The Importance of Technique in Physical Movement

(Short read) Why Technique is crucial for high performance in any movement.

Technique is everything. If you want to maximize the power output of any movement, you’ll need to have excellent technique. This applies to anything from a punch to a deadlift. Technique equaling power also applies to things like dancing, and skateboarding. In those cases power is quality of movement.

Mastering technique is one of the fundamental principles of martial arts. This can be applied to any form of fitness. As I mentioned in an old post, the most effective way to master technique is through quality repetition. Olympic weightlifters understand this which is why they train their movements so frequently, sometimes multiple times a day. There’s no way they could generate the type of force they do if they didn’t spend so much time working on technique.

Another example is sprinters. One of the reasons sprinters are able to move so fast is because they spent time working on their running technique. You can be strong, fast, and genetically blessed but if you have lousy running technique you will limit your potential.

In addition to unleashing power, great technique will reduce your risk of injury. This explains why most injuries happen when a person is fatigued. If you’ve ever seen a fatigued athlete perform, you’ll see that their technique isn’t as good as when they were fresh.

If you want to maximize the power output of your movements and reduce your risk of injury make the effort to hone your technique.

Foundation For Successful Barbell Squatting

How to prepare yourself if you’ve never done barbell squats.

The back squat is one of the most intimidating exercises in the gym.You put yourself in a vulnerable position where weight is on your back and you’re also fighting against gravity. It’s not like the deadlift where you can simply drop the weight if it’s too heavy or the bench press where you can find ways to maneuver through.

If you’ve never squatted with weights you might be nervous. Luckily, there are ways to get yourself mentally and physically ready to squat with weight on your back.

Technique

Before you add load to a movement make sure you can do that movement with your bodyweight. One of the prerequisites to back or front squats should be bodyweight squats. Bodyweight squats will help you develop proper movement pattern. When you skip this step, you put yourself at risk of having some compensations when you start using a barbell. These compensations usually come from muscle imbalances or previous injuries. Once you get comfortable with your bodyweight, I recommend doing some Goblet Squats with a kettlebell or dumbbell. Goblet squats will teach you how to brace when squatting as well as improve your squat depth.

Muscle Development

Imagine a knight going into battle without his armor. That’s what it’s like doing barbell squats without developing the necessary muscles. Your armor is your quads, glutes, hamstrings, and other muscles that you use for squatting. I talk about the best squat accessory exercises in a recent post. The only one that I wouldn’t recommend for new squatters is the Goodmorning because it involves putting a barbell on your back just like the squat.

Build Power Base

It’s one thing to have the muscles need to squat and it’s another thing to be able to use them powerfully. One thing that really helped have a smooth start with my barbell squatting was having a solid power base. Having power helps you move the weight faster and easier so you won’t have to grind and struggle as much. That’s why I love doing speed work. Before I ever stepped under a barbell my speed work came in the way of plyometric jumps and sprints. These exercises will develop your fast twitch muscles, which are the ones primarily responsible for moving heavy weight.

Squatting with weight on your back can be intimidating but if you prepare your body for it you’ll be setting yourself up for success. By focusing on technique, muscle development, and power development you’ll be setting the stage for successful barbell squatting.

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The Best Three Exercises For a Powerful Squat

Best exercises to build an awesome squat.

If you’ve been following this page for a while you’ll know that my favorite lift is the barbell back squat. It’s more than a leg exercise. Your whole body has to be engaged in order to stay stable throughout the movement.

It’s probably the most empowering lift known to man. What’s more empowering than to overcome gravity and a force that’s trying to keep you down? I’ve tried different training approaches to help my squat and have enjoyed the results. Just like any lift, the squat has accessory exercises that can boost your performance tremendously. I’ll share my top three squat accessory exercises that have helped me boost my squat. Since there are different forms of squat, I’ll be specific by mentioning that this applies to the high bar back squat.

