General Stretching Of The Upper Body

stretching upper body

What’s up ? This is THE stephane ANDRE ! I read a Frederic Delavier’s book « Strength Training Anatomy » and I learned good stuff.

Stand with your feet a little wider than your pelvis width and you back is straight :

  • Hold your ams vertically with your hands clasped and your fingers crossed. Your palms directed upwards :

  • Inhale to inflate your lungs to the maximum and stretch your intercostal muscles. Push your palms up keeping your back and head upright.

  • Exhale slowly by relaxing and starts again.

This stretching exercise stretches intercostal, rectus abdominis, latissimus dorsi, teres major, triceps. When you incline your torso laterally, you stretch more your external oblique and internal oblique, quadratus lumborum and the internal and medium part of your erectors spinae.

stretching upper body lateral

Note

This stretch is great for relaxing the body after a training with heavyweights like leg press, squat, deadlift because the ribcage and spine have been compressed.

This movement may occasionally replace or supplement the stretching at the bar  to rebalance the pressure and tensions of the intervertebral joints.

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-Steph

Angled Leg Press

angled leg press anatomy

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

Warning : Using leg press with heavy weight may cause a displacement in the sacroiliac joint, which can lead to contracture.

sacroiliac joint

angled leg press

Installed in the machine with your back on the back pad and your feet a little apart :

  • Inhale and unlock security. Bend your legs as much as possible to have your thighs on the sides of your ribcage.

  • Back to the starting position and exhale at the end of the movement.

The feet’s position allows you to target certain muscles :

  • Feet low on the plate work primary quadriceps

  • Feet high on the plate work primary glutes and hamstrings.

  • Feet apart on the plate work primary adductors.

angled leg press feet position

Note

This exercise is good for people with back problems and who can’t do squat. Attention, it’s necessary not to take off the glutes of the back pad.

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-Steph

Adapt Your Training To Your Morphology (Part 2)

anatomy body squat morphology knee big belly

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

If you didn’t read Part 1, click here.

Legs

Improve your squat position

anatomy body squat morphology knee big belly

To reduce the lower back’s effort and limit the hamstrings tension, it’s possible to do like powerlifters by putting the barbell on posterior deltoids.

This technique decreases the cantilever and increases the power of lifting from the back. This allows you to lift heavier weights.

By using powerlifter of weightlifting shoes (solid raised heel) or a wedge under the heels, this reduces the cantilever by having the buttocks not too back by the advancing knees. This allows for greater amplitudes with the thighs flexion.

With that, we feel better the quadriceps work by limiting the torso’s inclinaison and the work of the gluteus maximus and spinal erectors.

The low barbell and raised heel combination allows you to lift heavier weights. This technique is recommended for rangy people and people with stiff ankles to correct their positioning at squat.

Front squat to target quadriceps

anatomy body squat morphology knee big belly

Front squat limits the torso’s inclinaison. This has the effect of reducing the work of the lower back, decrease the tension of hamstrings muscles and adductor magnus muscle.

On the other hand, front squat increases the cantilever, which forces quadriceps to make more effort to extend the thigh on the leg.

Which means it’s the perfect squat for thighs. But it’s not possible to lift heavyweights like the classic squat and it’s recommended to do it with heels elevated for better stability.

For rangy people, front squat is very hard to do. The torso of rangy people is more inclined, which make it more difficult to hold the barbell which may fall forward during the execution of the movement.

Spread the legs to less incline the torso

anatomy body squat morphology knee big belly

There is a squat’s technique to limit the torso’s inclination. This involves spreading the legs with the feet outward. Some powerlifters do this technique with the legs almost wide apart. With the legs apart, this limits the legs flexion.

To be able to squat with the legs apart, it’s necessary to have an adequate bone conformation of the hip joint and to be flexible of the thighs adductor muscle. Which means, it’s a technique that can’t be used by everyone.

The advantage of the big belly

anatomy body squat morphology knee big belly

Having a big belly for squat and deadlift allow to compress it against the thighs. This helps to limit the inclination of the torso and the back’s rounding. This has the effect of protecting the lower back and limiting the risk of herniated disc.

It’s for this reason that we can see a lot of heavyweight champion of powerlifting or weightlifting with a big belly. They take care to keep their belly fat with an excessively rich diet.

Different forms of knees

anatomy body squat morphology knee big belly

In bodybuilding, it’s important to take into account the different morphologies of the individual and especially for the knees.

Arched legs (genu varum) are not more risky than normal legs. For people with X legs (genu varum) or people who can overly extend the thighs (genu recurvatum), it’s often recommanded to not do leg exercises with very heavy weights.

