Time

Well, of course, that’s how you build a house or other brick structure.

So what does it have to do with you and I?

That is how you get stronger, faster and tougher.

One brick at a time. It takes time and effort. It takes patience. It takes persistence. And sometimes it means taking a few steps back to re-adjust or re-hab injuries.

Now, Tiger Joe (I like his website, nice pics of the country and motorcycling) brought up an interesting point in a comment he made under the article entitled: “Get Stronger”.

It had to do with how to get into the type of training I mention and at what level of intensity a person would begin to train at. Now I’m not picking on Tiger Joe, he brought up a great point. Many probably wonder the same thing:

“How do I get into such training? Where do I begin?”

Well, I’ll try to answer that and a few other questions along the way.

Depending on where you are at in your training, you might have to jump into things at a lower intensity and a lower volume. Perhaps just one day a week to start.

Or maybe you are at that point in life where you can jump into the sort of training I have been talking about and tear it up right away.

It depends on so many factors: prior injuries, training experience, age, time available for recovery, etc.

one-arm sledge hits

As with anything, there is a learning curve, a period of the body adjusting to the movements, impact and implements.

So if this is new to you and you would like to try this sort of training out, I would suggest taking one thing at a time. Take a look at the various things you can train with. Ask yourself some questions:

What seems to interest me the most?

What do I think would give me the biggest return on my training time?

Is there a glaring weakness we need to work on and which implement would really target that area?

And for me, most importantly, what is going to give me the most satisfaction and fun in training with?

So, armed with such questions, we can now look at various implements we might start training with or possibly add to our current training. Such things as sandbags, rocks, tires, sleds, sledge hammers, body-weight, barbells, kettle-bells, dumbbells, ropes, etc.

Then, list out the answers to those questions above. Maybe training with sleds really intrigues us. Perhaps we are into running cross country on rougher terrain than the smooth-roadside running many people engage in. So we think about building up our leg strength with sleds. We think:

 “You know, I really need to build my ankles and knees up to be able to handle running on uneven, rocky, muddy, sandy terrain safer and faster. I think training with a sled could help me do that”.

So, go  buy or make a sled. Add it into your training, just a little at a time. Perhaps one training day the first week. Then two days the next week. Three days the third week. Just play with the sled, doing some pulls, some pushes, maybe some lateral walks dragging the sled. Nothing to failure or really pushing yourself. Just get use to the implement, how it feels training with it, how to do the various exercises with it. 

Perhaps plug the training in after the rest of your regular training. Then on your fourth week, try pushing the training a little more.

Does it make any old injuries feel better or worse?

Overall, does it make you feel stronger, faster, tougher, more mobile, agile?

Is it making your cross-country runs better, more enjoyable, faster?

If you have a sport or just enjoy competing in something for fun, does it make your performance better? Did training with that implement give you a mental edge during competition?

If you don’t compete in anything, and train just for the fun of it, you can still ask the same questions. Does it help your work harder with less fatigue if you have a labor intensive job? If you have other interests like hiking, hunting, golf, does it make those activities easier? And was it fun training with that implement? If it was, chances are you will keep doing it, and that is a big part in getting stronger, faster and tougher.

leveraging a slosh pipe

With any training implement, you will find some exercises and implements  easier than others. That’s part of the fun, finding what movement with a given implement really helps you become a more balanced person physically and mentally. You might find you have a particular strength. Now the temptation will be to focus on that. You can do that, but focusing more on areas where you notice a weakness will help you get that all-around strength you are after.

My suggestion would to be to pick an implement. Learn how to train with it. Have fun with it. Some days really push yourself training with it. Other days just use it for a warm-up. Work up to a heavier implement.  For example, start with a 6 pound sledge hammer if that’s all you can handle. Gradually, over time, work up to handling heavier and heavier sledge hammers, until you can comfortably swing a 16-20 pound sledge for time and or reps.

Some days use the lighter hammer and go for a longer period of time than normal or a lot more hits on the tire. Maybe see how fast you can get 50 hits on the tire in as hard as you can.  Other days swing a heavier sledge and take fewer hits on the tire, focusing on the rhythm and a more moderate hit.  Mix it up.

Note how it affects YOU.

loading up for the beat down

Then begin to explore another training implement.

Strength builds upon strength. Endurance in using a particular training implement comes from repeated exposure to using it.

But some training implements or tools, actually impact the body in a broader spectrum.

How so?

Well, training with just barbells, for example, will not make a person that much more effective in swinging a sledge hammer. If our trainee jumps right into pounding a tire with a 16lb sledge for 30 minutes, it will probably kick his you-know-what.

Or if a person always trains with just body-weight and decides to jump into training with a 100lb sandbag, same thing, it will give him a butt-kicking.

But what if our intrepid trainee starts out more gradually? He adds in a little sledge hammer work, building up his ability to handle the training implement. Once proficient at it, he than starts to incorporate some sandbag training into his routine.

Now to do this, he will have to make room in his training program. If he continues to do the volume and intensity of his old barbell routine while adding in the other implements, he will over-train and/or get injured or sick.

But if he drops down to just a few basic barbell moves, say power clean and jerks or maybe dead-lifts and bench presses, he can now add in some other training tools or objects and easily handle the stress of training with new implements.

Each new object he trains with opens up new movement patterns, challenges his physicality in different ways. Some might say a squat is just a basic movement pattern, that any squat builds the same muscles.  A squat is a squat, they might say.

