A Painting Up Close March 09 2015
The great painter J.M.W. Turner was famous for his imaginative landscape paintings that focused more on emotions and moods rather than the actual topography of the surroundings. However, many overlook his meticulous studies of topography in his early years and his precise usage of colours that formed the base for his magical works of art. We often hear people talk about focusing on the big picture. But many times, it is the little details that make up the big picture.
As much as training progress largely revolves around training, diet and recovery, there are many overlooked factors that can be potential deal-breakers.
Small differences in form and technique can have a big impact on one’s lifts. As training progresses, one’s strengths and weaknesses change and that may require different lifting techniques to take advantage of them. My weak quads used to be my limiting factor for squats and I felt more comfortable with a medium-wide stance. Doing specific quad work like front squats and hack squats didn’t seem to do much, and it was only after I moved in my stance and squatted with a much faster descent that this new-found strength came into play.
Keeping old injuries at bay and preventing new ones is an often underestimated training progress factor. Aside from practising proper lifting form, stretching and foam rolling on a regular basis is essential as tight muscles can be the basis for many lifting problems in the future. Personally, having spinal degeneration and recovering from a back injury means that I have to continually decompress my spine with numerous stretches after training. Once in a while, I do get lazy and often, I am jolted back to my senses with sharp pains while lifting!
Of course, the best brushes and canvas in the world count for nothing if one is lacking in the artistic department. The same for training, as much as focusing on these little factors can be beneficial, the training progress express will not be speeding off anytime soon with bad diet and recovery or terrible training programming.
By Heng Jun Kai
Office Hacks (Part 2): Release and Stretch January 21 2015 1 Comment
In this installment, we are going to teach you how to release your tight muscles as well as how to stretch them.
Things that you need for doing self release work:
- Foam roller
- Lacrosse ball (anything harder than a tennis ball can be used.)
Before we begin, let’s try to mobilize our thoracic spine first. It is a crucial mobility drill as this helps free up our scapulothoracic joint, which is crucial for healthy hips and shoulders. For that, we are going to need a foam roller.
- Ensure that your butt is resting on the floor. If you have difficulty resting the head on the floor, it is okay to rest it on a pillow or cushion first.
- Take deep breaths to allow the body to relax even more.
- You may feel uncomfortable in the beginning, so try to get into position and progress slowly.
- Start with the foam roller higher up (just under the trapezius area) and work your way down from there.
The main muscles we are going to release are:
1. Trapezius (shoulders)
- This will help in alleviating neck stiffness and shoulder aches.
2. Pectorialis (chest)
- This will improve hunching.
3. Glutes (buttocks)
- This to loosen up the butt muscles that will in turn make the lower back less stiff.
- To loosen up the hips from the front, as tight quadriceps and the underlying hip flexor muscles can pull the hips into anterior tilt.
The main muscles we are going to stretch are:
- Trapezius (side of the neck)
- Levator Scapulae (back of the neck)
3. Pectorialis (chest)
4. Latissimus Dorsi (lats)
5. Glutes (buttocks)
Things to note when you are stretching:
- Ease into the stretch, and avoid aggressive stretching
- Do not stretch beyond the point of mild discomfort, as this may cause the muscle to tighten up even further
- Breathe throughout the stretch to enable the body to relax further
- Maintain the stretches for 1 to 2 minutes, up to 3 times per side
In our next and final installment, we will be showing you simple exercises to strengthen the weak muscles that may be the root cause of your pain and discomfort.
By Tan Chee Chong
*Location credit to Ziklag Fitness.
Office Hacks January 07 2015 1 Comment
Behold the desk jockey! The workaholic hunched over in his chair with horrible posture and experiencing pains and aches in common areas like:
- Lower back
If the above seems familiar to you, have no fear! Short of getting you to do your work while standing, here are some office hacks that can save your posture!
- Sit closer to your desk and reduce your viewing distance from the monitor.
- This is to ensure that you don’t have to lean towards the monitor, straining your neck.
- Ensure your back is fully rested on the backrest.
- Having your back on the backrest will support your spine fully.
- Ensure both feet are touching the floor and not dangling in the air.
- This lets your body know that it is in a stable position, preventing your muscles from tightening up.
- Rest your forearms on the desk when you are using the keyboard and mouse.
- To support the weight of your arm as well as reducing the risk of carpal tunnel syndrome.
Besides these adjustments, you can also consider standing up and taking a short walk after an extended period of sitting.
In our next installment of this 3 part office series, we will be focusing on how to release and stretch tight muscles. Stay tuned!
Are your shoulders up to the test? December 12 2014
The shoulder joint is perhaps one of the most banged up parts of the body for most lifters. Ask any lifter and it is likely they will complain of some degree of discomfort in their shoulders. It's easy to see how this could happen though, since the shoulder girdle is heavily stressed in most general barbell lifts - from stabilizing the overhead and bench pressing movements, to holding the bar in place during a squat (through external rotation).
