Calf Stretching

calf stretching

I read a Frederic Delavier’s book « Strength Training Anatomy » and I learned good stuff.

Standing with your hands on your hips. One leg forward with your knees stretched and your feet in the knee axis :

  • Flex the knee of the front leg while advancing your pelvis. Be careful to keep your back leg straight and keep your heels on the floor.

  • Keep this position to feel the stretch of the back leg.

This exercise mainly stretches triceps surae (composed of 2 gastrocnemius and soleus), flexor muscles of the toes and tibialis posterior. This exercise stretches a little bit long and short fibular.

Share this article if you think it can help someone you know.Thank you.

-Steph

Squat Correctly (Part 3)

squat

Classical errors

I read a Nerd Fitness article  and I learned good stuff.

Click here to read Part 1 and Part 2 

Squat is a movement that we make since baby, it’s a basic movement. But when I started to do squat with weight, I make mistakes and I’m going to talk about the classical mistakes we make when we’re newbies.

Put all the weight on your toes

You need to have your heels glued to the floor throughout squat. This is important for spreading your bodyweight and weights on the barbell.

You also distribute part of the weight on the balls of your feet but it’s not the total weight. You should be able to move your toes in all directions during the squat.

The total weight (your bodyweight + weight on the barbell) is divided between the ball of your fee and your heels.

Don’t squat down too low

Your squat should go down at least until your hips joint are below your knee (parallel).

Maybe you have a special training that asks you to make a lower squat, it’s up to you to see. But making a parallel squat is enough to work your muscles well.

When you do a partial squat , so you have a squat above the parallel, you’ll work more your quadriceps than your hamstrings, in addition you put a lot of stress on your knees. The more you squat down, the less pressure you put on your knee.

Very, very often, people make a connection between squat and knee problems. Unfortunately, it’s a negative myth, a lie that makes people afraid of squat. For exemple, a gym member saw me with my knee wrap and said : « Be careful when you squat, you’re going to hurt yourself ! ». But does he know that my knee wrap increase my squat’s performance by 5-10 % ? I don’t think so. Here are some interesting articles here  and there .

The more you squat down, the more you work your glutes. But when we squat down, we have to go back up. And more we go down and more it’s harder to go up (strength and flexibility). The squat in parallel (your hips joints below your knee), it’s enough.

If you have trouble to squat down at the parallel, it could have several causes : little mobility to your ankles, to your hip flexor or your hamstrings ; weak glutes ; poor pelvic alignment (among many other things).

Knee position

squat knee position

To do a good squat, you must have your knees aligned with your toes. As the body of every human being is unique, the position is slightly different from one person to another but your knees shouldn’t be too much outside or too much inside. Your knees are more or less in the center.

Back position

squat back position

During the whole squat, you need to have your torso up and your shoulders back. This position allows you to have your spine in a « neutral » position. This avoids having your back in hyper extend and not having your shoulders rounded forward.

Head position

squat head position

There are people (even personal trainers) who will tell you to look up or down. Let’s test it right away with an anatomical version.

When you look at the ceiling, your cervical spine is in an unsecured position and when you add weight, it becomes dangerous. Look at the ground is not better.

You need to have your head in a « neutral » position. To be able to do this, look straight in front of you. Focus on a point in front of you so that you’re able to hold a tennis ball between your chin and your torso.

Too much weight on heels and inside/outside of the feet

Often, when we’re beginners, we are so focused on putting the weight on the heels and having a good position with the knees we forget to keep the ball on the floor. You need to divide some of the total weight on the ball of the feet because it’s very difficult to keep the balance when all the weight is on your heels.

It’s the same for the inside or outside of your feet. As you put the total weight on your heels, you try to keep balance with the inside and outside of your feet. Keep the ball of your feet on the floor to distribute part of the total weight and it will be easier to keep the balance.

Complex

complex

Don’t worry, I also had difficulties to do a squat with a good technique. I’ll explain to you something I used to learn the technique. Using a box or a bench is also useful for people who have knee problems and can no longer do bodyweight squat.

Using a box/bench is great for learning to squat down by distributing well the total weight between the ball of your feet and your heels rather than on your knees and toes.

Find a box/bench that allows you to be in parallel with your squat when you’re sitting on it.