Farmers Walk

The Farmer walk is one of the best exercises you can do to improve your squat performance. It engages many muscles in your body including your obliques. The obliques are one of the most underrated muscles when it comes to squatting. Strong obliques will protect your lower back. In terms of core muscles, the farmer walk also teaches you have to brace. Bracing is one of the biggest keys to moving heavy weight. The farmer walk will also strengthen your nervous system due to the stress it imposes on your spine. That stress will cause your body to adapt so you’ll be better equipped to handle the farmer walk the next time you do it.

Bulgarian Split-Squat

The bulgarian split squat is probably the best leg accessory movement to the squat. It hits every muscle in the leg, including the smaller muscles. From my experience, the stronger my bulgarian split squat the stronger my back squat. I also notice that I feel my legs more with bulgarian split squats than with back squats. This might be because the legs are the only part of your body working in the split squat. With back squats, your core muscles are highly involved. If you want to maximize your leg strength, do Bulgarian split squats.

Good Morning

The Good Morning is one of the best squat accessory exercises in my opinion. I started doing them a few months ago and have noticed that it’s a lot easier to hit depth and get out of the whole in my squats. As someone who’s been squatting for a while, my squat has never felt more natural than it does now. I believe adding the good morning to my routine has been a major factor with that.

If you’re serious about boosting your squat, you need to have some or all of these movements in your routine. The best way to improve your squat is to squat but adding the right accessories will speed up the process. What are your favorite squat accessory exercises?

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The Top Exercise For Each Fitness Goal

The main exercises I’d choose for specific fitness goals.

Throughout my fitness journey, my goals have shifted. As I focused on different goals, I was introduced to some amazing exercises. Each of these exercises were tailor made for the specific goals. I even learned the benefits of some exercises by accident. Below are the top exercises I’d choose for specific fitness goals.

Strength

If you want to maximize the strength you gain, then you need to deadlift. If you’re physically able and aren’t dealing with any health restrictions, I highly reccomend adding deadlifts to your program.The two reasons it’s so great for strength development are it engages so many muscles and it’s an exercise you can really load.

Hypertrophy

In my experience, the exercise that has helped me the most at gaining size or hypertrophy is the farmer walk. One of the biggest keys to gaining size is maximizing time under tension with maximal load. When you’re carrying a decent amount of weight for a certain distance, you’ll definitely put your body in a place to gain size. The great thing about the farmer walk is that your size gains will occur throughout your body. The Farmer walk engages so many muscles in your body like your traps, lats, obliques, and legs.

Fat Loss and Athleticism

Any exercise that can maximize fat loss and overall atleticism must be very valuable. If you’ve been following this page, you’d probably guess that the exercise I’m talking about is sprints. Sprints are great for athleticism because they help you develop speed through the activation on your fast-twitch muscles.

In terms of fat loss, I chose sprints over kettlebell swings because the amount of work you can output with the kettlebell swing can be limited by grip strength. There’s a higher injury risk with sprints but you can do different variations like sprinting up a hill.

Sprinting is tremendous for fat loss because it activates so many muscles while you’re moving at a high velocity. Your body will adapt in a way to make you more efficient at the movement you’re doing.. In regards to sprints, it’ll get rid of excess fat so you can move faster. The added benefit is that it’ll try to keep muscle because the muscle is what applies the necessary force to move fast. Another reason sprints are great for fat loss is due to the increase in heart rate that it causes. This heart rate increase leads to a higher metabolic rate during and after the workout. It’ll take your body a lot of energy/calories to get back to it’s resting heart rate.

Nervous system efficiency

This is an interesting one because when you ask most people about their fitness goals, strengthening their nervous system is rarely if ever the answer you’ll get back. It’s a shame because the nervous system is the key to every activity you do, whether it’s fitness related or not. One of the biggest parts of my current fitness routine is nervous system training. By doing this, I’ve noticed my workout performances keep improving despite the fact that I’m not focusing too hard on any particular exercise.