The best solution for crappy shoulders is really to do preventive work to ensure optimal range of motion and balance among the muscles surrounding the shoulder girdle. Naturally, the first step to this would be to assess what your current range of motion is like for your shoulders.
Here are some simple tests that you can do at home to see if you have a healthy range of motion in the shoulders.
1) Raise both your arms till they are overhead with the upper arms beside your head. Picture yourself reaching for a high object that is directly above your head, as shown in the picture below.
Reaching overhead (source)
Optimal shoulder range of motion (source)
Ideadlly, a healthy range of motion should be such that you can bring your arms all the way overhead without having to push our your chest or arch your lower back excessively. Any range less than 180 degrees, or any point in the curve where you would need to compensate with pushing the chest out and arching the back would indicate a poor range of motion. If this occurs, take note of any pain during the movement.
2) For this test, slowly raise your arms from your side. It should look like you are performing a lateral raise exercise. The end result should have you with your arms extended outwards from your sides, forming a T-shape with your body. The main thing to take note here is how high you can get your arms before your traps start to contract. Do take note of any pain that may occur in any portion of the movement as well.
Raising the arms to the side (source)
Ideally, you should be able to raise your arms to the degree shown in the picture, without your traps contracting. If your traps do tense up as you are lifting your hands from your sides, then it is likely that your traps are excessively tight and overactive, and will likely be restricting your shoulder range in any of the other tests.
3) Lastly, you can perform Apley’s Scratch Test. Try your best to get into the position shown in the picture and repeat with the opposite combination. It is not necessary for both hands to touch each other. However, do take note of how high or how low each hand reaches.
Apley Scratch Test (source)
Ideally you should be able to reach the middle area of your back with no severe tightness in either shoulder. If you have a higher range of motion, you will find that you are likely to be able to touch both hands together.
If there is no pain (learn to differentiate between pain, ache and stiffness) involved in the 3 tests, here are some usual tight spots that WILL affect the mobility of the shoulders.
Should you experience any stiffness in any of these areas, evidenced during the test, do try rolling and easing these muscles out. Try releasing them out individually in the order given and notice which ones give you the most relief. However, should you feel any pain during any of the tests, do consult a doctor!
By Tan Chee Chong
Of Monsters & Men December 08 2014
Toss the question “I’m looking for a new training routine” and big names like Coan, Lilliebridge, Westside and Sheiko will start being thrown about like notes at a strip club. It is easy to see why. Their routines have made them (or their students) the monsters and living legends they are today. In the midst of all this greatness, it can get really easy to be overwhelmed and miss the point.
When I was younger and a wreck (still am) in my studies, there would always be this guy in my class who studied endlessly day and night and got all As. There would also be another guy who hardly studied and scored the same results. If you happen to be in the mould of either Mr Sell-My-Soul or Mr Do-J**k-Shit-for-Success, congratulations! This article is definitely not for you. It took me a long while to figure out that trying or pretending to be either one of them did nothing for my studies. My grades only started moving once I finally sorted out my own studying schedule, customizing it to my own pace and attention span.
Andrey Malanichev destroying way over 400kg (Source)
It is really the same for strength training and as well as almost everything else. Following Coan or Malanichev’s training routine down to a T is definitely not going to give you a 400kg squat anytime soon nor probably anytime in the future. In fact, it is also probably not going to propel you towards maximizing your strength potential, simply because you are not built like Coan or Malanichev. Lifters like them and many others, have ungodly leverages or genetics to top off the enormous amount of effort they put in to reach the top. When Coan first started squatting, he maxed out twice a week and increased the weight weekly till he hit 225kg. If you happen to fall into this genetic pool, you definitely wouldn’t be reading this article or even be trawling the net for new training routines.
This does not go to say that there is nothing to be learnt from their routines. The greatest lifters, no matter how great, do have weaknesses and the things they do to fix them can be one of the greatest takeaways. Karwoski, despite having one of the greatest squats ever, used to lack the grip strength for a deadlift on a similar scale. Many people glaze over the fact that he did lots of paused shrugs to fix the issue and even invented his own variant of an upright row and shrug where he gripped the bar thumbless.
Kirk Karwoski performing his shrug-row hybrid (Source)
Sheiko, probably the most famous coach in powerlifting, did not have a standard template for all his lifters. He analysed each lifter’s strengths and weaknesses as well as many other factors before coming up with his own personalised plan targetted specifically for the individual. His students like Belyaev, Pozdeev and Fedorenko all had different planned sets and frequencies for their training, simply because they were not the same person!
A chain is only as strong as your weakest link. So rather than go about searching for the imaginary Holy Grail of all training routines, why not take a look at your weaknesses and go about fixing them. After all, the best training routine is the one that is best suited for yourself.
By Heng Jun Kai
DIY Knee Relief December 01 2014
Here at Ferocity, we get a fair share of clients that come to us with knee pain. Whilst it may be better to get a more complete assessment, here is a simple diagnostic process you can perform on yourself to get some relief.
First off, start by locating the position of the knee pain. Is it:
a) lateral knee pain which is at the “outer” side of the knee (right side of the right knee or left side of the left knee)?
b) medial knee pain in the “inner” side of the knee (left side of the right knee or right side of the left knee)?
c) right in the middle of the patella (knee cap)?
