Deadlift Correctly (Part 1)

deadlift

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

I see there are many people who are avoiding deadlift because they are afraid of getting hurt. It’s funny, it’s like squat.

Doing deadlift with good a technique is excellent for health, it allow your to have stronger joints and a stronger posterior chain.

All exercises can be dangerous when they don’t do with the proper technique, which is why it’s important to seriously study each exercise.

Why

why

In workout programs, you can find the deadlift in the day of legs of back. This can be disturbing but the truth is the deadlift is a polyarticular exercise.

The deadlift (polyarticular exercise) works several different muscle’s group :

  • Your hands, your forearms, your arms to keep the barbell in the right position and the barbell is stable during the movement.

  • Your shoulder and trapezius help to hold the weight and keep it stable.

  • Your back and core help to keep your body tight and stable so that your spine is safe.

  • Your posterior chain  and your legs act as lever to lift the weight.

What is interesting is that deadlift is a basic human movement like the squat. It’s a « functional » movement that we do every day to take an object on the ground. Lifting a chair or taking a bag on the floor is deadlift.

Training yourself to do deadlift with a good technique at the gym, will allow you to do these daily tasks by decreasing the risk of injury. I imagine you’ve seen a person hurt his/her back by lifting something off the floor. It happened because the technique was bad.

Let things be clear, everyone needs to do deadlift. Look at that grandmother 

grandmother deadlift

Also, deadlift is the purest way to measure the strength. You lift or you can’t. Sometimes with gym’s members, we do a deadlift party, it’s fun.

Choose

Attention : if you have spinal injuries, go see your doctor before starting

The origin of the word « deadlift » is : you lift dead weight (motionless) of the ground.

In short, you take a barbel with weight and you get up with the barbell in your hands until your shoulders, hips and knees locked. Your arms should be straight during the whole movement and when you’re standing, the barbell is at the level of your hips.

Here are the different type of deadlift most common :

Conventional Deadlift

conventional deadlift

Your hands are at your hips width, outside of your feet.

Sumo Deadlift

sumo deadlift

You have a wide position with your hands inside of your feet.

Hex or Trap Bar Bar Deadlift

hex trap bar bar deadlift

You need to use a special bar. In this way, you make the movement with another biomechanics.

Snatch Grip Deadlift

snatch grip deadlift

You use a wide grip like to do a Snatch.

Straight Leg Deadlift, Stiff Legged Deadlift, Romanian Deadlift

Many people are troubled by these variants. Here is an excellent article by Bret Contreras to see it in detail. Click here .

Deficit Deadlift, Rack Pulls

deficit deadlift rack pulls deadlift

These accessory movements allow you to increase or decrease the range of motion.

Dumbbell Deadlift Variations

dumbbell deadlift

You can do this when you don’t have access to a barbell and weights or as accessory movement.

In this article, I refer mainly to conventional deadlift.

Now, let’s talk about equipment :

Flat shoes

Converse Chuck Taylor Classic  are good (this is what I use). There’s also Vibrams, you can do in socks or with Powerliters shoes.

Chalk

chalk

This is optional but it can help you to not let your hands slip when you lift very heavy weights.

Deadlift can be taught in 1-2 sentences but there are complexities at different steps of the movement that you should know to avoid injury. I will develop this in the next parts.

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

From Beginner To Become Your Own Personal Trainer (Part 1)

become your own pesonal trainer

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

Before to read this article, I advise you to read Find The Gym For Your Goals Part 1 et Part 2; Back To The Source Of Equipment Part 1 et Part 2; Back To The Source Of Human Strength Part 1 et Part 2.If you already read it, continue and have fun.

A strong body is a healthy body, you have heard this many times but it’s not easy to do. Starting a new workout can be intimidating. It’s, for this reason, a lot of people fail.

How you will train

gym training

To start, you have to find out what kind of strength training you want to do. It depends on the equipment and your goals. Here are several types of training programs :

Bodyweight

With a bodyweight training, you need little equipment (or not at all) and you can train everywhere (home, hotel, playground, workplace). As long as you have room to move, you can train.

If you like bodyweight training, take a pull-up bar and a set of gymnastics rings. If you’re really a beginner, an exercise band  can assist you in the movement like pull ups and dips.

If is that you can do bodyweight training without equipment, the disadvantage is that you need to constantly change exercises difficult to be sure to progress.