Well, try a back squat. Then a front squat. Then a snatch-grip overhead squat. Next, grab a sand bag and do squats with it over one shoulder or bear hug a heavy rock or sand/water filled beer keg.

Just because you can back squat a barbell wiht authority and good form does not mean you can squat the other objects easily. Same movement pattern? Builds the same muscles?

Yes and no.

Each object brings a new challenge to the body, pushing the realm of the basic movement pattern in different directions. Maintaining good body-mechanics or technique while lifting differing objects stresses the body in every way imaginable.

If you want  all-around strength and mobility with the ability to handle and manipulate physical objects (whether animate or inanimate), learn to train with a variety of objects.

Start with one. Expand your physical abilities. Add another object when you feel ready. Continue to add more training objects, adjusting how you lift them, subbing one lift for another as you go.

For example, squat with a barbell. Then on another day use a slosh pipe. Train with the slosh pipe for several months. Get use to it. Get some training experience, some training time under your belt. Get to the point where you can man-handle that slosh pipe around. Perhaps work up to a heavier slosh pipe.

Once at that point, with just some maintenance work with the slosh pipe, you can keep probably 90% of your slosh pipe created physical attributes.

Now add a new implement. Maybe kettle-bells or sandbags. Do the same thing. Maintain your basic barbell lifts, perhaps 2-3 lifts and the same with the slosh-pipe.  Do these basic maintenance lifts several times per week.  As you do,  gradually explore what you can do with the sandbag. Find out what gives you the biggest bang-for-your-buck or the effort you expend in training with it. Then gradually build up your ability to man-handle that sandbag around.

Same as with the slosh-pipe, try using a heavier sandbag or doing more reps with the one you have. The trick is, get stronger with it. Create greater strength endurance with it.

fast steps

At that point, begin to do just a few moves with it, the ones that you feel really give you what you want out of training with the sandbag. Maybe it’s one shoulder sandbag squats and sandbag power-cleans. Or maybe it’s walking for time/distance with the bag on one side and then the other.

So now, the things you train in  your weekly routine looks like this:

power-clean and jerk, overhead slosh pipe carry, forward flexion with slosh pipe, one sided sandbag squats alternating sides, lateral sandbag throw onto picnic table, bear-hug walk with sandbag and throw in  some hill running or wind sprints a couple times per week.

 That’s not really much when you look at it. But believe me, it will impact your body in a big way. This would stress your body in many more angles than someone who just focuses on Olympic lifts, for example.

Could you compete with the Olympic lifter? No, he would win at his specialty.  But that is not what we are after here. We are after strength, agility, toughness, strength endurance and many other physical qualities. I would say that our multi-trained specimen would out-perform the Olympic lifter in nearly anything else.

Imagine if you can carry 80-90% of your strength and strength endurance forward with each new implement you train with what will happen. If you keep 80% or more of your slosh pipe acquired abilities, and add to it with 80-90% from the sandbag, barbell, sledge hammer tire hits, etc where would you be?

You’d be one tough hombre!

Maybe in the beginning you can only manage to carry 60% through each implement. But with time  and pesistence that percentage would increase. It is acumulative. Training with various implements builds on the others qualities. The ability or percentage of ability adds to and increases the qualities gained from another implement. It is interchangeable if trained in a interchangeable manner. The only limit here is the mind.

Gradually experiment and explore new objects to train with. This way you don’t need to collect a bunch of odd objects all at once. Get use to handling heavier objects as you acquire more strength. At first a 50 pound rock might be tough to handle. But with time and experience and repeated exposure to training with that rock, you will graduate to heavier rocks.

In time you can learn how to mix and match various implements and methods in your training to get different physical qualities.

You will create a body and mind capable of training with nearly anything, anywhere. You will create a well-balanced strong body that will be capable of doing nearly anything well.  And that goes a lot further than trying to set a world record in the Boston Marathon or some International Power-lifting meet. How many people know who set the world record in a particular sport 20 years ago? Not too many. World records fade fast. Someone else beats your record.

Good health and a well balanced strong, tough body will serve a person way more than some old trophy collecting dust on a shelf with the injuries of competition that go along with it. Glory days?

Why live in the past. Live for the now and for the future, wisely.

A healthy diet doesn’t just consist of carbohydrates. It doesn’t just consist of meat. It doesn’t consist of just vitamin B12. It takes a variety of foods to create a healthy diet and thus a healthy body.

It takes a variety of training implements and routines to create a well-balanced body.

A healthy training routine doesn’t just mean barbells, or just  body-weight exercises.

So, get busy learning something new, one brick at a time.

Take your time. Enjoy the journey.

Where do you need to start?

Start where you need to start and add on from there at the pace you can handle.  

In time, you will get stronger, tougher and faster.

And it will all happen while you were having fun.

Never say die…post script

For those curious about the leg procedures and why:

varicose legs run in my family. My parents, brothers and sisters aunts and uncles all have it. It is a genetic defect. The surgeon confirmed it is a genetic disorder. The veins in your leg swell and thus the valves that prevent blood from falling back down the vein due to gravity no longer seal completely between each heart beat.

Blood begins to pool in the veins and dilates the vein further, causing the valves in your veins to leak even more, creating a cycle that gets worse and worse over the years. It is not caused by many of the idiotic proposed ideas you may hear about. It is genetic.

If you do not get it taken care of it, it can cause blood clots that can kill you. It leads to achy, heavy feeling legs, bruises that ulcerate very easily and other problems.

If you suffer from it see a specialist. To ignore it can result in your losing a foot or leg later in life. Not where I wanted to be.

Walter