Calves Over Bench Sit-Ups

bench sit ups

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

Your legs are on a bench with your back to the floor and your hands behind your head :

  • Inhale and raise your torso as high as possible to touch your knees with your head by rounding your spine.

  • Exhale at the end of the movement.

bench sit ups

This exercise works recuts abdominis and more intensely the parts above the navel.

It’s good to know that farther is your torso from the bench, this increases the mobility of the pelvis. This allows a greater range of motion and works more flexors muscles of the hips (iliopsoas, rectus femoris and tensor fasciae latae).

bench sit ups hand elbow position

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

-Steph

Gym Ladder Sit-Ups

gym ladder sit ups

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

Hook you feet in the gym ladder with your thighs vertically. Your back to the floor and your hands behind your head :

  • Inhale and raise your torso as high as possible by rounding your spine.

  • Exhale at the end of the movement.

This exercise mainly works rectus abdominis and a little bit internal and external obliques.

rectus abdominis

abs muscles anatomy

It’s good to know that farther is your torso from the gym ladder and hook your feet lower, this increases the mobility of the pelvis. This allows a greater range of motion and works more flexors muscles of the hips (iliopsoas, rectus femoris and tensor fasciae latae).

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

-Steph

Individual Variations In Hip Mobility

hip mobility

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

Without taking into account the individual differences in muscle elasticity and ligament laxity, it’s bone shape of the hip joint that determines the main variation in hip mobility.

It’s mainly in the amplitude of hip abduction that bone configuration plays an important role.

Examples

  • An almost horizontal femoral neck (coxo vara) with an upper edge of the important cotyloid cavity and covering, will limit abduction movements.

  • An almost vertical femoral neck (coxa valga) with an upper edge of the less important cotyloid cavity will facilitate abduction movements.

This means that it is useless to raise the leg very high laterally if the morphology doesn’t allow it.

Attention

If someone forces the hip’s abductions, femur’s neck will bump on the cotyloid cavity edge. And this person will compensate the lateral raise of the leg with a pelvic tilt on the femur head of the other leg. It should be added that forcing oneself to make abduction sets may, over time, create microtraumas in some people that will cause excessive development of the cotyloid cavity upper edge. This has the consequence of limiting the hip’s mobility and creating painful inflammations.

hip mobility abduction

hip mobility abduction

hip mobility abduction coxa vara valga bone morphology

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

Squat Correctly (Part 2)

sqaut

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

Click here to read the Part 1 

Barbell Squat

I know 3 types of squat and this is the best known : the high bar back (also named « Olympic Squat » or « Oly Squat »), the low bar back squat and the front squat. Maybe there are others but I’ll talk about the best known.

The difference is how you place the barbell.

Depending on how you place the barbell on your body, this will modify the squat’s mechanism and geometry. Which means that you will use your muscles slightly differently depending on how you place the barbell.

  • The Low Bar Back is a posterior chain dominant squat

    posterior chain muscle

  • The High Bar Back and Front Squat are a quad dominant squat.

Here a diagram form the book « Starting Strength » to better visualize the barbell’s placement.

diagram barbell placement squat strating strenght

Don’t worry, these 3 squat’s type work the same basic muscles. As you know each exercise has its variants. Now, you know the 3 variants of squat.

Go, find in your gym a squat rack,  a power cage or a squat stand  and place the barbell at the height of your clavicle. If you can’t do this and the height is too low or too high, choose the too low. I have never seen anyone lift on toe and with heavyweight, the accident is guaranteed.

power rack squat rack squat stands

As you read in my articles « Know how much weight to lift (Part 1 et Part 2) » [url link], it’s important to do a warm up with the barbell without weight. I don’t want to know how much you want to lift, do some sets with the barbell without weight to prepare your muscles and joints.

Low bar back squat

It’s the most popular squat’s type for beginners, general lifters and powerlifters. It’s also the squat’s type taught in the book « Starting Strength », one of the best book for beginners.

Once you have adjusted the barbell’s height, be in front of the barbell. Take a step to be under the barbell and grab it with your hands. For this squat’s type, you’ll use a thumbless grip so that your wrists aligned with your forearms.

Usually the grip’s width is near of the shoulders to create a meaty shelf to place the barbell on the muscles in our upper back (deltoid posterior). If you aren’t comfortable, you can have a wider grip. And with time, when you have more flexibility, you can have a grip near of your shoulders.

Here is the difference between a « wrapped grip » (left) and « thumbless grip » (right) : 

barbell wrapped grip thumbless grip

Once the barbell is on your back, stand up, contract your core (squeeze butt and abs) and step back. Normally, if you followed instructions well, you can only step backward. If you can take a step forward, you’re in the wrong direction.

