Why Barbells

EDIT: Read this article in the context of getting stronger and you will be less inclined to pick a pitch fork up. I use dumbbells, kettlebells and even machines on a regular basis. 

Out of all the the equipment you could chose to exercise with there is one that is far superior to the rest. That superior object is the barbell. Yes, thats right, the barbell is better than a TRX, kettlebells, BOSU balls (do I even need to say that? Sadly, yes.), machines, dumbbells or anything else you could  possibly think of.

Why are the more superior? For quite a few reasons. To start they have the capabilities to essentially be loaded indefinitely. Meaning you could always add more weight to the bar. Which is good because that means you can always increase the stress you are using, you could add as little as ¼ of a pound at a time. And to get stronger (or bigger) you are going to have to increase the stress you put on your muscles overtime.

Barbells are also one of the most effective tools for performing basic and essential lifts to being a human (yes not just an athlete). Those lifts being the squat, deadlifts, bench press, overhead press and rows. Now there are more exercises and you could use other equipment to perform these exercises but a barbell is better. Let's take squat for example, we could perform them with kettlebells and do goblet squats, then we can use a barbell and do front squats (since they would be more similar to goblet squats). Now we could use bigger and bigger kettlebells but eventually we are going to run into a couple problems. One, eventually there won't be a bigger kettlebell; and two, eventually the jumps for one kettlebell size to the next might be to big. Most gyms that have kettlebells end around the 32kg mark or about 70lbs. They aren't going to have 70 lbs, then 75 lbs, 80 lbs and so on. However with a barbell we could increase the weight forever, at least up to more than anyone will ever be able to front squat. We can also increase the weights in smaller amounts than we could with almost any other piece of equipment.

They are also just cooler. Squatting 500 lbs, is cooler than squatting 130lbs using kettlebells (I don’t hate kettlebells they just make good example by the way, they are great for accessories to the barbell movements, AKA they do have a place).

They are more reasons I could think of why barbells are better but they would probably make this article too long for most people to read, so we will stick with those for now. Barbells are better because they are easily loadable and loadable indefinitely, making them more effective to perform a lot of the basic lifts, and since the weight is indefinitely loadable they make you look cooler because  five 45’s on bar looks cooler than a 65lb kettlebell.

Box Jumps: You're Doing Them WRONG

Today’s article is a guest post from Rod Deleon. Rod has been a trainer since before there were such things as training certifications. He has been in this industry for over 20 years. Rod is an absolute beast and is a wealth of knowledge and experience; and those two things put together are invaluable. Plus here is what he looks like at 50 years old.  

 

 

Box Jumps: You’re doing them WRONG!

I often contend in this space that there are no bad exercises, just exercises that are used inappropriately. That is, you have to decide if an exercise will help you reach your fitness goals. So to help you decide that, there are two goals that box jumps will help you reach:

 

1. Post-Activation Potentiation. In simple terms, muscle contraction is strongly influenced by its immediate contractile history. In other words, a series of powerful contractions will prime the muscle chemically and neurologically to contract powerfully for several minutes afterward and possibly longer term if the athlete adapts. A set or two of explosive box jumps may enhance the performance of subsequent sets of deadlifts, squats, cleans, and so on...in theory.  

 

2. Safely Training to Increase Vertical Jump. Using a box to jump on while practicing your vertical jump spares the connective tissues and joints that might otherwise be pounded into hash by simply jumping and crashing to the ground.

 

Notice that I did not list “being different” as one of the goals. In terms of human physiology, we are all more or less the same, yes, even you, Snowflake. If you want to express your individuality, do it with your hairstyle, not your workout.

 

In no particular order, here are some of the biggest mistakes I see people making while doing box jumps.

 

Using Box Jumps for Metabolic Conditioning: Using box jumps for MetCon might be the leading reason for injury on this particular implement. If you’re using box jumps for PAP, doing box jumps to the point of fatigue will defeat the purpose. If you’re doing box jumps to work on your vert, what’s the point of doing them to exhaustion? That can only lead to injury—possibly season-ending injury. There are dozens upon dozens of better ways to work on your conditioning.

