Random Thoughts – When Being Anatomically Jacked Can Benefit You and A Valgus Collapse Epiphany

Hi Fitness Brothers and Sisters! Here are 10 random thoughts/things for you.

1. Being Anatomically Jacked Up Isn’t Automatically a Life-Sentence

Check out Lamar Gant in 1988 deadlifting 672 lbs at 132 lbs bodyweight. This is still an all-time record to my knowledge.

He also hit 634 lbs at 123 lbs, which you can see HERE.

Here’s what’s crazy – see HERE for an article discussing how Gant’s 74-80 degree scoliotic spine would compress and bend to a 90-100 degree curvature which would cause him to shrink 3 inches before the bar left the ground. His scoliosis already makes him 3-4 inches shorter due to the curvature, and the compression from the lift causes him to lose another 3 inches, which is why he locks out the deadlift at his kneecaps. See the pictures below.

Gant lamar-gant-scoliosis lamargant1

Now check out Stuart Jamison.

Last week he pulled 628 lbs at 132 lbs bodyweight. Click HERE to see the video.

Stuart’s story is incredible – click HERE to read about it. He has half a rib cage, scoliosis, kyphosis, spina bifida, and diastematomyelia (a split in the spinal column). He wasn’t supposed to live past the age of 2 yrs old. But now he’s a deadlifting machine. See the pics below – he also locks out his pulls at his knees just like Lamar.

stu Stuart Jamison

What’s the moral of the story?

Don’t let your disabilities define you. Rise above. Figure out ways around them. Prevail.

And if their spines can tolerate deadlifting, chances are your body can tolerate more than you think. I see so many people fall victim to Nocebo effects because their doctor or physical therapist or chiropractor told them that they have a leg length discrepancy, or their SI joint was jacked, or their glutes don’t activate, or they have an imbalance.

Trust me, your imbalance isn’t as bad as Lamar’s or Stu’s. I’m not saying that everyone should squat heavy or deadlift heavy (see an article HERE I wrote for a good counterbalance to this post), I’m just saying that you’re probably not as jacked up as you think.

2. Lightbulb Moment – Valgus Collapse and Quadriceps Contractions

I’ve written like five different detailed articles on knee valgus and I’ve scoured the research and racked my brain trying to come up with the responsible mechanisms. Long ago, I realized that it’s not often weak glutes that are responsible for knee valgus since many Olympic lifters and powerlifters cave inwards at the knees. Hell, I cave sometimes and I can hip thrust 725 lbs. Many of my clients with the strongest glutes still cave. Last year, I speculated that it could be quadriceps moment arms that are responsible, but I couldn’t find any literature on it. However, all you have to do is check out the video below to see what happens to the knees when you contract the quadriceps.

You will notice hip internal rotation and inward foot flare!

In contrast, check out what happens when you contract the glutes.

You will notice hip external rotation and outward foot flare!

This realization is a VERY, VERY, VERY, VERY, VERY big deal for biomechanics and indicates that knee valgus is natural and not necessarily due to weak glutes.

So why didn’t I write this up in a separate article and dedicate a big amount of attention to it rather than just toss it into a random thoughts post? Good question – I’m too busy getting my shit together for Norway.

3. Norway Bound

Tomorrow I leave for Oslo, Norway, I’ll be speaking at the AFPT Convention. I have 24 hours of flying, layovers, and driving until I reach the destination, so tomorrow is going to fucking suck. I’m 6’4″ which makes traveling even more unpleasant as the seats are always highly uncomfortable. But our itinerary is legit and it’s going to be a fun trip – I just have to make it there without losing my mind. I’m very excited to meet and present to Norwegian coaches, trainers, and fitness enthusiasts. One thing I’ve realized over the past couple of years is that Norway is big on glute training!

4. Barcelona Bound Later in the Month

On the 23rd of this month I’ll be heading to Barcelona, Spain to speak at the Planeta Barcelona convention.

5. Bropocalypse in Sydney, June 2016

Next June, I’ll be presenting with my buddies Brad Schoenfeld, James Krieger, and Alan Aragon in Sydney, Australia for the Bropocalypse: Evidence-Based Nutrition and Training Summit 2016. Prepare to get rocked! HERE is how Urban Dictionary defines Bropocalypse, so make sure you bring your A-game.

