Med Ball Floor Slams - Great exercise to get the heart rate up and give you a full body workout . . .
I get asked as much for injury advice as I do fitness advice, I am not a physiotherapist and certainly not a doctor so my first tip would be to go and see one of them if the injury persists or may be serious.
However, I realise physiotherapists can be expensive and not always necessary for minor injuries and doctors are busy people.
So here are my tips for minor muscle tears, sprains & strains:
If you notice the injury occur whether it in the gym or in sport the best thing you can do is stop any further damage from happening, don’t simply carry on hoping it will go away.
2) Ice & Elevation:
Mixed opinions flying around at the moment about the use of ice but my current advice is to apply ice to the area for 12-15min at a time for up to 8 hours post injury. If possible (e.g. for limb injuries) keep it elevated above the heart for as long as possible each day to improve blood supply and accelerate healing.
After the initial 8 hour icing period regularly apply heat for 12-15mins at a time multiple times/day (help surrounding muscles relax and assists blood flow).
4) Initially NO Static Stretches:
Statically stretching an already torn muscle/connective tissue just does not make sense until the injury is fully healed. You are likely to just make things worse.
5) Avoiding Aggravation of injury:
Stop performing & avoid movements that exacerbate the injury. Avoid large stresses through the area. That does not mean don’t go to the gym, it means for a while you will have to work around the area.
6) Re-introduce Basic Movements:
Once the initial inflammation and most of pain has gone away regularly perform basic movements with the muscle/joint under low stress to begin activating the muscles and increase blood flow further.
(This is the stage I can usually help however steps 1-6 must come first and not be rushed)
Once you have pain free movement you need to progressively strengthen the muscles and return flexibility/mobility to the injured area. It is best to seek some guidance on what exercises to start with and also for some myofascial release & mobility techniques to break up scar tissue and restore unrestricted movement and a good range of motion.
Who is it for?
Anyone looking to increase their max strength &/or finding it hard to track their progress &/or wanting to incorporate rep phases within their training &/or coming to the end of a hypertrophy (muscle size) phase of training and wanting to focus on strength for a few weeks before returning back stronger to hypertrophy training.
I have not found many pre set training programs very effective for me or realistic to incorporate into my weekly routine. I usually revert back to my own programs & training methods that have worked well for me over the years. However, the 5-3-1 method (originally designed by Jim Wendler) looked good on paper so decided to give it a go to try and up my max lifts.
In the 12months prior to starting the 5-3-1 program I had hit PB’s on my main lifts increasing my max Bench from 130kg to 135kg and started to think I'd hitting my ‘genetic potential’ on this lift. My Deadlift had gone from 150kg to 170kg (which had/has a lot more room for improvement). Full range Front Squat was at 90kg & Strict Press 75kg.
After 16 weeks on a slightly adapted version of the 5-3-1 program my new PB’s were:
Bench 137.5kg (+2.5kg) also hitting new 3rmx of 122.5kg
· Deadliift 180kg (+10kg)
· Front Squat 110kg (+20kg)
· Strict Press 77.5kg (+2.5kg)
This may not seem like huge gains but when you have been weight training for over 8 years it is rare to see this amount of progress in so many areas over a 16 week period.
So what is the 5-3-1 method?
Below is my adapted version of the 5-3-1 summarizing how the program is structured. Each workout begins with a compound lift with weights and reps pre set based on % of your current 1rep Max. After week 4 you reset your max calculations slightly higher and restart the cycle. If you cannot complete the lifts successfully you have either set you max too high, or need to stay on the same weights for 2 cycles (8 weeks).
What changes did I make to the original 5-3-1 method?
I usually train using a very high volume of sets in an hour often hitting 30+ incorporating lots of supersets (e.g. Push/Pull), I found 5-3-1 prog too low volume for me personally so I usually put 4 assistance/extra exercises with each compound lift as opposed to the 2 in the original 5-3-1 prog.
I often managed to time my de-load with times when I was away and if not I added an extra 2 sets on the compound lift at 60% of max keeoping assistance work the same as usual.
It is important your form on these lifts is kept strict and done correctly, if you are not confident with them and would like some coaching helping you get stronger and avoid injury see my services and prices page for Personal Training details.
Deadlifts are a make or break exercise, the physical benefits of training them properly are huge, however they are also easy to get wrong without proper instruction/knowledge. They are designed to strengthen your lower back muscles to support your spine, not stress it.
In this article I have put together a compilation of my own thoughts alongside some of the best deadlift resources I have come across from various strength coaches.
Benefits of Deadlifting
- Great for Strengthening/developing posterior chain muscles, mainly: Glutes, Hamstrings, Lower back
- Improve Sports Performance: Run Faster, Accelerate Quicker, Jump Higher, Jump Further (all due to development of posterior chain function & improved power of hip extension)
- Prevent Injury: Glutes and hamstrings play a vital role in knee and lower back health as. With regards to knee health, strong glutes and hamstrings can help prevent injuries. Many injuries are due to disproportionate strength between muscles groups, hamstrings and lower back often ignored whilst quads & abs get all the attention. A strong posterior chain can help keep your back healthy as well. The deadlift position is the strongest/safest way to lift a weight from the floor (whether it's a dumbbell, barbell or heavy furniture).
How to Deadlift
The Set Up
- Grip Options: Double overhand used when lifting below 80% of max. Anything over this use a mixed grip if the bar is slipping. A mixed grip means having one overhand and one underhand, make sure this does not twist your posture in the set up position.
- Foot Width - to determine you optimal foot position for max power output set your feet up ready to do a max vertical jump, this is usually also the optimal starting foot position for your deadlift.
- Shins close to bar - Bar shouldn't be in front of toes (vertically) at any point in exercise
- Tripod foot pressure: Pressure balanced between big toe, little toe & heel
- Hips pushed back: Push your hips back as you lower yourself down to the bar. Do not simply squat down. You want to push your hips back (helping load your glutes and hamstrings) as far as you can without rounding your lower back, and then bend the knees slightly to get you all the way down to the bar.
- Big breath to create high intra-abdominal press: Take a deep breath into your belly. This will activate your diaphragm, and increase intra-abdominal pressure. Don’t try to breathe in and out during the lift phase if you’re going to go relatively heavy, you need to take a deep breath and hold it to keep your spine stable and lower back healthy until you get to the top where you can exhale and take another breath.
- Maintain/Achieve neutral spine: Compress ribs slightly down and hips up at front without hunching upper back or rounding lower back. If your back is flat there should not be an exaggerated arch in lower back and no/minimal flexion (curve) in upper or lower back in the set up or during the rep. Head/neck should also be neutral & not arched back.
- Keep bar close as possible to body throughout lift.
- Lead lift with Chest, not hips: Starting lift by popping hips up will round the lower back putting it in a compromised position.
- Finish with hips: Squeeze glutes driving hips forwards at top, do not excessively arch lower back (typical fault for people with weak glutes)
- The descent: To put bar down, initiate movement with hips pushing back before bending knees or they will get in the way on way down.
- If you are struggling with your mobility/flexibility I encourage you to spend some time fixing your movement restrictions before doing a conventional barbell deadlift. In the mean time you can use the trap/hex bar deadlift variation. Staying only with this type of deadlift will lead to good quad development but sub optimal glute & hamstring development compared to the conventional deadlift.
- Use flat soled footwear when possible for deadlifting
Putting it into Practice
The Video below shows one of my client performing her 5 reps max deadlift, despite her being at her max weight note how well she holds her back position together throughout the lift.