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Most people reading this have one or more social media accounts and will be bombarded by lists of things NOT to do in 2016, but I want to start the year on a positive note, so this blog is going to focus on three things you should be doing in 2016.
1) Whether you are just beginning to train or are a seasoned veteran, make 2016 the year that you focus on perfecting form/technique for every exercise you practice.
Strength training is my first love so I will speak to that, but the principle is equally applicable to any movement or exercise.
Strength training and the heavy loads inherent to it can wreak havoc on your joints and connective tissues, but use of proper form/technique can greatly mitigate and even eliminate said damage.
Nearly all strength-trained athletes incorporate the barbell bench press and back squat into their strength training regimen. Bad technique and crap form are the norm even at the highest professional levels (read NBA, NFL etc.). While this concept may boggle the mind, I can only assume it is ill-informed coaches/trainers who either don’t teach or refuse to enforce proper technique with their athletes.
A note of caution to the young and those whose hubris may cloud their ability to be objective: the fact you have done something a certain way for a prolonged period and not yet experienced injury does NOT indicate you will continue with your current streak of luck. Sure, some people have nearly superhuman connective tissue and or more advantageous anatomical leverages such that they can get away with poor form. Some of these people are even top-tier athletes, and thus someone that others will want to mimic in the hopes of achieving even a modicum of their success. Chances are very good you are NOT like them. Change your evil ways before they catch up to you :).
I am a huge fan of Louie Simmons, strength coach extraordinaire, inventor, entrepreneur and one hell of a strength athlete (Louie’s company site is www.westside-barbell.com). One of Louie’s finest proteges is Laura Phelps Sweatt. Laura and her trainer husband Shane own gyms and work with athletes worldwide (CrossFit Conjugate is one of their gyms). Laura herself is one of the most dominant strength athletes ever. She has set so many all-time powerlifting records it boggles the mind. One of the things I have always admired about Laura is her literally flawless execution of virtually every strength training movement. If you want to learn correct form, you either consult with her, or at the very least watch her videos.
Below are two videos of Laura demonstrating first the box squat and then the barbell bench press.
A quick note on the box squat: if you strength train the box squat should make up the majority of your squat training (unless you are an Olympic lifter). The box squat is safer and just as effective as any back squat variety. It’s safety advantage lies in the physics of the movement. Less stress is placed on the knee joints.
This is Laura demonstrating good and bad form for the box squat (with me narrating):
This is Laura and Shane at a CrossFit Powerlifting Certification demonstrating proper barbell bench press technique (download the video):
I encourage you to search for more videos with Shane and Laura and to visit Louie’s site to learn all you can about proper form.
2) Make sure your diet best meets your needs.
Don’t get caught up in the fad diet of the moment especially if it does not help you to meet your goals. For instance, a “Paleo” based diet for a CrossFit practitioner who wants to be competitive is definitively not optimal. Paleo style diets as a rule lack the carbs needed for top performance and recovery by athletes who require strength and endurance. Despite this fact, the Paleo diet was, and still is, HUGE in the CrossFit community. What makes this particularly interesting is that CrossFit has always positioned itself as the old school, back to the basics, work your ass off alternative to the “globo gym” and bodybuilding approaches. In other words, as a rule they buck the fad trends and b.s. in the physical culture industry, yet they still have embraced a diet which is as faddish as they come.
Back to the point. Well, that WAS the point. CrossFit normally has the right idea: buck the trend, eschew the fads. Consume a diet which consists of foods which are as minimally processed as is reasonably possible, is varied in makeup and has a macronutrient content that best supports your physical goals.
3) More is NOT better, better is better :).
The above concept is true universally when it comes to training, but especially so regarding strength training. Training volume and intensity are inversely correlated. If you train with higher volume, intensity must be reduced and vice versa. Before you “there is no such thing as overtraining” nuts get all riled up, the data on this phenomena is overwhelming and virtually indisputable EVEN for doped athletes.
Why strength training volume and intensity are inversely correlated is equivocal. The prevailing theory proffers that the nervous system is the limiting factor and increased intensity stresses the nervous system to a greater and greater degree. Whatever the reason, if you want to be successful, especially over time, moderating your high intensity training volume is key.
Now, get offline and get to the gym and make 2016 your best physical accomplishment year ever!