Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Controversy, controversy

Well, well well. Have we really gone from the human element to the ridiculous element? If you have been living under a rock, you probably don't know what the videos above me are about. It has to be a pretty large rock because these 'goals' have been in the airwaves from since Sunday afternoon. Now, these are clear gaffes by the match officals and it brings the beautiful game of football into disrepute. Thus, I am all in favour of the use of technology so that the correct calls can be made.

However, the executives of FIFA want to go caveman on us by saying that 'we don't want to lose the human element of the game.' This makes no sense. This means that games are continually going to be spoilt by dodgy calls and a team's hard work and fair play will all go to nought by someone else's 'brain fart'. The technology is there, let's use it and let the game be fair and beautiful once again

Monday, June 28, 2010

What I've been up to lately - Face the wall squat

Ok, quite a bit has happened since my last blog entry. Good news, I got a job, part-time job as a gym instructor at the gym that I usually train in. Doesn't pay much but a job is a job, once I'm getting $$.

I've been at the job for just about a week and already I've noticed some things of interest. 80-90% of the people who do exercises in the gym do them on machines, and when using free weights or bodyweight exercises, do them with poor form or cannot do them at all.

This brings me to the topic I want to touch on in this post. Many people cannot do exercises with proper form because of poor mobility. Mobility is something that we were BORN with, however, because most of us did not practise moving, we lost that mobility ability. To emphasize my point, this is how any child 1-3 years old would squat:

There may be quite a few of us older heads who cannot get into this position properly and some of us are loading external weight onto this movement dysfunction. No wonder why people say squats hurt their knees and damage their backs:

Head jutting forward, chest not spread, causing back to round. Not good form

However, by practise, we can get ourselves back to the level of mobility that we once had, or close to it. In terms of the squat, there is an easy exercise that you can do at home, work, gym, wherever you are that has a wall, to find out that is wrong with your squat form and correct it easily. It's called the face-the-wall squat:

Here is a video that shows you the face the wall squat by Yoana Snideman:

I've taught this exercise to one person in the gym, and she immediately got perfect form in the squat.

Do this every day, throughout the day, and your mobility in the squat would improve. Until next time.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

A little Aha moment

On Thursday, I was doing a cycle of deadlifts a la Power to the People. I was trying to do 5 reps of 480 # and 5 reps of 435# from a 4" deficit. I was only able to barely squeeze up 2 reps. 2 reps????!!!! This was a weight that I was able to pick up with ease even on my worst days. Worse yet, I was able to finish with 2 reps of 510# for 2 reps last cycle. Was I getting weaker? True I lost some weight but only ~ 10 #. Out of frustration, I abandoned my work out that day.

I went over in my mind that night what was I possibly doing wrong, going over the movement in my mind. Then it occured to me: I was supposed to 'get tight' before I began the lift, as in tense my abs, my glutes, grip the bar as hard as I can and tense my........lats?!!! That was it. I wasn't tensing my lats before I began the lift. So I went back and attacked the 480# loaded bar with pre-tensed lats and sure enough, I was able to pull all 5 reps with much more ease.

Tense these to increase your strength

So, long and short, if you are missing deadlifts, it doesn't hurt to check if you are tensing all the right areas to get maximum strength out of your body.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Life can be full of surprises sometimes

Surprise!!! At least for football (read: soccer) fans following the FIFA World Cup over the past 12 hours or so. For those that witnessed it, here is a picture that would bring dreams of ecstasy or nightmares of anguish depending on whichever side of the coin you stand on:

On the CCN TV6 "Waka waka" show, Joel Villafana said that the Spanish Revolution has become the Spanish inquisition: What happened? It think Terry Fenwick hit the nail on the head where he said that the X factor in this game was the centre-forward position. Spain was dominating the possession in the midfield, making all the right plays, but there was nobody there to go after the ball when the ball was being played in the box to ensure that the ball goes in. However, for Switzerland, Derdiyok was the man who was willing to take the attack to the Spanish defense and that was the difference between the two sides. Well played Switzerland. Hopefully Spain can improve on their performance in their next game.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Oh, hi there

Hello, let me introduce myself. My name is Howard Spencer and I am an avid strength training fan and a basketball fan. As a matter of fact, it was my love for basketball that got me to like strength training. Let me explain:

I like playing basketball. However, I found that I used to have a lot of problems playing in the post. I couldn't jump very high and I used to hate the constant pounding involved in playing in the post. This used to result in my shot getting blocked a lot, and my opponents getting their shots over me with ease because they could jump higher than me and were stronger than me. So I did some research about increasing my vertical jump. After some trial and error and some more research, I came across a great product called Vertical Jump Development Bible by Kelly Baggett.

In this book, the author laid out the principles of vertical jump training in a simple, blunt way. He emphasized the importance of being strong to increase vertical jump. This was an area which I found myself lacking in, therefore I followed one of the strength training routines from the book, which involved squatting and deadlifting. However, wrong squatting caused me to have tendonitis in my left knee. After 5 months, I started training again, using bodyweight exercises this time, for fear of using weights and reinjuring myself. In my search for using bodyweight exercises, I came upon the Dragondoor website. This website had a lot of articles on hard, effective bodyweight exercises such as the planche and pistol. It wasn't long before I came across a publication on the site which said that I can become really strong without adding weight using just a barbell. This opened my eyes because:

  1. I thought this was impossible
  2. Vertical Jump Bible stated that I needed to have a good strength to bodyweight ratio in order to have a superior vertical jump, which made this supposed type of training ideal for this purpose.
Oh, what was the name of the publication? Power to the People by Pavel Tsatsouline

I took the plunge, bought the e-book and the rest is history. I've been using the program for close to 2 years and I've never been stronger. My progress up to this point can be seen on this blog.

Lately, things have been pretty rough. I got laid off at the end of last month. I REALLY HOPE that doesn't affect my training. I'm so close to a 600# deadlift right now, to have to put it on hold because of lack of funds would really suck. So these days, I'm out looking for a job and trying to improve my credentials at the same time. I really don't want to stop training as I enjoy it so much. I like to be able to do things like these:

So I wish myself luck.