The lower the box/bench is, the more it will help you to have stronger hips. If the box/bench is exactly parallel, it will help you to have stronger quadriceps. If you’re a squat beginner, don’t worry, a box/ bench at the right height for you to be in parallel or a little below when you squat down is perfect.

Let’s go to do bodyweigth squat. Put the box/bench behind you and do one step forward.

Inspire, throw your butt back, keeping your knees aligned with your toes and squat down until your sit completely on the box/bench. Keep your body contracted and control movement.

When you seated, don’t move and study your position. Is your back and core contracted ? Is the total weight distributed between the ball of your feet and heels ? Is your head in a neutral position ? Once you answered these questions, you can get up by using you hips up. Don’t shift the weight forwards on your toes to help you get up. Use your heels, keep your shoulders back with your chest up and keep your knees aligned with your toes.

After some sets, you’ll understand how to better use your body and you’ll be able to make the movement in a fluid way.

You’ll know when you’re doing a good squat. This is when you’re in the low position of squat and when you get up, you don’t swing forward but you put the weight on your heels.

Long life to squat

Squat is cool

Ok, the majority of people say that squat is bad for knees but the truth is that it’s the safest movement and one of the best to improve your knees health (when the squat is done with a good technique). This help to strengthen your knees, improve your stability and reduce the risk of injury. This is valid for people over 60 years old.

If you already have a knee problem or have pain with squat and think your do squat with a good technique, you need to see a doctor or a physical therapist to check your knees.

What are your difficulties when you try squat ?

Share this article if you think it can help someone you know. Thank you.

-Steph

Back To The Source Of Equipment (Part 2)

source water river

I read a Nerd Fitness articles  and I learned good stuff.

If you didn’t read the part 1, click here

Racks Et Machines

To do squat, there are differents equipements, we name it « racks ». Let’s go.

Squat stands

squat stands

It’s 2 pieces standing, next to each other to hold the Olympic bar. It’s handy because it’s portable and you can do squat outside. But in a gym, it’s not great because you can’t put heavy weights, it’s too fragile.

Squat rack

squat rack

It’s 2 bars that are standing tied with horizontal bars. With the Squat racks, you can put heavy weights.

Power rack

power rack

It’s my favorite. It looks like a large rectangle with poles in vertical and horizontal. The Power racks have holes for placing J-hooks to adjust the height of Olympic bar. What is cool is that you can do several exercices with like pull-up, bench press, overhead press and dips.

Smith machine

smith machine

Smith machine looks like Squat racks except that the bar is guided.

Gym staff will tell you that it’s a machine to do squat safe. I don’t advise to use this machine because it forces your body to make unnatural movements. This scientific study (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19855308 ) shows that you have better results with a squat with free weights.

The difference between Squat racks and Smith machine is that the bar where you put weights is fixed on Smith machine.

Weight machine

plate loaded machine weight pin loaded stack machine weight

Weight machines are in 2 categories : Pin loaded (stack machine) and Plate loaded. Pin machines have a rectangular weight stack with a hole to put the pin. More the pin is low, more the weight is heavy to lift. What is cool with this machines is that you don’t need to look for weights anywhere in the gym.

With Plate loaded, there is no weights attached to the machine. You put weights on the machine yourself. Plate loaded machines have a wider range of motion than Pin loaded.

Cable machine

cable machine

No matter the size or design of the cable machie, it will always be a pin loaded (stack machine). A handle is at the end of the cable and you can pull or push in different directions. Cable machine can be an alternative for some exercices you do with dumbbells or barbells. Cable machine has a wider range of motion.

Pull-up Bar

pull up bar

You know in most gyms, there is no real pullup bar (like in my gym). If you don’t find a freestanding bar, there are several alternatives like power rack, smith machine or the top of the cable machine.

Dips station

dips station

Usually dips station is integrated into the power rack or the cable machine. You can find some that are freestanding.

Assisted Pullup /Dip station

assisted pull up

It’s a Pin loaded (stack machine). You choose a weight and you put yourself on the platform. The weight you choose will help you to do pullups or dips. For pullups, I advise you to do Lat pulldown and the day where you can lift your bodyweight, you do freestanding pullup.