Cases of genu valgum are often :

  • In people who were overweight during their youth when leg bones weren’t fully developed and still « malleable ». Legs are deformed because of the overload. Now, they have this X shape.

  • In women. The fact that women have wider hips to have children, this influences the femurs direction which are generally more inclined.

For people with genu valgum. If the genu valgum is to excessive, the joint would be overused. The medial collateral ligament would be extremely tense. The lateral meniscus, the articular surfaces coated with cartilage of the external condyle of the femur, and the external lateral tuberosity of the tibia would be subjected to excessive friction, which would cause pathologies of wear.

For people with genu recurvatum. These are people who are essentially very flexible named hyperlaxes or women whose muscular and ligamentous hyperlaxity is related to reproductive function.

Rarely pathological, knees with genu recurvatum can sometimes have some problems like the meniscus pinching. This can happen when the knees are rapidly expanding and the meniscus haven’t had enough time to slip, or during an exercise with a heavy weight that has forced the hyperextension of the thigh.

It’s for this reason that it’s recommended to people suffering from a genu recuvatum pathological never to totally block the knees at the end of extension to the squat or to the leg press.

Note

For 2 people who are the same size, it’s important to consider the torso-leg ratio.

anatomy body squat morphology knee big belly

Type A :

People with proportionally long legs and a short torso will have trouble doing a proper squat without tilting their torso excessively forward.

On the other hand, the short torso (which limits the cantilever) facilitates the execution of the good-morning, classic deadlift and Romanian deadlift.

Type B :

People with proportionally short legs and a long torso will have the facility to squat safety without tilting their torso excessively forward. It’s for this reason that the great champions of powerlifting squat specialist have this type of morphology.

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-Steph

Deadlift Correctly (Part 3)

deadlift

If you didn’t read the first parts, click Part 1 and Part 2 

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

Grip the barbell

deadlift grip

The strength of the grip is an important part of the deadlift. There are 2 types of grip:

  • Overhand grip => The palms of your hands are towards your body (pronated grip).

  • Over-under ou mixed grip => One palm of your hand is toward your body and the other towards the outside (one hand with a pronated grip and the other with a supinated grip).

  • Hook grip => Your thumb is under your fingers

For beginners, the double overhand grip is the best to have a safe grip.

Use the mixed grip when you have more experience and you lift heavy because there are disadvantages. Stress on the shoulders is uneven and can create problems or injuries in the biceps whose palm is outside. As the stress on the shoulders is uneven, it’s easier to lift heavy weights.

When you begin deadlift, your grip’s strength is powerful enough to lift the barbell because your back’s strength is correct. The day of your back’s strength is more powerful than your grip’s strength (your hands slips slowly), that’s when you need to think about improving your grip.

If you don’t like the mixed grip, you can use the hook grip.

Wrist straps

Straps can help you lift heavier because your grip is assisted by a strap that is wrapped to the barbell and is hooked to your wrist.

I advise you to use wrist straps only when you lift very very heavy. This is not a thing to use all the time otherwise you’ll lose the natural strength of your grip.

Gloves

The truth is that the gloves don’t improve the grip. Gloves create a space between your hands and the barbell, this increases the diameter of the barbell and make the barbell harder to hold. Gloves prevent you from having a secure grip, I advise you to use them only if you have ripped callus to your hands.

With this video , you’ll learn to take care of your hands to avoid having this type of injury.

Belt

Many people in gyms use the belt in the wrong way, but you’re a smart one. The belt is useful only when you’re lifting very heavy weights and it’s not only for your lumbar. With this article , you’ll learn how to use the belt in an effective way.

Note

Use a mixed grip and a belt isn’t necessary to lift very heavy. Watch this video of Anthony Mychan  who do a deadlift at 249.47kg (550lbs) at a Nerd Fitness Camp with a double overhand with no belt.

Common mistakes

common mistakes

Rounded back

Having the back rounded throughout the movement may cause injuries. It’s necessary to have your spine in a neutral position.

Note => there are some powerlifters that purposefully round theirs upper back to decrease the range of motion, but this is a sport specific move, still a fault, and something you should not consider as a beginner.

Head raised and look up

To have a raised head create a hyperextension to your neck. This can cause injuries. Keep your head in a neutral position like your spine.

Hyperextending at the top

In fitness competitions, exaggerate the top of the deadlift has become popular for quickly show the judges that hip and knees locking is done.