The exercise that I’ve felt has helped me the most with my nervous system efficiency is the Leopard Crawl. The leopard crawl is a simple looking move but it’s effects on the brain and body are phenomenal. The reason it’s so great for nervous system health is because of the contralateral nature of the movement. Any time you do a contralateral movement, you’re using both the left and right brain hemispheres simultaneously.

This category could get an asterisk because I’ve recently started doing more cross crawl supermans. I definitely feel mentally rejuvenated when I do them but it’s too soon to say if I’d put them ahead of leopard crawls.

These are the top exercises I’d choose for their respective goals. If you’d replace anyone of these with something else, please share in the comment section!

How To Train around a Bad Knee

How to burn fat while hampered by a knee injury.

Disclaimer: This post is about how I trained around a knee injury. What you’re dealing with may be different. Please check with your doctor(s) before doing any activity that may put your knee at risk.

If you’ve ever experienced it, you know that knee pain sucks. It can hold you back from achieving your fitness goals. I remember a time when I was battling knee pain as a result of hyperextending my knee. I think not being able to train the way I wanted hurt more than the knee pain. I had to adjust the way I trained in order to keep making progress while avoiding damage to my knee.

It was a challenge at first but over time, I figured out a way that worked for me. Some of the biggest challenges when dealing with an injury is losing muscle, losing strength, and gaining fat. I had to train in a way that protected my knee but still helped me maintain my physical abilities as much as possible.

Build Your Upper Body

A bad knee shouldn’t stop you from being able to build your upper body. If you want to burn fat then building muscle will be very valuable. Your body has to use a lot of energy in order to maintain muscle. That energy usage leads to calories being burned. Even with a bad knee, you can still do movements like the bench press, bent-over row, and pullup. If you’re worried about looking like Johnny Bravo, there are still ways to train your legs depending on severity of injury.

Train Legs Differently

Depending on the severity of your knee issues, you can still train your legs. You just have to be selective about the exercises you choose. One of the keys to choosing the right exercises is to find movements that don’t cause pain. Choosing the right exercises can also help you recover from your injury since movement is a big part of recovery.

Some examples of doing movements differently are replacing back squats with box squats since the box squat focused more on the posterior chain. Another example is replacing lunges with Bulgarian split squats. These are some of the variations that helped me when I was dealing with my knee injury.

Something else that worked for me was adding rehab and prehab exercises to my leg routines. I did a lot of exercises that targeted the VMO ( vastus medial oblique) and hamstring muscles since these are the main knee stabilizing muscles. I also trained my balance as a form of injury prevention.

Cardio Exercises

If you think you can’t do cardio because you’re dealing with knee issues, think again. There are other forms of cardio besides running and jumping. When I was dealing with knee issues, my go to form of cardio was the swing. This is a hip dominate movement so you shouldn’t feel anything in your knees if you do it correctly. The kettlebell swing is one of the most effective fat burning exercises I know. It also builds muscle, which is beneficial for fat loss. It’s basically sprints minus the joint impact.

Aside from kettlebell swings, I benefited tremendously from walking in a fasted state. I think that’s one of the simplest fat burning exercises. The reason it works is your body typically uses carbs as a fuel source when doing cardio. By walking in a fasted state, your body only has fat as a source of fuel to use up.

If you’ve been battling knee pain, don’t give up .There’s always a solution. I hope these tips have been helpful. Please let me know what other ways to train around a knee injury that have worked for you.

Nutrition

I don’t talk frequently about nutrition but it has to be mentioned since the food you eat is a huge fuel source for your body. When I was dealing with the knee issue, the two main supplements I took were Vitamin D tablets and Glucosamine Chondroitin. Vitamin D supports bone health and Glucosamine Chondroitin supports cartilage health. Aside from tablets, you can get Vitamin D from sunlight exposure, dairy products, and eggs. Over time, I’ve also learned that Vitamin C and ginger are good for joint health since they have anti-inflammatory properties.