Or d) pain on the back of the knee?
Located your knee pain yet? Good! Find the corresponding solution to your situation below! If you are unsure of the muscles, refer to the diagram below.
Muscles of the Thigh (Quadriceps) Source
a) Lateral knee pain:
Try releasing the muscle on the outer aspect of the thigh (Vastus lateralis). You can release the muscle by massaging it with your fingers or rolling it out with a foam roller or even a rolling pin. You should feel some bumps and really sore spots. Do it gently in the beginning and gradually increase the pressure as you get more comfortable and the muscle relaxes out.
b) Medial knee pain:
If it is medial knee pain, you can try releasing the muscle on the bottom side of the thigh shaped like a teardrop (Vastus Medialis Oblique). Massage this muscle with your fingers or roll it out with a sufficiently hard object like a lacrosse ball or softball. Begin gently and increase the pressure as you go along. You might feel sore spots so work on them for a while to ease them out gently.
c) Middle of the patella pain:
For pain in the middle of the patella, try releasing the muscle on the top side of the quadriceps (rectus femoris) and on the buttocks (glutes) as well. Both should feel sore to a certain degree. Once again, begin gently and only increase the pressure gradually as you work on the muscle.
d) Back of the knee pain:
If the pain is located at the back of the knee, try massaging out the muscle just below the back of the knee (popliteus) (refer to the diagram below). This muscle is best massaged with your thumbs or by rolling it with a fairly solid ball. Often it can feel very tight and sore, so start gently and increase the pressure gradually.
Location of Popliteus on the back of knee (right knee pictured) Source
It must be noted that whilst these quick fixes might bring some relief to your knees, the relief might only be temporary. These fixes can only help you manage the pain, but solving it would require tackling the problem at its root, which is a scope far too vast for a short article like this. If any of the pain persists, do not hesitate to set up a consultation with any of our rehabilitation specialists for a more thorough assessment and a solution for lasting relief!
By Tan Chee Chong
Strength Bites: Brandon Lilly November 18 2014 1 Comment
Brandon Lilly is the man behind the Cube Method, and is one of the world's top elite powerlifters. He has achieved a raw total of over 2200 pounds, and will be stepping on to the world platform later this week at the GPA Worlds in Sydney, Australia.
Despite what he says, his recovery from his squatting injury in January earlier this year is nothing short of miraculous. On his left side, he tore his quad and patella tendons, his ACL, MCL and his meniscus. He also broke his kneecap. On his right side, he tore his quad and patella tendons and partially tore his meniscus and small hamstring. While mere mortals may just be learning how to walk again, Brandon is already squatting and deadlifting weights that we still dream of, and planning his return to powerlifting at GPA Worlds.
Ferocity caught up with him to learn how his recovery has been going.
Cheryl: Can you share more about how your recovery is going and what has helped the most?
Brandon: The main thing is positive energy, and positive people around you. When I was injured I realized how many people I catered to that really didn't matter, sometimes at the expense of my true friends, and family. I adjusted my focus, shut some people out, pulled others closer, and set out on a plan to get better.
There is nothing easy about the surgeries I endured, but there is also nothing miraculous about my recovery. I had one of the best surgeons in the country, and to be put back together correctly is the first step. From there with all the pieces in the proper place, it was just allowing everything to "heal" to the point that I could set out on my recovery path. I explored natural supplements, prescription medications, peptides, and PRP injections to further the healing, and at this point lifting was not my focus, walking was. Once I had my plan, my course of action, I took my first step. Literally.
Cheryl: That's incredible. It must have been such a struggle going from squatting hundreds of pounds to learning how to walk again. What helped you to keep your focus and drive?
Brandon: My son. He's 7 now, and as impractical as the sport of powerlifting is, and the selfishness of it, it was only worsened when I felt like I may never get to do things with him. That was by far the most motivating aspect for my recovery. The other side was wanting to show people the kind of individual I am. My brain can tolerate the fact that I may never squat a PR again, but I never wanted to be a guy that lifted the most weight, I wanted to be respected as someone who made the most of the circumstances I was dealt. That's really all life is about is making the most of every single day.
Cheryl: I think you have definitely shown everyone that you definitely made the most of the circumstances, particularly in the past year. We've all been very much inspired by you. Can you share some of the most important lessons you've learnt from lifting and how you apply it now?
Brandon: My personality is like a bull. I set a goal, and I do whatever it takes to achieve. Straightforward. Since the injury I've really learned to listen to warning signs my body gives me, and I push when it feels good to push, and I am more reserved when I feel I should be reserved. My issue for a while was that I set goals for GPA Worlds. The goals were just numbers I believe I can achieve, rather than numbers that made sense based on my training, so I fell into the trap of overdoing it and my legs would stay sore for days on end. Then I realized GPA Worlds is not my swan song. I will compete after this meet so I'm better suited to lift to my abilities and take what the day allows. Ironically enough the more reserved approach has probably allowed me to advance more quickly than had I been full steam ahead the entire time.