Use the squat position

Deadlift is not squat. Deadlift doesn’t have the same start and end position as the squat. Deadlift is a different movement than squat.

Barbell makes a forward movement

It’s necessary that the barbell stays above your shoe’s laces and the barbell needs to be lifted vertically all along your body.

Barbell’s movements towards the front are to be avoided.

Your torso rises after your butt

We call it the « stripper deadlift ».

It’s important that your torso guides the movement and that your body moves in the same rhythm upwards.

Bend your arms

Often people bend their arms to lift the barbell more quickly. Unfortunately, this is a bad tactic because this can tear biceps muscle. Keep your arms straight during the movement.

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-Steph

The Reasons For An Asymmetric Body (Part 2)

asymmetical body

I watched a Jamcore DZ’s video  and I learned good stuff.

If you didn’t read the Part 1, click here .

When it’s a real weak point, the only thing you can do is to be persistent and patient. For this, it’s important that you learn to isolate and feel the muscle’s sensation.

Learning to isolate muscle involves 2 things :

brain muscle connection

  1. Intermuscular competition. Sincerely, 95 % of people do exercises don’t isolate and don’t feel their muscles. It’s not their fault, there are people who learn it intuitively. When you learn to use it with the « magic touch » technique, you’ll evolve much better and discover the real bodybuilding (the fake bodybuilding is to have the biggest muscles in the world).

    Intermuscular competition is to work a muscle but in fact, it’s the dominant muscle that works more than the muscle targeted by the exercise. For example, bench press targets chest but it’s shoulders and arms that work more than chest. Biceps curls target biceps but it’s forearms work more than biceps. Squat target quadriceps/hamstrings but it’s glutes work more than quadriceps/hamstrings. Intermuscular competition is the inability to isolate and work (feel) the muscle you should be working on.

    2. Engine program. The engine program is to connect your brain to your muscle. When you do an exercise, you leave a piece of memory in your brain, a piece of memory in your muscle and a piece of memory in your nervous system (the nerves in your muscle). When these 3 pieces of memory connect, this is the engine program. This is the brain-muscle connection. But beware, when you do an exercise with a poor execution, you do this exercise in « intermuscular » mode and repeating this exercise with a poor execution, you’ll create and improve a defective engine program. If you do an exercise with a good execution, you will create and improve a correct engine program.

Solution

solution

  1. Be more aware of intermuscular competition. That means you learn to isolate and feel the muscle you want to work. You need to be patient because it’s a skill that comes with time. Changing work angles for an exercise allows you to feel your muscle differently.

  2. Learn to isolate your muscle to improve your engine program. As you know now, during an exercise you create a piece of memory in your brain, muscle and nervous system.

  3. Discovers muscle contraction. You need to use an middle weight to discover the muscle contraction. It’s impossible to discover this with a heavy weight because, in this situation, you’re only focused on doing as many reps as possible. With a middle weight, you can focus on feeling your muscle because it’s a weight you can manage

  4. Learn how to transfer sensations. When you feel that your muscle doesn’t really work, corrects the movement’s execution to have the sensation on the muscle you want to work.

Execution, execution, execution. You need to practice as much as possible to improve your brain-muscle connection. This is the best way to evolve but I warn you, you need to be patient because it takes time. This is not something you learn in 12 weeks.

It’s also important that you organize your training program intelligently in the week. For exemple, don’t work your biceps 2 days in the row because your biceps need to rest. Organize the training of your muscle groups so that it doesn’t interfere in the recovery. For example, one day you train your legs and the next day you run. In this situation, you don’t help your legs to recover.

All former professional bodybuilders (who talk about this) say that steroids don’s help as much as the media make believe. Steroids only help to recover. Watch this Rich Piana’s video.

Personally, I don’s like steroids and I don’t advise you to use this. That is my position and I will repeat it again.

Now, it’s your turn. Start to learn to feel your muscles to improve your body. And the most important, be patient because it take time.

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

-Steph

The Reasons For An Asymmetric Body (Part 1)

asymmetircal body

I watched a Jamcore DZ’s video  and I learned good stuff.

When I look in the mirror, I see that my right biceps is bigger than my left biceps. And I also see that my left calf is bigger than my right calf. I think you too, you have weak points and an asymmetrical body like me.

I tried several technique to clear the weak point of my left biceps by doing more reps or lifting heavier with my left arm. But it didn’t work as I thought and I realized that there were even more factors that caused my asymmetrical body.

You have to know that there are real weak points and false weak points. And yes, there are 2 type of weak points.