This squat’s type is a posterior chain dominant squat and you’ll be able to lift heavier that the 2 others squat’s type.

High bar back squat

For this type of squat, you’ll start the same way but you’ll put your thumble around the barbell. This isn’t a thumbless grip.

The grip’s width is near of the shoulders to create a meaty shelf to place the barbell on the muscles in our upper back (deltoid posterior) like for the low bar back squat.

If you lack of flexibility to have a narrow grip, you can place the barbell 5cm (2inches) higher on your trapezius instead on your posterior deltoid. Which means that the barbell is placed almost on your shoulders.

Look the difference between a high bar back squat (left) and a low bar back squat (right) :

high bar back squat low bar back squat

Attention : the barbell placed almost on your shoulders and not on your spine. If you feel the barbell touching your spine, it’s too high and this can cause serious damage.

Place the barbell on your back and take a step back. Stabilize and tighten your core and squat down.

To do this squat version well, you need to keep your torso more upright. If you had difficulties to keep your torso upright with the bodyweight squat, it will be a little be more difficult here.

You can try, there is no problem but lift lightweight until you do it well to correct yourself. It would be a pity if your torso collapses and the barbell rolls on your neck (avoid this pain, really).

Front squat

For this squat’s type, you need to place the barbell in front of your shoulders. This squat’s type is quad dominant so you have to be able to keep your torso even higher than the high bar back squat.

Instead of stepping under the barbell, you place the barbell in font of you on your shoulder. To grip the barbell, it’s a little bit more complicated because you need to have mobility and flexibility in your wrists.

Front squat is done with a full grip around the barbell like the other 2 squat types but most people let the barbell roll on their fingertips (a three finger grip is enough). If you like’re me, you don’t manage to have 3 finders around the barbell, there are 2 variants :

Keep your hands to hold the barbell (if not the 3 fingertips is enough) and keep your shoulders high so that your upper arms are parallel to the floor. And squat down.

It’s important that you keep your shoulder as high as possible during the front squat. When you’re gonna squat down, you’re gonna feel the weight on your arms and it will probably correct your position, drop the weight otherwise you will hurt yourself.

What squat do ?

This is an excellent question. You’ll meet 2 clans that clash in the gyms : high bar back squat VS low bar back squat. Both clans have good arguments but that doesn’t help you make a choice.

The truth, test the 3 types and look with which you feel most comfortable, which you have the best technique and with which you can squat down the lowest (your hips joints lower than your knees). Once you have well studied and tested the 3 types of squat, you’ll find your type of squat.

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

-Steph

Squat Correctly (Part 1)

squat

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

I’m sure that in your gym, everyone says it’s good to do squat ? But who do your see really doing ? There’s not a lot of people, it’s weird, no ?

I do the squat on leg’s day but the truth is that it’s actually a « full body » exercice. « Full body » means that it’s an exercice that work several different muscle group at the the same time.

The squat mimics a lot of natural movement that you use everyday and if your goal is to gain muscle and lose weight, the squat is perfect.

What I see in my gym is that people who have never done squat are very intimidated and they use Smith machine to be reassured. But the Smith machine is very bad to do squat because it prevents you from making a natural move.

With this article, you’ll know everything about the squat and you’ll be able to do it without problem.

Why

how much why

The squat is one of the most fundamental functional movements of our lives.

Look at babies, they bodyweight squat quietly. it’s by growing that we stop doing squat and be on a chair for hours.

When you travel, you see in countries, people do full squat to sit and chat, it’s fun. There are even restroom where you have to do a squat.

It’s modern furniture and technology that make us want to do less squat but fortunately we can get back to basics and squat all life.

Squat is a movement that uses multiple joints, hip and knee joint. This is what we call a compound movement.

Squat is a movement that uses legs muscles, hips muscles, core muscles, back muscle, shoulder muscle and arms muscle. That’s why I told you it was a full body exercice.

What is cool with squat is that it increases your flexibility and it strengthens your bones, your muscles and your knees.

The fact that squat uses several muscle groups in your body, your body must increase your anabolic hormone production  to exercise the movement. This is cool because it helps to lose fat and gain muscle.

Strengthening strength in your knees and in your hips decreases your chances of having injuries in everyday life.

You saw, it’s really good for your body to do squat. Now, look at the different type of squat.

Bodyweight squat

bodyweight squat

It’s the simplest squat version, it’s the squat we used to do when we were babies.

