Saturday, April 26, 2014
A back squat is a back squat right? Well, it’s not quite that simple. There are two general schools of squatting; the Olympic, high-bar style and the powerlifting, low-bar style. These two variations differ significantly in both execution and rationale so let’s have a look at each in bit more detail.
Hips below knees, back more horizontal. No, it's not what your trainer told you.
By Mark Rippetoe
February 21, 2014
The idea that below-parallel squats are bad for the knees is complete nonsense that for some reason will not go away. This mythology is mindlessly repeated by orthopedic surgeons, physical therapists, registered nurses, personal trainers, dieticians, sportscasters, librarians, lunch-room monitors, and many other people in positions of authority with no actual knowledge of the topic and no basis in fact for their opinion.
I have been teaching the below-parallel squat for 37 years, and have taught hundreds of thousands of people — in my gym, through my books and videos, and in my seminars — to safely perform the most important exercise in the entire catalog of resistance training. Yet here in 2014, well into the 21st century, westill hear completely uninformed people — who have had ample opportunity to educate themselves yet have failed to do so — advise against performing squats under the assumption that they look scary or hard and are therefore “bad for the knees.”
Here are four reasons why this is not true, and why you should immediately start squatting correctly if you entertain the notion that you’d like to be stronger.
1. The “deep” (hips below the level of the knees) squat is an anatomically normal position for the human body.
It is used as a resting position for millions of people everywhere, and they squat into it and rise out of it every time. There is nothing harmful about either assuming a squatting position — whether sitting down in a chair or into an unsupported squat — or returning to a standing position afterward.
If you look at the knees and hips, you’ll notice that they seem suspiciously well-adapted to doing this very thing. Infants and children squat down below parallel all the time in the absence of pediatric medical intervention. These things should indicate to the thinking person that there is nothing inherently harmful in assuming this anatomically normal position. The fact that you haven’t been squatting is no reason to seek justification for not having done so.
The world powerlifting record for the squat is over 1,000 pounds. My friend Ellen Stein has squatted 400 at the age of 60 at a bodyweight of 132 pounds. Everybody seems to be okay.
Yes, friends, we’ve been squatting since we’ve had knees and hips, and the development of the toilet just reduced the range of motion a little. The comparatively recent innovation of gradually loading this natural movement with a barbell doesn’t mean that it will hurt you, if you do it correctly.
You don’t get to do the squat incorrectly and then tell everybody that squatting hurt your knees.
Disclaimer: This discussion refers specifically to the strength training version of the movement, the one designed to make you progressively stronger by lifting progressively heavier weights. If you are doing hundreds of reps of unweighted squats, your knees and everything else are going to be unavoidably and exquisitely sore.
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Sunday, April 13, 2014
It's about the business model, not your health.
By Mark Rippetoe
February 5, 2014
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By Mark Rippetoe
February 5, 2014
Strength training is quite popular these days, and is getting more popular as people realize the benefits of approaching their exercise program with a definite goal in mind. Stronger is more useful. Stronger is better. Stronger even looks better. And stronger is a straightforward process — lift a little more weight today than you did last time, and keep doing so for as long as possible.
But as simple as this process is, it can become unnecessarily complicated without a basic understanding of the nature of the exercises that make you strong most efficiently. The best exercises to use are the ones that involve the most muscle mass, the greatest number of joints, and that require you to balance yourself while you’re doing them. Put a bar on your back and squat below parallel, press a bar overhead, pick a bar up from the ground and set it back down. These are normal human movement patterns that can be turned into progressively heavier exercises that make you strong the way your body moves naturally.
You normally use your strength while standing on the ground and applying force with your hands and upper body. The hips and legs generate the force, it is transmitted up your torso and out through your arms. The press and deadlift are perfect examples of this precise application, and the squat is the best way to build strength in the hips, legs, and back. Add the bench press for upper body strength, and chin-ups for arm and upper back strength, and you have all the bases covered.
But if that’s true, why is it that when you go to the gym you are immediately shown two hours worth of movements that are not deadlifting, pressing, or squatting?
Why are you shown an array of exercise machines that divide the body into small groups of muscles to be worked separately, when the body actually uses them all at the same time? And when the Certified Trainers move you over to the large colorful balls and have you do balancing tricks on them, one foot at a time, is it really an improvement?
No, it’s not. Here’s why:
1. Deadlifting, pressing, and squatting are fundamental barbell exercises, but they are perceived as dangerous, complicated, and difficult to learn — and therefore difficult to teach.
It requires some personal experience under the bar to coach barbell exercises, but you should reasonably expect a paid consultant in strength training to have that experience. The movements themselves are simple to learn and perfectly safe when performed correctly. More importantly, they are so much more effective than isolation-type exercises that you waste your time and money if your program is not based on barbell training.