Past sports

sports

These are the sports that you have done regularly before you train seriously at the gym. For exemple, I played soccer for 2-3 years so I developed a lot of my legs and calves. I have been doing karate, kung-fu and taekwondo for years (I have more than 15 years of martial art) so I developed a lot my back, my arms, chest and my abs. My past sports allows me to develop all these muscles (calves, legs, back, arms, chest and abs) even more easily.

Now I’m going to tell you about the difference between a real weak points and a false weak points. In my case, I have nice abs, nice, chest. My arms are correct (I have one arm bigger that the other) and my legs are correct (I have one leg bigger than the other).

For example, a soccer player or a cyclist will use his/her legs and calves more often. A boxer will use his/her arms, back and abs more often. This shows that the past sports is important in muscle development because people developed more rapidly the upper body’s muscles rather the lower body muscles or the reverse.

So don’t worry because absolutely everyone has an asymmetric body (if you know a person who has a 100 % symmetrical body, attention, it’s a robot).

Genetic

genetic

It’s the moment to go to the higher level. Now, you understood that there are people who can easily develop the upper body’s muscles rather that the lower body’s muscles or the reverse. In both case, there is the same problem : an asymmetry.

We’re human beings, we are not perfect and that is normal. Professional bodybuilders also have an asymmetric body like you. It’s for everyone like that. When we look at the mirror, we have a more developed part than the other.

Here are the causes.

Bone

bone

Because of your bones, there is one side of you body that can lift easily heavier weights that the other. So the side muscles that can lift easily heavier develop faster.

A) clavicle length

We all have a longer clavicle than the other. Take you time, check the length of your clavicles, you will be surprised. When the clavicle is longer, this affects the leverage when you lift weights. This means that it boost your strength and your muscular growth.

But, there is a solution to avoid that there is a big difference between the 2 sides. It’s learning to isolate and feel your muscle. I use a technique called « magic touch ». Before doing a set, I touch with my fingers the muscle that I have to work. This allows me to be focus and stay focus on muscle sensations. This is to create the connection between my brain and my muscle.

This is why it’s important to take light weights to learn how to perform a movement to learn the muscles sensations. For example, bench press. There are people who use too much shoulders when the arms are straight. Bench press is an exercice to work mainly chest and not shoulders. So pay attention to your muscles sensation when you to an exercise and adjust.

B) Short and long muscles

This is really a genetic case. There are people with short muscles or long muscle. Take as an example a short biceps and a long biceps.

A short biceps responds slowly to training because the muscles is less close to insertion with the joint.

A long biceps respond quickly to the training because the muscle is closer to insertion with the joint.

As you can see, there are some similarities with the clavicle’s length. When the muscle is long, it’s easier to develop the muscle.

This is something you can’t change and doing an operation to lengthen your muscle is useless. It’s your genetics that decides whether your muscles are short or long.

dorian yates

Wait, it’s not over yet, there’s still plenty of other things in the genetics that influence muscle development. In your training, you can use several techniques to stimulate your muscle fibers like « High Intensity Training » . Dorian Yates (6x Mr. Olympia), used this technique during his career as a professional bodybuilder. This technique stimulates muscle fibers even more that hypertrophy .

There is also nerve genetics. It’s the ability to isolate and feel the muscle you’re working on. It’s an ability that improves only with experience and time.

Here is the end of the Part 1. The Part 2 comes soon.

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

-Steph

Know How Much Weight To Lift (Part 1)

how much

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

When we’re beginners and we have studied the theory well, the first time we train in a gym, we have this kind of questions :

  • What weight should lift to begin with ?

  • If my program tells me to do 5 sets of 5 reps at 80 % of my 1 rep max, how do I get to know my 1 rep max ?

  • In my program, there isn’t this notion of percentage and 1 rep max, how do I know the weight I have to lift ?

Here are some tips to start your program with the right amount of weight.

Bodyweight

bodyweight exercice

The fist step of your workout is to do bodyweight exercices to learn how to do well the bench press.

This may sound odd but I really advise you to take your time to learn to perform well without weights or with a very light weight. Imagine that you can’t climb stairs normally, What happens when you have to climb stairs with bags of supermarket ? Yes, you’re going to hurt yourself.

Here is how you can learn a movement without barbell, dumbbells and weights :

  • To learn barbell’s movement without barbell, you can take a broom stick or a PVC pipe.

  • To learn dumbbells movement without dumbbells, you can take 2 sections of PVC pipe or 2 bottes of water.

It’s true that it’s not the same sensations that with weights but it allows you to learn a movement without risk to hurting you.