Bench

adjustable bench

Ajustables benches and standard flat benches are types of benches you will see in a gym. To do incline and decline exercices, ajustable bench is perfect. Benches are the equipement the most use in a gym, especially on Monday. I don’t know why but Monday is the international chest’s day and it’s hard to find a bench that day.

Bench press

bench press

Squat stand and Squat rack are use to do bench press in small gyms and Crossfit. In big gyms, there are special bench press with a stand attached.

Equipement items

Now you know the main gym’s equipment, I will show you small equipement items.

Collars/Clips

collar clip

There are several collars/clips designs but they have the same purpose that is to keep weights safe on the bar.


Weight plates

weight plate

There are several type of plates :

  • Standard metal plates/ rubber encased weight plates

    They’re made of metal and they shouldn’t be thrown to the ground. There are circle with the denomination of weight on. Depending on the weight, they have different diameters.

  • Bumper plates

    They’re made of rubber and can be thrown to the ground for above your head (clean and jerk).

Plates can have a denomination in kilograms or pounds :

Kilogramme : 1, 1.5, 2, 2.5, 5, 10, 15, 20 et 25kg

Pound : 2.5, 5, 10, 25 ou 45lbs.

You can also find plates with a combination of metal and rubber that can be thrown to the ground but not from aboe you head.

Kettelbells

kettelbell

This is looks like a cannon balls with handles. Most gym don’t have the same weight repertoire than dumbells but it’s possible to find kettelbells of 24kg (53lbs) and 31.75 (70lbs) and more.

GHR/GHD Machine

ghr ghd machine glute ham raise developer

The translation is « Glute Ham Raise » or « Glute Ham Developer ». With this you can do glute ham raise, back extension or sit ups.

Prowler/Dragging sled

prowler dragging sled

Put weights on a prowler and push or pull while you run.

Strongman equipment

strongman kegs yokes hammers tires atlas stone

If you don’t intend to make a strongman competition, kegs, yokes, hammers, tires and atlas stones are good to do from time to time.

Plyo Boxes

plyo Boxe

These boxes have several size. You jump on and off of.

Bands

band

Those are big rubber bans to work mobility and speed lifts.

Gear

It’s funny because people ask me often : « What do I wear ? ». I noticed in gyms, it’s often a fashion show. It’s for this reason beginners are impressed. Unless you have an injury, clothes don’t matter. When I started, I took some clothes that I rarely used and I always do that. Sometimes I see people with cool clothes and I say to myself : « Wow, I have to buy it » and when I see theirs performances I say to myself : « Pffff, show-off ! ».

Clothing

Gym isn’t a fashion show. You’re not going to win a prize because you’re well dressed. We’re here to sweat so wearing comfortable clothes. You know, my clothes and shoes are torn and the funny thing is that people ask me, if they can train with me because they see my body evolve.

Shoes

squat deadlift shoes classic converse chuck taylor all star

It’s important to have a good pair of shoes to do deadlift and squat. A good pair of shoes allows you to put your weight on your heels to be as stable as possible. Running shoes don’t allow you to do this because their soft soles. If you don’t have the budget for this type of shoes, the classic Converse Chuck Taylor All Star works well and is what many top powerlifters still wear.

Personally I use my Converse Chuck Taylor All Star for my strenght training and my Puma to run.

Gloves

Gloves are used to protect hands from callouses. At the beginning, I wore gloves and I still had callouses and sometimes my hands slipped inside gloves because of the sweat. I notices that gloves could also mess up your grip and technique. I don’t use gloves and I don’t recommand to have gloves.

Knee/Wrist wraps

knee wrist wraps

Wraps allow you to have support and stability when you lift heavy weights (squat/deadlift).

Straps

straps

Straps allow you to hold the bar longer in your hands. Straps are wrapped around the bar which relives your grip. It’s excellent for intermediate and advanced lifters. Beginners don’t need to use it.

Weightlifting Belt

weightlifting belt leather weightlifting belt velcro

There are 2 type of weightlifting belt : leather or velcro. It’s very usefull for intermediate and advanced lifters. I use my weightlifting belt only for deadlift and squat.

Stop, stop, stop, I see you start to worry about buyiing all this. Don’t panic, the most important thing to have is a good pair of shoes to get started. It’s simple, let’s go my friend.

Whats’s the biggest mistake you made when you started lifting ?

Share this article if you think it can help someone you know. Thank you.

-Steph