Cheryl: Thank you Brandon, and all the best at GPA Worlds!
Strength Bites: Andy Bolton November 12 2014
Andy Bolton was the first man who ever broke the 1000 pound barrier in the deadlift with his lift of 1,003 lbs in 2006. Since then, he has surpassed his record with a pull of 1,008 lbs in 2009. He has also squatted the mind-blowing number of 1213.6 lbs! He will be competing at the GPA Worlds later this month. Ferocity decided to find out more about Andy's prep leading up to the biggest powerlifting event of the year.
Cheryl: How are you preparing for GPA Worlds next month, and what numbers are you hoping to hit?
Andy: I will be doing the deadlift only. Training has been going well, I'm feeling healthy and strong. For GPA Worlds, anything over 900lbs is always a good pull.
Cheryl: Are you aiming to surpass your previous record of 1,008 lbs?
Andy: Yes I do, but with that kind of weight, everything has to be perfect. Maybe GPA Worlds in Australia is the place to do it!
Cheryl: Can you share a bit about your recent training program on your preparation?
Andy: I have included heavy paused squats again. I find that when my legs are stronger, my deadlift goes up, so i squat and deadlift on the same day, Wednesday. After that, I do the leg press. I have also included ketllebell swings into my plan.
Cheryl: Oh yes, I remember in Deadlift Dynamite (Andy's book), you talk about how the kettlebell swing really helps with building the lockout and back strength. Can you share about how you first started lifting?
Andy: I started in bodybuilding, then got bored with the diet. After that I was spotted by a group of lifters who asked me to join them. 1 year later, I was world champion. I was age 20 when I first started.
Cheryl: What is the greatest lesson you have learnt in lifting?
Andy: The greatest lesson is to never set yourself limits, because anything is possible. Aim high and you just might get there.
Cheryl: Thank you again Andy, and all the best for GPA Worlds!
10 Reasons Why Girls Should Lift November 03 2014 1 Comment
When I first decided to try lifting weights, it was scary and awkward like hell. But since then, I've come to really love it for many reasons, and that's something that I want to share with all girls. It's been transformative, and I want to encourage you to try it.
#1: Lose body fat!
Lifting weights actually offers significantly higher resistance training than cardio. As a result, there is higher excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) than if you did cardio. Higher EPOC means your body requires more energy to recover from lifting weights, ensuring that calories will burn at a higher rate even after you are done lifting. Muscle also needs more energy to be maintained than fat, and hence increasing muscle also increases your metabolism rate.
#2: “Toned” muscles
It's a myth that lifting weights makes girls bulky! Guys get "bulky" because they have much higher levels of testosterone, and testosterone is essential for building muscle. Because girls have much lower levels of testosterone in our bodies, we won't "bulk" up easily.
The same amount of muscle also takes up less space than the same amount of fat :
Muscle is incredibly difficult to build. One doesn't get muscular simply from lifting a few weights. Building muscle takes intentional, hard work, and is accompanied by eating the right diet to build it. It takes eating a large surplus of the right kinds of food to put on hard, dense muscle. Female bodybuilders look the way they do with the aid of anabolic steroids or testosterone supplements. Neither can one wake up with an accidental 6-pack!
#3: Functional Strength!
You can't lift weights without getting stronger and better at it. I can now lift that bag of rice in the supermarket, carry gallons of milk myself to the car, and replace the water dispenser in the office with a new tank when needed. No guys needed! Girl power for the win! Which leads us to the next point…
#4: It is empowering!
Being able to lift heavy makes me feel incredibly powerful—it has increased my faith in my own abilities to do something that I set my mind to. There is a thrilling rush of euphoria each time I set a PR. It's addictive!
Lifting heavy makes me feel strong and capable of taking care of myself. I love lifting weights because I know that if I set my mind on the goal, and I work towards it, I will be able to accomplish what I set out to do. Lifting heavy hasn't just changed my physically, but it's also transformed me mentally. I'm a stronger woman now than I was two years ago!
#5: Lifting helped me to love myself for what I can do and not what I look like!
Let's face it, our physical looks are temporal. Every time I look in the mirror, all I see are the thighs that touch, the muffin top, the cellulite, and pretty much every flaw I can think of. Lifting weights has helped me to enjoy what I do and to accept that looks aren't everything. It helped me to love my body for what it is capable of, be it pull ups, squats, or simply being able to move pain free. It is a blessing to be able to do what I want physically, and being engaged in physical activity helps me appreciate my body that much more for what it is capable of!
#6: Because cardio and crunches don't work!
If cardio and crunches worked, then why isn't everyone around you an extra small? I've been down that path of endless cardio and hundreds or even thousands of crunches, but it never helped me achieve that toned physique I was looking for.
Lifting was an entirely different experience. I began to enjoy exercise, and I loved what I did. I didn't count down the minutes (like I do in a spin or zumba class), and I didn't have to think of chocolate cake just to get through the workout. It also gave me more shape, and a way perkier butt! So if cardio and crunches haven't given you the kind of shape you want, then lifting might just be the thing for you!