When you develop the ability to squat, press, and deadlift, you are developing a skilled movement pattern, one that must be practiced and perfected as well as made stronger. The movement pattern you perform is controlled by you, and you alone. It is important to note that when you do a standing barbell exercise, you can fall down — learning to balance is perhaps the most important and beneficial part of the initial stages of the exercise.
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Wednesday, April 9, 2014
This is the first in a series of articles discussing various chapters in Terry Pettit's book "...essays, columns, poems, and letters (that) reflect my own journey into coaching. Each entry is part of a story of how I came to see the challenges in my coaching development."
By Jim Freeman
April 7, 2014
Terry Pettit (LJS File/Ted Kirk)
"There is something heroic in wanting to be a coach."
Mr. Pettit begins the chapter entitled "Finding a Path Into Coaching" with a statement that I'd never before heard a coach make. I'm certain that I had not looked at the vocation from such a perspective prior to reading that sentence. He goes on to list reasons why being a coach is demanding in any number of ways from recruiting to practice planning to fundraising to dealing with parents. My real interest, the part of the job that always held me, was working with the players, getting to know them and hopefully forging and continuing relationships with them. The varied responsibilities comprising a coach's job description are really just different ways of serving our players. In John Wooden's A Game Plan For Life, the legendary UCLA basketball coach writes: “I remain convinced to this day that compassion like that—sincerely caring for your players and maintaining an active interest in their lives, concerns, and motivations—is one of the most important qualities a coach can have.”
Emphasizing and promoting the aspects of sports that can aid athletes in other parts of their lives is the reason youth sports exist in the first place. Quoting again from Wooden's A Game Plan For Life: “A coach’s primary function should be not to make better players, but to make better people.” Tim Stevens is a the preps sports editor at the Raleigh News & Observer and a member of several halls of fame. More than once he has stated that "the purpose of high school sports is to produce good citizens". Those notions of what we are trying to accomplish as coaches have greatly influenced me as I studied to develop my own sense of why I wanted to be a coach and how I was to go about it. Producing better people and good citizens begins with insuring that the players know genuine care and even love are the foundation of everything that is done in the program. John Wooden described love as the "the most powerful four-letter word" in his 12 Lessons in Leadership. When the great Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi was asked why his teams were so successful he responded "because we love each other."
While I was student-teaching at Wake Christian Academy in Garner, North Carolina I had befriended Dean Monroe, the athletics director at Friendship Christian School in Raleigh. I eventually went to work with Mr. Monroe at FCS teaching junior-high science and physical education. I was also the head varsity baseball coach despite the fact that I had never coached anything before. One day early in the school year, a returning baseball player walked up to me and asked, "so...are we going to learn anything this year?" The young man had an edgy tone to his question and I felt right away the expectations he and his teammates had regarding our upcoming season. I was confident that our coaching staff would be able to meet those expectations but only by applying real preparation and care. We were fortunate enough that year to have two talented and very enthusiastic assistant coaches in Boyce Collins and Sean Kurdys to go along with a young and equally enthusiastic group of players. We learned together and had a great deal of fun while also advancing to the state championship game. The team took the rallying cry from the movie Slapshot ("Old-time hockey! Eddie Shore! Eddie Shore!") and made it their own ("Old-time baseball! Ty Cobb! Ty Cobb!") to great effect. I can still see the players standing in the dugout and screaming that line over and over during games that required some rallying. I can also recall the shocked looks on the faces of our opponents while all that yelling was taking place.
That season was one of the most meaningful and rewarding of my coaching career. Our players knew that we took their season seriously, they knew we wanted them to enjoy it, and they knew we cared about them as individuals. Pettit writes, "My goal is not to persuade you to my point of view or coaching philosophy, but rather to stimulate you to reflect on your own story and begin to take responsibility for your own coaching development, if you have not already done so." That initial season at Friendship Christian School was the springboard for me in considering the importance of developing a consistent coaching philosophy, the necessity of continued professional development and the realization that the players were the reason we were doing any of it. Those three things would continue to shape my approach to coaching for the next 25 years.
The "heroic" component found in coaching is centered around teaching and caring for the players put in our charge. All the other responsibilities of the job exist to serve that ideal. The fact that I am able to still have relationships with some of the players on the first team that I ever coached is particularly powerful to me. Not long ago one of those players told me that he still uses lessons learned from his high school baseball career in his business today. I can't think of many greater compliments that a player can pay a coach or many better reasons to be a coach in the first place.
Mr. Pettit ends the "Finding a Path Into Coaching" chapter with the line "It is all out there waiting for you to be heroic with." I loudly echo that beautiful sentiment.