With this method, you can train at home alone. No one looks at you like in a gym so you’re less nervous. What’s cool is that yo can film yourself with your smartphone to compare your videos with tutorial videos that you can find on Youtube of elsewhere.

To learn in depth how to move, I recommend the book Starting Strength .

Once you feel confortable with movements, you go to the next level.

Barbell

barbell

For your first training with the barbell for the bench press, you’ll use the barbell without weights to be comfortable with. As you read in my articles Back To The Source Of Equipment Part 1 et Part 2 , the barbell i’m talking about is the Olympic barbell 20 kg (45 lbs).

If you have difficulty with the Olympic barbell, here are some alternative.

A lighter barbell

Look in your gym if there are lighter barbell like the « women’s bar » 13.6-15.87 kg (30-35 lbs) or the « training bar » 6.8 kg(15 lbs). EZ curl bar isn’t designed for the bench press.

Dumbbells

You can use dumbbells. It’s true that isn’t really the same movement but it will help you to build your strength to be comfortable with the Olympic barbell.

Bodyweight exercices

Continue to do bodyweight exercice as squat, lunges, pull ups, push ups. This will help you to build your strength to be comfortable with the Olympic barbell.

That may be the opposite. For you to use the Olympic barbell without weight is easy. I still advise you to continue your first training with the Olympic barbell without weight. In this way, you can concentrate for each repetition to have the best technique possible. Wait the next session to add weights.

There isn’t ego in a gym. Unfortunately in gyms we often see people lifting very heavy weights with a poor technique and this happens more and more often. I have 2 friends who have dislocated their shoulders with the bench press and now they can no longer develop their chest and their shoulders.

One of these 2 friends showed in front of me who his shoulder dislocates when he do bench press and he regrets a lot of having lift too heavy with a bad technique. Since I’ve seen this, I prefer to lift lighter with a good technique and I advise you to do the same.

If after your first training with the Olympic barbell, you’re still not comfortable with. I recommend you to continue to train with the Olympic barbell without weights until you’re comfortable with. If you need to do this for 10 sessions, do it, there is not problem.

I’ll tell you something, Listen carefully. If you get hurt, it’s not because you body isn’t ready. It’s because you don’t trust in you under the Olympic barbell. Self-confidence is the most important element to lift heavyweights and heavier. It means knowing when you can lift and when you can’t lift. An athlete train his/her body and mind.

If you have planned to use dumbbells as your main lift (like me) and don’t use Olympic barbell, stat with 2.2-4.5 kg (5-10 lbs) dumbbells to work your technique.

Add weights

weight plate

Most beginners workout programs are 5 sets of 5 reps, 3 sets of 8 reps or 3 sets of 10 reps. For this example, we’ll use 5 sets of 5 reps.

Your workout should always begin with a warm-up routine. Then you take the barbell without weights and you do the repetitions number of your program (for our example, it’s 5).

Yeah, yeah, I know. You thought that after the warm-up routine, you could lift heavy but you have not quite prepared your body yet. For each exercice, you need to warm your body with lightweights. It’s very important to do this because it allows your body to warm your nervous system and the muscles needed to make the movement.

For beginners, it’s really important to learn the good technique right away.

Increase gradually

Once your nervous system and your muscles are ready, add between 1.1 kg (2.5 lbs) and 4.5 kg (10 lbs) on each side. Do a set of 5 reps with this weight.

Note : If your strength training is based on dumbbells like me, starts with 2.2 kg (5 lbs) dumbbells, then 4.5 kg (10 lbs) dumbbells for example.

If you can do 5 reps without degrading your technique and without slowing the speed of the barbell, you can add weight. If it’s really light adds 4.5 kg (10 lbs) on each side or less like 2.2 kg (5 lbs).

Continue to do this process until the speed of the barbell or you technique begins to deteriorate. The weight you lifted before your technique deteriorates is the starting weight on which you will base all your future exercises.

The basic weight for your workout

If you thought you could lift more, don’t panic, that’s the right number. You’re not in a gym to impress someone. It doesn’t matter if it’s your first or your 1000th workouts. It’s better to start too light than too heavy. The goal is to do quick reps with a good technique. When your technique deteriorates, you have reached a limit with your body, too much will create an injury.

In this process, you’re trying to lift the heaviest weight you can so use collars for your safety. When it becomes difficult, ask someone to be your spotter to avoid an injury.

This is the end of the Part 1. In the Part 2, I’ll talk about what to do after several workouts, find your 1 rep max and what amount of weight is respectable to lift.

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

-Steph