#7: Stress relief.
There is nothing more liberating than going to the gym and throwing some weights around. (Only if your gym allows it. Don't be that person.)
Focus all your energy on the workout, and moving the weights. It's a great distraction and a wonderful way to relieve your anger.
I particularly enjoy deadlifts and throwing a medicine ball around on such days. As a friend of mine put it, "dropping a deadlift is like smashing plates against a wall".
#8: Helps build patience and perseverance in achieving long term goals.
Rome wasn't built in a day. Neither can you squat your body weight the first time you step into a squat rack. Setting long term goals and working towards them weekly taught me the value of perseverance and diligence. It translated into other qualities which I could use outside the gym- like setting long term goals, short term goals, planning to achieve these goals, discipline in executing my plan, and a doggedness not to let anything stop me from giving my 110%.
Lifting weights is perfect for building this mentality because it offers an objective way of measuring progress. Either you lift it, or you don't. If you don't, then reflect on why, plan again, and set out to conquer.
#9: Conquer osteoporosis
Weightlifting is a form of resistance training, which helps to increase bone density, thereby staving off osteoporosis in old age. Turning 50 is a 2 and a half decades away, but what you do now in your 20s can affect you when you’re much older. My mum was diagnosed osteo-arthritis in her hands when she was in her 40s, and that made me all the more sure that I want to keep myself strong and fit so I can take care of myself when I’m older.
I want to be like this awesome grandma!
#10: Because you have nothing to lose by trying something new!
By Cheryl Ng
Strength Bites: Chad Wesley Smith October 30 2014
Ferocity is starting a new series called Strength Bites, featuring interviews with Elite Lifters. Kicking off our series today is Chad Wesley Smith.
Chad Wesley Smith. He doesn't need an introduction, but for the rare few who haven't heard of him, he is THE man behind Juggernaut Training Systems, winner of two American national championships in the shot put, American record holder in the squat (905 in the 308 class, raw w/ wraps) and winner of the 2012 North American Strongman championship, where he earned his pro card. Here's the interview with the world famous powerlifter and Strong Man, and the Creator of the Juggernaut Method.
Cheryl: Hi Chad, we’ve all been following you on social media and know you’re training for GPA Worlds next month. Can you tell us about your preparation leading up to it, and what numbers you’re hoping to hit there?
Chad: Thanks Cheryl. This meet training has been going great, especially the squat and deadlift. I've been using the JuggerCube, which can be found in one of my articles on JTSstrength.com. I've been traveling quite a bit during the training but that hasn't caused too many problems. As far as numbers go, I'm looking for 1000+ lbs (453+ kg) in the squat, 550+ lbs (249+ kg) in the bench and 800+ lbs (362+ kg) in the deadlift.
Cheryl: That's incredible. Are you looking to break any world records and what are your biggest meet and gym lifts to date?
Chad: I want to challenge both the no wraps and wrapped squat world record there. My gym PRs are 855 lbs (387 kg) squat with no wraps, 515 lbs (233 kg) bench and 775 lbs (351 kg) deadlift. Meet PRs are 937 lbs (425 kg) squat with wraps, 540 lbs (244 kg) bench and 788 lbs (357 kg) deadlift, and a 2,248 lbs (1,019 kg) total.
Cheryl: I’ve always wanted to know how powerlifters got their start. It’s always wonderful to learn about their history and how they began. Can you share about how you got into lifting?
Chad: I started lifting in high school, about age 14, to train for football and track & field (shot put). I continued to throw the shot put through college and for 1 year as a post-collegiate with a PR of 20.00m. At that point, due to a number of circumstances, I decided to make the transition to competing in powerlifting.
Cheryl: Do you mind sharing what sort of circumstances?
Chad: My coach passed away from cancer right after I graduated college and I started Juggernaut which had me working 60-70 hours/week and just not leaving the time I needed to train as an Olympic hopeful, particularly because the shot put is one of the strongest events in the US.
Cheryl: That must have been very hard for you. But since then you've become an elite lifter, and started Juggernaut which has been an incredible resource for lifters worldwide! I remember reading that you were injured last year. Can you tell us more about how you've recovered from that and trained around it?
Chad: Last June while training for CAPO Nationals I herniated my L4/L5 and L5/S1 discs while deadlifting. Fortunately I have some very good chiropractors and physical therapists I've worked with for several years. My rehab mostly consisted of soft tissue therapy, decompression and breathing drills to learn how to brace a neutral spine position. Training was pretty light for awhile because I really wanted to take my time and make sure I could make a full recovery, so when I did come back to squatting/deadlifting I trained very light but with extremely high frequency (50-100 total reps up to 6 times per week).
Cheryl: If there is anything you could advise your younger self with regards to lifting and life, what would it be?
Chad: In regards to lifting, I'd just say to enjoy the process more than only focusing on the end result. Powerlifting is a lot of work to do maybe 30 seconds of so of work that actually matters, so if you aren't enjoying the 12 weeks of training that leads up to it, you're doing something wrong.