Bro

6. Recent PRs

I had a great week of training this week. I’m hovering at 230 lbs. Below you’ll see Thursday’s workout:

Front squat 285 x 3, 315 x 1 (I’m aware of my elbows dropping)
Incline press 260 x 3, 275 x 1
Hip thrust 635 x 3, 725 x 1
HS row 360 x 8, 360 x 10

And below is Friday’s workout:

Full squat 385 x 3, 405 x 1 (I’m aware of serious forward lean/good morning)
Bench press 305 x 1, 275 x 3
Deadlift 525 x 5
Underhand grip lat pulldown 245 x 6

Sorry for the video formatting – I filmed with the iPhone on its side and this always happens when I embed into my blog (doesn’t happen on YouTube or Instagram though). Many of these lifts were personal bests at this new weight (I was 250 lbs for much of the last 2 years), but the deadlift was an all-time 5RM PR and the hip thrust was an all-time 1RM PR.

7. Glute Lab & Office

The Glute Lab is thriving lately. My Glute Squad currently consists of over 10 ladies. It’s challenging training them all at once but what’s cool is that the experienced members are taking leadership roles and helping out the newer members, which makes things ten times easier on my end.

It's a tough job, but somebody's gotta do it. #glutelab #gluteguy #glutesquad

A photo posted by Bret Contreras, PhD (@bretcontreras1) on

In addition, this week I outfitted my very first office. I’m very proud of it and have been working away with a smile on my face. A grown man needs his own man cave.

8. Chris Beardsley’s Recent Squat, Deadlift, and Split Squat Pages

Chris Beardley’s recent Research Reviews have been a huge success. Click on the links below to see all the biomechanical reseearch pertaining to the:

Squat

Deadlift

Split Squat

9. Basketball Anatomy

Check this out! Rob Panariello, frequent contributor on BretContreras.com, recently co-authored a book with Brian Cole called Basketball Anatomy.

BA

10. Narcos

I just started watching Narcos on Netflix – it’s based on Pablo Esobar. Holy shit, what a story! He was pulling in 60 million dollars per day and had to bury his money as he couldn’t launder it or bribe or spend it quickly enough. Obviously I don’t support dealing drugs, but these stories fascinate me nevertheless.

narcos0003That’s it for now fitness peeps! Wish me luck in Norway.

 

22 Comments

  • Ben says:

    Wouldn’t the glutes still have to counter the action of the quads internally rotating the femur, meaning weak hip musculature is still responsible for knee valgus?

    • Bret says:

      Great question Ben…my buddy Andrew and I are going to look into this more. It may depend on the precise ROM, the q-angle, the degree of retroversion, the moment arms under contraction, etc. We need to know if it’s the rectus femoris acting on the hip or the VMO acting on the tibia, or both, that’s causing the internal rotation.

      We have a comprehensive list of potential factors, and it could be that it’s a blend of multiple factors, but IMO this one is a big deal. And I’m not sure if the moment arm data shows that quads are internal rotators, but clearly they are as shown in the video I posted.

      Last, all I have is n=3 (I had two other people contract quads like I did and verified that the legs internally rotated). I’m not even sure if this happens with everyone, with a high percentage of people, or with a low percentage.

      So although your question seems straight forward, I don’t think it’s that simple (quads and glutes neutralize each other so the femurs track over the knees). I think it depends on a lot more and each variable changes with each degree of ROM.

      • Lynda says:

        I will be very interested to read what you have to say on the knee valgus issue. I am no expert, but as a lifter, I have significant issues with my right knee. Coincidentally, (or maybe, because of?) my right leg is shorter than my left, and the foot is a half size smaller (half a shoe size, that is). I am right-handed, and habitually crossed my right leg over my left when sitting. (a habit I have significantly discontinued in the past 2 years). I have habitual tightness in my right hip flexor, but the most fascinating point, to ME, is that my mother required a hip replacement on her right side first, (in her 70’s), and so I want to do what I can to avoid that outcome. There are numerous other lifestyle-factor differences between her and I, but all the same, I am intensely curious! (but not nearly qualified enough to even begin to ponder that puzzle)

      • Ben says:

        Thanks so much for the reply, Bret!

        Really looking forward to any insights or research you have in the future regarding this topic.

  • con says:

    Hi Bret, seems theres a correlation between listening to a lot of katy perry/chick rock and setting new PR’s!, I’ve seen videos of olympic lifters having knee values on big lifts (heres a vid of Salimi’s 2011 WR snatch https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B-nlhZ0RR4A), it’s almost always is the the bottom position on the transition from eccentric to concentric, I’m wondering is there any advantage to this?

  • Steffen says:

    Can I use the word/name ‘glutelab’ ?

  • Olivia Hallberg says:

    I feel like my back squats look exactly the same, ESPECIALLY when it is time for me to bump up the weight. I have really really freakishly long legs and arms and a VERY short torso. I swear people look at me like i’m crazy at the gym sometimes….until they watch me deadlift! Haha! BUT, since I have been staying on top of my hip thrusts, my glutes fire at all the right times especially when/if I feel myself getting stuck. They always save me! If it weren’t for you I swear I wouldn’t be able to lift what I can right now. I have learned SO MUCH from you and really appreciate what you do!!! Thanks for all your help!