Dumbbells

Dumbbells are excellent for starting a workout with weight for several reasons.

First, gyms always have a good set of dumbbells. If you want to train at home, you can buy a set of adjustable dumbbells (that’s how I started in my bedroom).

The second reason is that dumbbells allow you to add a small amount of weight to do an exercise and exercise with dumbells are less intimidating that exercise with a barbell. For example, if you’re a beginner, starting with a 20kg (45lbs) barbell is a bit too much.

Dumbbells also allow you to work your symmetry and allow you to balance the strength of your right side and left side of your body. It’s ridiculous to have an arm or a leg extremely bigger and stronger as the other.

If you can’t finish a repetition, it’s easy to throw dumbbells on the floor compared to a barbell. For a beginner, it’s excellent for learning movements.

The disadvantage is that to evolve, you need to buy new dumbbells and this can be expensive. A gym membership is handy to avoid this problem.

Barbells

If your goal is to gain only strength, this is the recommended option. Barbell allows you to progress cleanly and quickly by adding a small amount of weight each week.

A barbell is really stable because you use your 2 hands instead of 1 hand for dumbbells so it’s easy to lift heavy (especially for the lower body like squat of deadlift). For exercises like the squat or the press, you can use the rack to load and unload weights safety.

The disadvantage is that to do this at home, you need to have a squat rack, a barbell, a bench and enough weight plates in your house or in your garage. A gym membership is handy to avoid this problem.

What’s the best way to train?

The barbell is optimal for gaining strength. Bodyweight training is good but you have to seriously motivate you to train at home.

Sometimes you have to adapt to the situation to be able to do your training. When I travel a bodyweight training is perfect if I don’t have access to a gym.

But the best workout is when you lift heavy. Nothing can replace squat, deadlift and body weight pull up.

There are also other ways to have a strength training like rock climbing, yoga or parkour.

Choose the program to follow

gym training program

Never go to the gym without having a plan. To get results, it’s necessary to have a plan to track your progress.

For to make a lot of progress, a beginner can have a full body program of 3 times a week with a day off between training days. Be sure that the program you choose matches your goals, A powerlifters will have a different training from a bodybuilder or an endurance athlete.

In my article Back To The Source Of Human Strength Part 1 and Part 2, I talk about numbers of repetitions and their goals :

  • Reps in the 1-5 range build super dense muscle and strength

  • Reps in the 6-12 range build a somewhat equal amount of muscular strength and muscular endurance.

  • Reps in the 12+ range build muscular endurance and size

Many beginner strength training programs say to do 5 sets of 5 repetitions to optimize progress to gain strength.

With a circuit or superset, you do a set of each exercise in an order and you repeat the process.

For example :

  • 20 bodyweight squat

  • 10 push ups

  • 20 walking lunges

  • 10 dumbell rows

  • 15 second plank

  • 30 jumping jacks

  • Repeat all these 5 times to do 5 sets

In traditional strength program, you do a complete set of an exercise, you rest and you do another set of the same exercise and so on.

For example :

  • 10 squat

  • Rest

  • 10 squat

  • Rest

  • 10 squat

  • Rest

  • 10 squat

  • Rest

  • 10 squat

  • Next exercise

If your goal is to be healthy and lose weight, you don’t need to focus on strength, a circuit (superset) is perfect.

This allows you to spend less time at the gym and to make up your high heart rate longer.

If your goal is to have more strength and have more muscle, choose a traditional strength training.

One important thing, your diet corresponds to 80-90 % of your success or failure. The quality of your diet will help you gain strength and lose fat.

When you choose a workout to develop your strength, be sure to increase the difficulty over time. To become stronger, you need to write a plan. This can be to do one more squat, lift 2kg (5lbs) more or do your circuit (superset) 10 seconds faster.

The main goal is to always be better than the last time, this is what ensures the continuity of being stronger and faster.

You can write your own training program or fortunately, there is a lot of excellent beginner program.

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

-Steph

Find The Gym For Your Goals (Part 1)

radar dragon ball

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

The gym can become an important part in your life. For this reason is important to choose your gym well otherwise you will become bitter.

It’s not necessary to train in a gym to gain strength or to have a good physical condition. You can do a bodyweight workout program at home (bedroom, garage or basement).