In life, I suppose the same advice would apply. To enjoy the daily struggles of work and running this company by realizing how great the people you're surrounded are by and how many people you get to positively impact by doing what you love.
Cheryl: Can you share what is the greatest mistake you've made in your lifting career, and what is the lesson you have learnt from it?
Chad: I've been pretty fortunate to I think do a lot of things right and be surrounded by smart and supportive people but the main mistake would be not giving more attention to bodybuilding style accessory work
Cheryl: For aesthetics or for increasing the main lifts?
Chad: Increasing the lifts...and a bit of aesthetics (too). Haha!
Cheryl: What's your greatest motivation?
Chad: Just my own goals. I'm very intrinsically motivated-almost always training by myself-and just want to push my numbers as high as possible.
Cheryl: Thank you Chad for your time. You've been awesome, and we wish you all the very best at GPA Worlds next month!
(Cheryl: The Juggernaut Method 2.0 is available at JTStrength.com right here. It's a fantastic program, and I've personally run it before. It's a very well organized and structured program based on solid fundamentals of strength programming, and I cannot recommend it highly enough. It's easy to follow, and I've used it to bring my squat back up to its previous standard following an injury last year. If you haven't heard of it or tried it, and are looking for some fresh programming, please check it out!)
To Squat or Not to Squat? October 24 2014
If I had a dollar for each time someone told me that squatting was bad for my knees, I might not be a millionaire but I would definitely be rich.
For most of you, it's also probably not your first time hearing that. This article today will address some of they myths which have perpetuated the gym, and bust those myths!
Myth #1: Squats are bad for the knees
You've probably heard this one a thousand times, but not only are squats not bad for the knees, virtually every legitimate research study on this subject has shown that squats help improve knee stability. Of course this is largely dependant on whether your squat pattern is fluid in the first place. Having a stable knee dramatically reduces the risk of injuries. Provided you don't relax or bounce (without control) in the bottom position of the squat, you have nothing to worry about! What happens when you relax is that the knee joint opens up slightly and exposes the connective tissues to stress levels higher than their inherent tensile strength. This doesn't mean that you can't pause in the bottom position, but that you have to ensure you keep the muscles under tension when doing so. In other words, just don't relax at the bottom of the squat and allow your connective tissue to over-stretch like a rubber band!
Myth #2: Squats widen the hips
The origin of this myth comes from old-time bodybuilding guru Vince Gironda, whom we talked about in the last blog post. Despite his many contributions and insights into weight training, there has been no scientific or empirical evidence that the squats do widen the hips. If this were true, olympic weightlifters, who can devote as much as a third of training volume to squats, would have the widest hips of all (and we know that to be untrue!). One of the prime movers in the squat movement is the gluteus maximus, and when it develops, it grows backwards, not to out to the sides, because the insertions nor origins of the attachments at at the hips. So ladies, take not, if you want to firm up your butt, deep squats are the perfect exercise for it!
Myth #3. There's only one way to squat
As the saying goes, 'there's more than one way to skin a cat'. Regardless of whether you decide to do front squats, back squats or squats with various different bar positions, you will still force adaptation and growth.
A good example of changing up the way you squat for various different benefits can be illustrated by how weightlifters, bodybuilders and powerlifters squat. Many weightlifters and most bodybuilders like to squat while keeping their backs as straight as possible and gives rise to an increased forward movement of the knees. This is more commonly known as a high bar squat. Powerlifters like to squat by bending more from the waist, so there's minimal forward movement of the knees, although this is dependant on the leverages of the individual powerlifters and whether they are squatting in a suit or not. This is more commonly known as a low bar squat. Also, powerlifters often don't squat as deep as weightlifters (but still past parallel), in an effort to handle as much weight as possible. It must be qualified that bodybuilders sometimes do like to squat to just above parallel to focus more on their quad development. From the standpoint of human biomechanics and neurophysiology, the depth of squatting, degree of forward lean and knee movement patterns can affect the muscle recruitment patterns, and is incredibly specific to the individual.
What this generally means is that you can take a page out of these different athletes' books. By squatting like powerlifters, you would tap into new motor-units and learn to develop the posterior side of the legs, which are often proportionally weaker due to under-training; and by squatting deep like weightlifters and bodybuilders and getting a good range of motion, you would help to increase the development of the VMO (vastus medialis oblique) muscle, glute and hamstring muscles which will greatly increase knee stability, bullet-proofing you against knee pain!
With these 3 myths busted, what are you waiting for? Get squatting and start gaining!
By Twain Teo
Interesting thoughts on training from Vince Gironda October 16 2014
Vince Gironda was a popular bodybuilder and even more renowned bodybuilding coach in the 1940s all the way till his death in the 1997. He was most popularly known for his unorthodox training methods and diet protocols, and was considered by many to be way ahead of his time. Many of his students went on to become extremely famous, including Larry Scott, whom many will remember as the original Mr. Olympia. Even though Vince Gironda was primarily a bodybuilding coach, many of his training principles are not just applicable to bodybuilding, but any sort of strength sports. Without further ado, let us take a look at 5 of the guiding principles that formed the basis for his teachings.
