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Changing Technique Part 1

This is a piece I’ve wanted to write for a while; I apparently started it in 2011 and then got distracted by other things.  But for lack of anything to write about, I’m getting back to it.

A recent (note: 2011) article in Runner’s World magazine spurred what will invariably be an article that takes far more parts to cover than I’m initially planning; in brief it looked at some of the recent debates over running form (and of course the shoe issue) in terms of the whole heel strike vs. midfoot strike vs. forefoot strike.    More generally it looked at the issue of running form/technique, if there is an ‘ideal’ form or technique and, if so, whether it’s worth it for runners to attempt to change their technique.

Unfortunately, in the absence of much real data on optimal running technique or what have you (and anecdote is not data no matter how much people try to make it so), their only real answer to the question of “Should runners change technique?” was “It depends.”  At least they were honest and that’s certainly an answer I can get behind.

Now I have no intention of addressing the running technique debate … Read More

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Glenn Pendlay Olympic Technique DVD – Product Review

Glenn Pendlay OL Techniqe DVD

Information on Olympic Lifting in English is not available in large amounts and what is available can run the gamut from excellent to absolute trash. The movements are technically complicated, there is little information (again, especially in English) on them and many who teach them, frankly, have no clue what they are doing.

Mind you, this isn’t different for other movements in the weight room but the OL’s are pretty technical movements and a lot is going on in a very short period of time.

A lot of strength coaches seem to think they know what’s happening/what they are doing but, when you watch their videos (cough cough, Mike Boyle and Dos Remedios) it’s clear that they do not.  You see gross technical errors which said coaches then make chronic excuses for.

I’ve even seen DVD and other teaching products that, flatly, taught stuff incorrectly.  And not just on the Youtubes; I mean professionally produced and priced stuff.  But I’m getting off topic.

The state of Olympic Lifting in the United States has made learning the movements or learning to teach the movements somewhat problematic. Certification is a first step but not everyone has access or time; and the afforementioned … Read More

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Split Squat Technique

Today I want to cover proper and improper exercise technique for the split squat.  I’ll go ahead and note up front that everything I’m going to discuss would apply to the myriad lunging variations as well.  The only difference is the added component of movement (forwards, backwards, alternating or whatever).

Recently the split squat in one form or another has come sort of the forefront due to a rather popular strength coach’s belief that the split squat (more specifically a rear foot elevated split squat) can and should replace back squatting for athletes.  While I won’t go that far, the split squat can certainly be a useful movement in many situations.

One is when a bilateral leg imbalance, that is a strength differential between the right and left legs, develops for some reason.  The split squat is one of many ways to go about correcting this.   A second place where the split squat can be useful (and this seems to be the main thrust of the strength coach mentioned above’s argument) is when the low back is limiting squat poundages.  Since there is far less low back involvement (as a function of both lighter loads and a more upright torso) … Read More

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Back Extension Technique

In Friday’s Q&A on Lifting 6 Days Per Week for Mass Gains, on the lower body day, I suggested both the Romanian Deadlift as well as another low-back exercise on the lower body day.  In response to this, someone on the support forum asked what low back exercise I’d recommend since, as noted, the RDL already hits the low back to some degree.  I suggested that back extensions would be my primary exercise choice and, today, I want to address various technique issues relevant to that exercise.

I consider the back extension to be a basic ‘core’ exercise. While low back certainly gets hit during big movements like squats and especially deadlifts (and RDL’s and good mornings), the spinal erectors tend to get hit primary isometrically (meaning that they contract without movement).

From a safety standpoint, I think there is benefit to working the spinal erectors through full flexion and extension since there are times when the back simply can’t be kept flat. Low back strengthening can also benefit squats and deads simply by ensuring that they aren’t a weak point in the movement.  That’s in addition to any safety benefits.

The simple fact is that heavy squats and … Read More

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Lat Pulldown Technique

In a previous exercise technique article, I examined the Cable Row and today I want to examine the ‘other’ major back movement: the lat pulldown.  In this article,  I’m going to cover a narrow undergrip, medium overgrip (both in front of and behind the neck) and parallel grip handle.

I’m generally not a big fan of very wide grip pulldowns, I think that a medium overhand grip works just as well and wide grips tend to limit the range of motion.

Note: the form issues I’m going to address go for chins or pullups as well.  The only difference is that instead of pulling the bar down to your body, you pull your body up to the bar.  As well, I’m going to use the term pulldown generally throughout this article, just keep in mind that it refers to all of the different variants as well as chins/pullups.


Muscles Targeted in the Lat Pulldown

As the name itself suggests, the lat pulldown has as its primary target the latissimus dorsi.  This is the large fan shaped muscle that takes up an exceedingly large portion of the back.  While the midback is involved somewhat in the pulldown movement (depending heavily … Read More