But if you really want an athletic body, you need to have equipment like barbells or dumbbells. It’s possible that you don’t have place or resources to create your home gym (like me), so the best option is to have a gym membership.

Discover really what you want

discover

Don’t do the mistake to have a gym membership in the closest gym to your home. Think about your goals.

Make a list of things you need in a gym and make the difference between « must have » and « would be nice to haves ».

Equipment

I wrote an article in 2 parts about this topic (click here link ). Imagine you have a workout program based on barbell, you need to check this :

  • Olympic barbell

  • Power rack (or at least a squat rack)

  • Dumbells up to 45-68kg (100-150lbs) or heavier if you want to do a dumbell training over barbell

  • Pullup bar/Dip station

  • Flat bench with racks for the bench press

Classes

Gyms offer free classes for their members like kickboxing, dance fitness, stationary bike or yoga. This is helpful for beginners, don’t hesitate to try one.

Amenities

Some gyms offer good anemities like child care, a zone only for women ( my sister came one time in my gym and she said that men stared at her too much) or dry cleaning.

An environment to be focus

For me the gym has an important part in my day. When I train at home, I know I’ll be bothered by my rommates. I find it easier to concentrate when I’m at the gym with my headphones. When I’m at the gym it’s « my time » to me, I’m in my bubble. Everything about home, school, work doesn’t exist. The only thing is important is my workout.

Coach

Gyms have coaches available to help you improve your technique or workout program. From time to time it’s pratical.

Rules

A « must have » rule can be you can bring your childen at gym. I don’t have children but it looks cool for people who have children. Some gyms don’t allow to do deadlift and have vibram  so check if rules match with what you want to do.

A gym membership can be a long-term commitment so look at these points :

  • If you do a workout program based on dumbbells like me, be sure that dumbbells up to 45-68kg (100-150lbs) or heavier

  • If you think you’ll do the Olympic lift, look for bumper plates and a gym that lets you drop the weight.

  • If you think you’ll try kickboxing or yoga later, check that the gym has this type of classes.

Budget

calculator

During my travels, I saw gym membership between $9.- and $365.- per month. In Europe, it’s on average EUR 50.- per month but it depends on the area where you live and the amenities offered.

It’s useless to take the most expensive price thinking that you’ll have everything you need in the gym (I already did this mistake). It’s for this reason I’m writing this article to help you to find the best gym at the best price according to your need.

Also think of the usual thing like the towel. Imagine you go to a gym that offer a towel’s service. You know it and you think it’s great, you don’t nee to bring your towel. One day, you go to train at the gym at lunch and the staff tell you that there is no more towels available. It’s annoying.

Apart from the equipement, there are services that are important to know if the gym offer them or not :

Events offer or trips with discounts. Imagine that the gym organizes a hiking trip and member pay only 20.-. I agree, it’s not an incredible discount but during the hiking trip you’ll able to meet people who work to improve their health like you.

A child care service during your workouts. It’s possible that you have to pay an extra of $20.- or $30.- per month. I don’t have children but it looks pratical.

Free classes including yoga that is great for relaxing muscles. I prefer Tai-Chi but there is no this class in gyms.

Location and hours

hour

Having a gym that is close to your house and your school/workplace is an interesting place.

By exemple, if you gym is close of your school/workplace, it’s cool. But the problem is that if you school/workplace is at a distance of 1 hour from you home, you’ll never train on weekends.

There is something I forgot to tell you in gym’s rules. There are gyms that close at 23h (11pm) and I know some gyms don’t allow their members to start their workout after 22:15 (10:15pm). If you work late in the night or during the night, it’s better to look for a gym open 24/7.

It’s important to choose a gym according to your willpower :

  • Imagine you want to train before you go to school/workplace. You do it because you want to train immediately to avoid not training all day or because when you wake up, you’re groggy and train give you energy for the whole day ?

  • Imagine you want to train after your school/workplace. You do it because you don’t have time to train during the day ? Be carefull because if you’re the type of person who is very tired after school/workplacle, you’ll find excuses to cancel your training. I meet everyday people like this.

An ideal location is to find a gym located between your home and your school/workplace. If you can do this, you’ll save time and money. I can’t do that but it’s really effective.

Note : It’s better to pay a little bit more for a gym that you use several times a week than pay less for a gym that you use from time to time. Don’t be fancy.

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

P.S. To read the Part 2, click here .

-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