Glucosamine Chondroitin and Arthritis: https://www.webmd.com/osteoarthritis/arthritis-supplements

Vitamin C and D and inflammation: https://www.webmd.com/vitamins-and-supplements/inflammation-fighting-vitamins

Ginger and inflammation: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3665023/

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Try This One Two Punch Combo For a Strength Boost

(Short read) Get great results by doing a workout combo of the farmers walk and the leopard crawl.

Strength is awesome. Being strong gives you a sense of power. It can even save your life. There are many ways to gain strength. During my fitness journey I’ve tried a number of strength training exercises and there are a few exercises that stand out. For the purpose of this post, I’m choosing two specific exercises that boost general strength. The strength gained from these movements are transferable to a number of strength training exercises and even athletic movements. The two exercises are the leopard crawl and the farmer walk. These two exercises are great individually but are also great as a combo.

How To Use Leopard Crawl and the farmers walk together

I usually do this combo after some weighted chin-ups but this can be done separately as a short and efficient workout. Below is my approach.

  • 3 rounds of heavy farmers walks- Each round will last 15-20 seconds. Rest 2 minutes in between rounds.
  • 3 minutes of rest after the last round of farmers walks
  • 5 minutes of leopard crawls- Set a timer for 5 minutes. Every time you stop crawling you’ll pause the timer. The goal is to get 5 minutes of total work done. You don’t have to do 5 consecutive minutes.

Why This Combo Works

This combo of farmer walks and leopard crawls works because they compliment each other so well. They also fit most of the boxes for gaining functional aesthetics. This combo trains your strength, movement quality, nervous system health, and conditioning. The farmers walk works every muscle in your body but also puts tremendous stress on your nervous system. To counter that nervous system stress, the leopard crawl revitalizes your nervous system. By adding the leopard crawl, you speed up the recovery process of the farmers walk.

Post talking about the numerous benefits of the leopard crawl: The Best Exercise You’re Not Doing

Post talking about how the Farmer Walk will get you stronger: Get Strong With Farmers Walks!

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How To Get A Body That Looks and Performs It’s Best

How to train if you want to look and feel your best

Should you train for looks or function? Why not get both. You can look good and still perform in and outside of the weight room. The simple answer to how to get functional aesthetics is to train like an athlete. The problem is you see people performing circus tricks in the gym and calling it athletic training.

Even if you’re not training for a sport or an event, you still want to have some athletic ability. There are several keys to making this work.

Efficiency

You want to be as efficient as possible when selecting exercises. If you’re spending 30 minutes doing different curl variations, you’re not being efficient. One of the keys to efficiency is choosing exercises that hit multiple muscles at one. This is important because most of the physical things you do outside of the gym require you to use different muscle groups at once. Isolation exercises have their place too since they’ll address any weak spots. Just don’t make them the main part of your workout program if your goal is functional aesthetics.

Variety

Variety is the spice of life. When it comes to achieving functional aesthetics that variety comes in the different training methods you use. For functional aesthetics, you want to use the different training systems ( strength, speed, mobility, conditioning, and nervous system training). The key to making this work is choosing exercises that compliment each other.

Strength: Strength is a crucial part of having functional aesthetics. Training for strength the type of muscle that turns heads. Even if your goal isn’t to build a large amount of muscle mass, strength training will force your body to develop some muscles. If you do want to gain a large amount of muscle mass, developing strength will make that feat easier to achieve. When doing high volume mass building exercises, the person who can do 10 reps at 225 will most likely have more muscle than the person who can only do 10 reps at 135. The main exercises to maximize strength bench Press, squat, deadlift, and farmers walk.

Speed: Training for speed is a perfect example of form matching function. When you train for speed, your body adapts to allow you to be more efficient at expressing that speed. Your body will do things like build dense muscle fibers and remove unnecessary fat. This will help you with the aesthetic aspect functional aesthetics. For the functional aspect, speed will help you tremendously in most athletic activities. When it comes to training for speed, nothing beats sprints.