 

Jumping Backward off the Box: Is backwards to the goal of preventing injury by using box jumps to alleviate the stress on your body while vert training, and it boils down to just plain laziness. Either jump forward off the box and turn around to jump back up or step down off the box one leg at a time. Simply jumping backward off the box subjects the Achilles tendon to a tremendous amount of shear force, up to 1,800 pounds for a person weighing 150 pounds. Then it only gets worse if you contract the calf during this violent stretch in preparation to jump again. It won’t take many reps of this to spur some tendinopathy and even a rupture of that tendon. If you ever get a full-thickness rupture of your Achilles tendon, you are looking at the better part of a year spent on recovery and rehab before you can even BEGIN training again. Do them correctly, or don’t do them at all.

Using Too High of a Box: This is without a doubt the worst mistake. If you understand the purpose of a box jump, you understand that the goal is not to jump on the highest box possible. Look at people landing on an ultra-high box jump. They land with their knees up around their ears, back rounded, and head down. They are in total flexion. If you ended up in that position on the playing field or court, you would get your head handed to you. Now look at a photo of Michael Jordan on a layup. He is in complete extension, spine, hips, knees, ankles, all in full extension. Flexion is the enemy of a good vert. Do you want a vert like Mike, or the vert of a troll living under a bridge? Unless you are a seven-feet tall pro-baller, you don’t need any more than a 30” box—max. Using too high of a box will also lead to undesirable compensations to get the flexion needed. Buckling knees and over-pronated feet are the opposite of how an athlete moves.

    

Yes, a ridiculously high box jump may look impressive, but winning at your sport is better.

 

 

Rod

Top 3 Supplements

Anyone who has worked out for a good period of time will eventually ask the question “What supplements should I be taking?” With the constant advertising of miracle pills and people like Mr. HalfSquats telling you what you should take there is a lot of (bad) information out there. Here is a no bullcrap list of 3 supplements that you should at least consider taking. All of these supplements have been proven to work with actual science.

 

  1. Protein Powder/Whey Protein-I think most people have this one figured out. The general recommendation for athletes or people who work out is anywhere from 1-2 grams per pound of body weight; I usually recommend around 1 gram per pound of body weight. Do note that not all of this needs to come from protein powder, in fact most of it should come from whole food choices like lean meat, eggs and other good protein sources.

  2. Creatine Monohydrate- Creatine has huge benefits, especially for strength athletes. It is one of the most researched supplements out there. There is no reason not to be taking it. Creatine monohydrate is the cheapest form of creatine and to my knowledge no other form has been shown to be more effective at a statistically significant level. Creatine helps with ATP (energy) production. See reference #1 below to read more about the benefits of creatine. Recommended dosing is 5-7 grams a day.

  3. BCAA- Also known as branch chain amino acids. The 3 amino acids that make up BCAAs are leucine, isoleucine and valine. These 3 aminos play a huge role in protein synthesis and slowing down protein breakdown. Sipping on a BCAA drink will help preserve muscle mass during workouts and speed up recovery (#2).

That is it guys and gals. Those really are the only 3 supplements I take all the time and that I recommend to all of my athletes and clients. There are some extra things like coffee and/or caffeine of some kind and I usually mix my BCAA’s in gatorade while I workout, but those are not needed all the time. This industry loves to over complicate things, and it is not needed. Are there other things that work? Sure, and please do your research on them, but these are the basics. Just keep things simple.

 

Train hard, fuel smart and BeStrong,

Cody Plant

 

#1- Cooper et al.: Creatine supplementation with specific view to exercise/sports performance: an update. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2012 9:33.

http://jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1550-2783-9-33

#2- Howatson et al.: Exercise-induced muscle damage is reduced in resistance-trained males by branched chain amino acids: a randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled study. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2012 9:20.

http://jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1550-2783-9-20