(Note: The following sections are extracts from Vince Gironda's book, The Wild Physique, published by Musclemag International, 1983. They are in Vince Gironda's own words.)
Dwelling on the subject of training all day causes endocrine tension, which can upset the chemical balance of your nervous system. This form of tension can be absolutely destructive to the muscle building process and hinder formation of new tissue. For the growth process to function to its optimum level, all of your glandular processes must operate with maximum efficiency.
Worry and anxiety and constantly dwelling on your workouts can prevent the free flow of endocrine secretions which is necessary for the rebuilding of nervous energy force. Remember, nerve force is essential for rebuilding tissue. When you begin your workout you are to concentrate on your training, the minute you finish your workout the training session is over, “turn it off.”
Over-enthusiasm is one of the bodybuilder’s worst enemies. Tranquility is the first rule of good health. You cannot fail to make gains if you see yourself as you wish to be. There are only one or two good exercises for each muscle. The rest of the exercises are only variations. Any interruptions during a training session can ruin a workout by dissipating nervous energy. All great champions have the ability of complete concentration which allows them to use their nerve energy force to its maximum.Tranquility.
The brain at rest uses 60% of the body’s energy. Thus, anything less than tranquility is disastrous to the bodybuilder. Overnight muscle loss takes place when a mental problem is encountered which upsets ones normal outlook. Excess concern regarding your workouts, diet, and conditions in your life can also place a drain on your tranquility. Such thoughts, given too much of your energy, are sure to result in less or no physical gains.
Stop worrying. Choose a course of action and follow through. Champions turn it off when they leave the gym. They are also not worriers and have a positive outlook.Workout Tempo.
Two people using the same routine, the same number of sets and reps, same weights, and only one of them is great. Which one? The one with workout tempo! Workout tempo is; the time wise evenly spacing of sets, without distractions and complete concentration on when to pick up the next weight and do the next set. Champions instinctively use this tempo when working out; while others are walking around the gym between sets, gossip with their buddies, or look at a magazine, or just sit down and rest.
Distraction to a champion is disastrous. It results in a loss of energy and pump. If you are distracted during your workout you might as well stop and rest an hour or so and then take up where you left off. Complete singleness of purpose is the key to concentration. Each workout is progressively different than the last one, and this simply means that more muscle tension is used and tighter contractions are employed. This results in greater satisfaction with each workout. When you reach this level of accomplishment in training, you may confuse this elated state of feeling with the need to do more work. Beware! This is where you could make your biggest mistake by taking on more work and over-working.Concentration.
Years ago, Vince predicted bodybuilders of the future would exercise less than back in his time. Why? Because of bodybuilders' advancement in concentration. Every top bodybuilder concentrates to the point they are oblivious to the activity around them. In conjunction with knowing how and where the muscles are attached, their functions, and what exercises engages the parts of the muscles one wishes to develop forms a foundation for training success. Every muscle has a low-middle lateral and high aspect. You must choose either the difficult or weak area to work on. The slow growing areas call for maximum concentration, while the faster growing areas call for considerable less concentration.Visualization.
Champions obviously possess something others do not. Even though they may do the same routine set for set, rep for rep, they may not reap the same benefits of champions. Vince often stated that he had observed champions train in a manner he did not approve, but they received results that were phenomenal. What was it that they possessed? What did they do differently? They use mental suggestion and mind control! You can actually produce the desired condition by picturing in your mind what you wish to manifest.
Picture in your mind a clear image of the muscle or area of the body you wish to develop and hold the image throughout the performance of the set. The technique of mental suggestion is what all physical culture writers are trying to explain when they throw the term, “concentration” out to you. The subconscious believes any thought you perceive and stores it. It accepts everything that is spoken by you or someone else if you accept it as truth. But it must be repeated again and again until the subconscious accepts it as truth. Then it will produce the condition pictured in your mind.
Whether or not a champion is aware of it, this is why they are champions, they have this ability. They are convinced of a successful outcome. This awareness is more important than any diet plan, supplement, or exercise routine ever conceived.
Vince Gironda's states in his book, “By now you should be aware of my belief that rules, even ‘my’ rules, are made to be challenged, questioned, changed or even broken. There is no absolute right or wrong way to work out.” While we certainly agree with his statement, the principles he espoused as elaborated on above have clear application in powerlifting as well as bodybuilding. We hope that many of you will find this useful enough to spur some thought and application to your training. After all, a developed body without a developed mind will never be able to reach its full potential!
Which are the Best Knee Sleeves? October 06 2014
Back in our previous post, we addressed the two main types of questions that we get regarding knee sleeves. Aside from these queries, we also receive a lot of questions regarding the SBD knee sleeves. Today’s post compares 3 popular brands of knee sleeves – SBDs, Rehband and Titans – based on several considerations like material, sizing and length.