Conditioning: Fatigue can make a coward out of anyone. When you’re tired, you don’t perform as well as you should and you have a higher risk of getting hurt. Working on your condition is functional training because it allows you to do more of any activity without getting tired. It helps you with aesthetics as well because conditioning exercises help you burn unnecessary fat. Similar to speed training, your body will burn extra fat so you can be more efficient at the activity you’re doing. Carrying dead weight will tire you out faster. There are different ways to work on your conditioning but the most useful ways are swimming, hill sprints, and punching bag exercises.

Mobility: You need to be able to move if you want to be functional. Everything is easier when you know how to move. Being a good mover allows you to express your speed and strength in a more efficient way. Being a good mover will also improve your posture. A strong posture is visually appealing.

Nervous System Training: The most overlooked type of training in the fitness world is nervous system training. Yes, every form of exercise trains your nervous system. When I talk about nervous system training, I’m talking about exercises with the specific purpose of making the nervous system efficient. By making the nervous system more efficient, you’ll be capable of performing better in the other training methods like strength, speed, and conditioning. This will support your aesthetic goals. Two exercises I use to support my nervous system are the dead hang stretch and the leopard crawl .

On the functional side, making the nervous system more efficient will help your brain function better. A better functioning brain will provide benefits like improved memory and better processing of information. This can come in handy when you’re learning something new. This is functional training at it’s truest form.

One of the main reasons people get into fitness is to improve the overall quality of their life. Getting functional aesthetics will definitely help with that. You don’t have to be obsessed with your appearance to know that you feel better when you like what you see in the mirror. In addition to feeling good about your appearance, developing functional aesthetics will let your brain and body perform optimally in the different activities of your life.

If you’d like a personalized program for developing functional aesthetics, please email me at chrisameto7@gmail.com

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The Best Exercise You’re Not Doing

Throughout my fitness journey I’ve tried many exercises and exercise variations but there’s one move that really stands out. I’d go as far as saying that learning this exercise was one of the biggest turning points in my fitness journey. The move is called the Leopard Crawl and I learned about it through Tim Anderson’s original strength website.

I say this is the best exercise you’re not doing because I’ve never seen someone in person do this exercise. Maybe it’s because many people haven’t heard of it, it won’t be a social media hit, or crawling like an animal feels weird. Regardless of how you feel about the exercise, it provides many benefits.

Benefits

Core Strength: The Leopard crawl is great for core strength. It teaches you how to use all your core muscles simultaneously. Your core muscles have to stabilize in order to control your movement.

Nervous System Health: The interesting thing about Leopard Crawls is that they’re physically demanding but they’re great for revitalizing your nervous system. The reason why it’s so beneficial to the nervous system is the contralateral aspect of the movement. When you Leopard Crawl, you’re using opposite limbs simultaneously. You use your right hand at the same time as your left leg and vice versa. This forces both hemispheres of your brain to work at the same time.

Back Health: One thing I noticed is that my lower back feels better after doing rounds of leopard crawls. I think this is because of the way the movement is set up, particularly when crawling backwards. Another reason for better back health is the development of core strength cause by Leopard Crawls. A strong, stable core is your back’s best friend.

Fat Loss: Leopard Crawls are great for fat loss due to the metabolic demands it places on your body. It forces you to engage many muscles. The longer you do the crawls, the more cardiovascular energy you have to use. Every time Ive finished a round of Leopard Crawls, my heart rate skyrockets.

Muscle Building: As I mentioned before, Leopard Crawls require you to use multiple muscles at once. You already know about the core muscle engagement but did you know that Leopard Crawls will help you build bulletproof shoulders? They’ll also fire up your chests and triceps. If you don’t have access to a gym and you want to build an impressive upper body, Leopard Crawls will help you tremendously.

How To Do Leopard Crawls

Starting Position: Get down on your hands and knees.

Step 2: Raise your slightly above the ground. Raise your shoulders to a height that it’s above your hips. Tilt your head slightly so you’re looking up at an angle.

Step 3: The Leopard Crawl is a Contralateral movement so you’ll be using opposite limbs simultaneously. As you start crawling, you’ll move your left arm while moving your right leg and vice versa. You can do this forward and backwards. To make this even more difficult, maintain proper tongue posture the way I mentioned in this article.