Stand with your feet slightly wider than your hips. Your toes should point lightly to the outside, about 5 to 20 degrees outside.

Look before you and fix a spot on the wall in front of you. You’re going to look at this point while you’re squatting. You don’t have to look at ceiling or look at the floor. For me, it also helps me to stay focused.

Put your arms straight forward so that they’re parallel to the ground. Keep your spine straight. Your spine shouldn’t be rounded or too arched.

Be concentrated to properly distribute the weight on your feet. The weight must be on your heels and the ball of your feet. You must feel like you glued to the floor. With this technique you’re able to move your toes throughout the squat.

During the squat keeps your whole body contracted. Here we go.

Inhale, swing your hips back and push your butt back. You swing your hips back to bend your knees. It’s important to swing your hips back to begin the movement. If you start by bending your knees to begins the movement, the day you’re going to lift a heavy weight, you’ll quickly feel the pain and difficulty.

Continue to look in front of you by fixing the spot on the wall in front of you. Keep your back straight to have your spine in a neutral position and your chest and your shoulder up.

Get down

As you go down, stay focused so that your knees are aligned with your feet. I remember that when I started squatting, I had to concentrate on not having my knees inside my toes. When this happened, I would push my knees out to be aligned with my feet. Of course, your knees must not exceed the width of your feet.

Imagine you have a Start Wars light saber on your knees. The light saber should be between your second and fourth toes, it’s a little trick to help you have your knees aligned with your feet.

Squat down until your hips joints are lower than your knees, this is the parallel position. It’s necessary to look at the hips position and not the thighs position because the thighs size can be different from one person to another. If your hips joint aren’t lower than your knees, you do a partial squat.

Once you’re down, it’s time to get back on your feet.

Get up

Continue to have your whole body contracted and push on your heels and keep your feet on the ground as well.

Stay focus so that your knees are aligned at your feet like when you get down and contract your butt up to be sure to use your glutes.

The most important thing is that you have to keep your body and your core contracted all along the squat. It’s important to learn to do this right away because the more you lift heavy, the more it will help you to have a good body’s position during the squat.

Note :Every human being has a unique body so none of our squats will look perfect. A person who has a short femur  will have a slightly different squat than a person who has a long femur. And it should be added that many people are working to improve their mobility problems. What I mean is that if your squat looks different from the person next to you, it doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong.

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

-Steph

Rest Day

rest day

I read a Nerd Fitness article  about rest day and I want to share this with you.

Training program

In each training program, there is at least one rest day. During your training, you make micro breaks in your muscles and it takes around 24-48 hours to repair. There are no mental or physical benefits of training non-stop. We don’t want to destroy our muscles without giving them a chance to become stronger.

What we’re supposed to do during the rest days ?

It’s coming, it’s coming.

Plan your rest days

The problem with most people is that they use rest day as a « cheat day ». Because it’s a day without training, they don’t think to stay physically fit and do anything.

THIS IS NOT GOOD !

Remember that training only corresponds to 20% and food 80% of the equation to have a good physical condition.

Program your rest days as your program your training days. This isn’t a day off like at school or at work, it’s a rest day.

Program activities in your rest day like stretching or prepare all the meals for the week.

My rest day is cardio and stretching.

Stretching

stretching

After a training day, our muscles have micro breaks and are very tight during weight lifting. For this reason stretching is great to do during rest day to work on your flexibility and your mobility. It’s a good idea to have a strong body but if you can’t move your body correctly to use it well, all this is useless.

A fun activity

Genetically we’re designed to move, we aren’t designed to sit more than 60 hours per week. This means that during our rest days, we have to work on our happiness and stay active simultaneously.

A fun activity can be different for each person :

  • Ride a bike

  • Jogging

  • Play football / basketball

  • Swim

  • Go hiking

  • Rock climbing

  • Learn a martial art like Taekwondo, Kung fu or Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

  • Take a dance class

  • Try Live Action Role-Playing

No matter what it is, do an activity you like to do, an activity that makes you smile. The only important thing is to do an activity that moves your body and it doesn’t need to be an exhausting activity.

Yoga or Tai Chi

yoga

tai chi

These two activities are a perfect complement to your training. Training makes you stronger but it makes stiff our muscles too.

Yoga or Tai Chi lengthens our muscle and our tendons, aids in their recovery and helps our body to develop a better mobility and flexibility.

Now with YouTube, you can find videos about stretching and Yoga or Tai Chi but maybe you prefer to subscribe to a class, it’s up to you.

Stay focus on your goal even a day without training.

What is your rest day program ?

-Steph

PS: Do you want a free training program? Click