Knee sleeves can be made of cloth or neoprene. Cloth knee sleeves can generally provide more compression, but not much warmth. On the other hand, neoprene sleeves provide some mild compression, but a lot of warmth. All three sleeves are made from 7mm neoprene, which is the maximum thickness allowed in competition. All three sleeves provide a lot of warmth to the knee joints. Compression levels differ largely due to different sizing variants provided by each brand.
From L to R: Titan, Rehband, SBD (Front & Back)
The SBDs are longer than the Rehband and Titan sleeves, measuring at the maximum allowable competition length of 30 cm (based on most federations' rules). The Rehband sleeves are about 26 cm, and Titan sleeves are 22.5 cm in length. As such, the SBDs would provide more coverage and support, thus allowing a higher carryover in the squat.
With regards to the sizing variation, the SBDs have the most options out of the bunch. Compared to Rehband which has 6 sizes, SBD has 9 sizes available, whilst Titan has 7 sizes. This larger variety of sizes means that SBDs and Titans allow the lifter to have more accuracy in sizing a knee sleeve that would fit the individual. In fact, it is not uncommon for us to receive orders where individuals size their SBD knee sleeves 2 sizes down!
The ability to down size the SBD sleeves means that if chosen correctly, the SBDs can give a larger carryover to the movement, though sizing too small would make it a nightmare to get on. The lack of sizing options on the Rehband means that you will not get much carry over from them into the actual lift. If you are planning to use these sleeves for competition, then our suggestion here at Ferocity is to get the SBDs and size them one to two sizes down from the sizing chart from the normal fit (click here), and only put them on for actual competition phases or the last few weeks leading to a competition.
However, if you are just purchasing them for normal training use, then the regular sized SBDs or Rehbands will serve you well. The best way to figure out which is most suitable for your needs would be to set up a meeting with one of our consultants so you can try the sleeves on and decide for yourself. A disclaimer: do be cautioned that SBDs are a nightmare to get on and a workout in itself if you size down too much.
Unfortunately, with regards to the colour, the SBDs only come in red and black, whereas the Rehbands only come in a bright blue. Titan's sleeves are a basic black, but with the piping coming in pink/purple, red, or blue, it provides fun options for those who are looking for stylistic variety.
Overall, all these three brands of sleeves are of good quality, but the huge sizing variety that SBD has puts it slightly over the other two with regard to getting a more specific fit for your particular training needs. Getting a downsized fit for the SBDs would also be the perfect tool for helping you overload your squats, although one has to learn how to put them on effectively, which is an art in itself. Once again, the most important thing is to evaluate your training goals, which will then help you determine which are the best knee sleeves for you!
By Twain Teo
Should I get Knee Sleeves? September 29 2014
At Ferocity, we receive many emails from lifters asking about the SBD knee sleeves we sell, and whether they should get them. As with many things, context is important. To be honest, this is not an easy question to answer without first understanding what YOU, as a lifter, require from the sleeves. Only then can you figure out which sleeves are best for your needs. In this first post, we will discuss the two most common types of questions we get regarding knee sleeves. Before we go further though, let us just take a brief look at the general types of knee sleeves available and what they are used for.
Knee sleeves fall under a bigger category of supportive knee equipment called knee braces. Knee braces include: knee sleeves, prophylactic knee braces, functional knee braces and post-operative knee braces. Whilst not technically a knee brace, knee sleeves do a good job as a prophylactic piece of equipment, as it is relatively protective and preventative of general overuse injuries. Knee sleeves come in two materials – cloth and neoprene.
Generally, there are two types of emails that we receive at Ferocity from lifters. The first one is that the lifter is experiencing knee pain from their squats, and would like to purchase a pair of knee sleeves to help combat this pain. The second is the lifter that has not been lifting with sleeves wondering if they should be getting knee sleeves at all.
Generally if you are experiencing knee pain or discomfort, then the first step is not to look at what you should get to combat the pain, but rather identify where the root cause of the knee pain is coming from. In most cases, the pain could be due to general tendonitis, grinding of the knee joints caused by mobility issues or faulty movement patterns caused by muscular (or structural) imbalances around the knee joint or seemingly unrelated parts of the body. These are all, to many degrees, breakdowns in form and technique. This topic in itself could easily span many articles over, but rest assured, we will be covering these in future blog posts.
If any of these sounds exactly like what you are experiencing, then it would be best to tackle these issues first, as getting knee sleeves will merely be a temporary solution. This would be akin to continually driving a car with a faulty engine by getting new tires.
On the flip side if you have been training without sleeves for a while and are generally injury free, it would be wise to consider a few things before you get a pair of sleeves. Knee sleeves only need to be worn for those exercises where the knee is a primary lifting source. These exercises would include most variations of the squat, the snatch or the clean and jerk. If you are still fairly new to lifting, it is likely the weight that you are moving is not enough to cause serious pressure to the knees to justify their use. However, this is all dependent on factors like your physical age, sporting background, lifting form and technique, as previously mentioned.
In the next post, we will do a comparison of various popular knee sleeves in the market and which ones would best suit your needs!
By Twain Teo