Regardless of your fitness goal, you can benefit from the leopard crawl. It’s one of the rare exercises that will require a lot of energy but revitalize you after. If you’re not physically ready for the leopard crawl, you prepare yourself with the baby crawl. Give these movements a try!

Original Strength Website: https://originalstrength.net

How To Gain Confidence in any Lift

How to gain confidence in any gym exercise.

One of the biggest keys to performing well in the weight room is confidence. When you’re confident you’re less likely to be affected by limiting beliefs.When it comes to gaining confidence when performing a lift, the best solution is to do that lift more frequently. If you don’t want to do the lift multiple times per week, you can try a high set, low rep workout. This is the closest thing to training frequently.

The key to making the high set, low rep approach work is by choosing a weight you’re comfortable doing. I’ve had good experience with this approach when using it for speed squats. You can use a normal tempo when doing this. The concept is simple. The more you do something, the more confident you are in doing it. The more confident you are in doing it, the more competent you’ll be. This is why many have gotten good results using Pavel Tsatsouline’s grease the groove technique.

I wanted to work these principles in a recent squat workout I had. I have decent competency with the squat but I wanted to take it to another level. Below is a simple squat workout I did which follows the high rep, low set training approach. The reps were at a regular tempo.

Squat Workout

  • Back Squat: 20 sets of 2 at 225 pounds. 1 minute of rest in between sets.

I chose 225 pounds because that’s a weight I can do easily. In context, my squat max is currently 385 pounds, beltless. You can adjust the weight to fit your strength levels.

  • Suitcase Carry: 4 sets of 30 second carries. 2 sets for each arm. Rest 1 minute in between each carry

I added the suitcase carry because it’s a great exercise to build core strength. It also teaches you how to brace your abs, which is crucial when squatting.

  • Extreme Supported Squat: In order to do this find something to hold onto. Once you do, you’ll sit yourself in a bodyweight squat slightly below parallel. Set a timer for 5 minutes and hold yourself up as much as possible. During the 5 minutes you will slowly lower yourself in the squat. You can drop once time runs out.

I learned about this through Sports Chiropractor Dr. Tommy John. The benefit of this is that it builds strength endurance, which will lower your risk of injuries. I notice that my knees feel great every time I finish the slow eccentric squats.

*Warning: The extreme supported squats feel miserable while doing them.

Closing Thoughts

The workout above is something I did for my squats but you can apply the same principle to any lift. Beyond lifting, you can apply it to any movement or life skill you want to gain confidence in.

Video link to Extreme Supported Squat demo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=67hA3uLnYIM

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Quote of The Week- Lifting is Safe

Why lifting weights is one of the best tools to protect yourself.

“ If you think lifting is dangerous, try being weak. Being weak is dangerous”. – Brent Contreras

What is danger? Danger is something that can cause you harm. For the purpose of this post, I’m talking about physical harm. When you’re strong, you’re less likely to experience physical harm from outside forces. Any harm you do experience will be minimized due to your physical strength.

I can speak from experience from having injuries in the past that those injuries would have been worse if I hadn’t develop a strength base. This is why Brent. Contreras says being weak is dangerous.

Weak is a relative term but the idea behind his quote is to take your strength seriously because it’ll minimize your risk of physical harm. One of the best ways to develop your strength is through lifting weights.

Being strong will also reduce your risk of danger in regular life. If you ever get in a physical confrontation, being strong will make it easier for you to defend yourself even if you don’t know how to fight. If you’re strong and you look strong as well, people are less likely to want to get in a physical confrontation with you in the first place.

Being strong will reduce your risk of hurting yourself when moving furniture. Being strong will reduce the impact of a fall. It can help you in many areas of your life. In addition to lifting weights, I recommend learning how to move. Doing this will help you maximize the full use of your strength.

Ps. I meant to post earlier in the week. Sorry for the delay!

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