  • Paul says:

    Hey Bret,

    Very impressive lifts!

    Regarding the high loads, quite a few studies reported that chronic resistance training is associated with arterial stiffening. What’s your opinion about this?

    I like relatively heavy lifting too, but am a bit worried about this potential problem….

    • Chris says:

      Do you mean stiffening short-term or long-term? Anyway, could you post the links to the studies, Paul? Thx!

      • Chris says:

        Never mind, found them. Meta-analysis here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22267567

        Resistance training increases arterial stiffness a bit in young subjects who have low baseline values. For me, thats rather more of a positive result: think of (orthostatic) hypotony in adolescents.

        And: Only high resistance training increases AS, moderate does not.

        • Paul says:

          Hi Chris,

          There are quite a lot of studies done about resistance training, in addition to your reply, I found also a positive recent study about long-term intense resistance training and aortic stiffness.

          They found that weight training is not only healthy for your heart, but also for your cholesterol, your blood pressure, and your waistline…

          http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24351804

          • Chris says:

            Yes, of course. Lots of good things for our health come out of resistance training! But we have to admit that arterial stiffness is not one of the factors that benefit from high-intensity RT.
            But as the authors of the meta-analysis write: Add aerobic training (low intensity steady state) to that which counters the effects on arterial stiffness and were good to go. 🙂

  • Joe says:

    Great post! Once you’re airborne maybe you can pace the aisles and chat with the crew?

    Valgus collapse — maybe we all need to focus on getting the quads to fire appropriately when squatting? valgus collapse, while natural, has been implicated in patello-femoral pain, particularly in women.

    Hope you can bring back some interesting nuggets from the Australian conference — maybe they’ll be discussing the recent interest in gluten-free diets and paleo diets?

  • TOI says:

    Have fun in Norway! People like Eirik Sandvik have spoken about your methods for years – that’s how I ended up being the only ‘glute bridge weirdo’ in the gym before the word spread. Now it seems like glutes are on the agenda for most of the fitness interested Norwegians 🙂

  • Jim says:

    Hey Bret,
    1. Whether the knee extensors are or are not an internal rotator of the hip depends on the position of the leg and foot. In the example show in in the video your leg was at rest and thus externally rotated that then creates a lever arm not so much for the quads but for the rectus femoris which acts as a knee extensor and hip flexor. Based on its attachment on the hip and its distal attachment on the knee with the foot and leg externally rotated a lever arm is created.

    2. Knee valgus would depend on the harmoniously interplay between hip adductors and abductors, the muscles of the groin and glutes. If strength in one group is lacking it will result in instability of the knee joint. The body being aware and adaptive limits force output to protect the integrity of the joint. Even if you have massively powerful glutes it does not mean that you can express that power or use it efficiently in real life or even weightlifting situations. To express that power you need inter muscular coordination which is had by training both agonist and antagonist in every movement thus increasing the communication between agonist, antagonist, synergists, and stabilizers. I bicep curl should be treated like a triceps extension, a bench press like a rowing exercise, and a squat like a hamstring curl. Gravity should not start and maintain the eccentric action, muscular force created by the antagonist should.

  • msytc says:

    Have a great trip Bret! Always good to read your ‘random thoughts’ – so much food for thought. One of our good friends is one of the writing team on Narcos – truth is indeed stranger than fiction…

  • Jim Nonnemacher says:

    Bret,

    Here’s my take, observations on the knee valgus collapse. In my warmups for squatting, one of the movements I do is to place an EliteFTS Pro/Average short band just above the knees and while sitting do pull aparts. What I observe is that when I’m sitting in what you might call an ass-to-grass position the movement is easier than when I’m sitting with the thighs parallel to the floor.
    What I’ve concluded is that in the very low position the external rotators are in a stronger biomechanically position than the internal rotators. Relating this to the squat itself, as I come out of that low position I hit a point, where momentarily, the internal rotators hit their strong point and depending on your relative strength of glutes/quads, there will be a valgus collapse. As you continue to ascend from the squat the external rotators again become more dominate pulling the femur out of the valgus position.

    Make any sense? Would like to hear your comments.

  • Hi Bret-

    Great random thoughts! Knee valgus is likely a combination of strength and neuromuscular control. The glutes do have a huge role in preventing knee valgus as they are the major external rotators of the hip. Other factors to consider in controlling knee valgus are proprioception and neuromuscular control of the pelvis and trunk- this includes eccentric control of the glutes as well

    Thanks for all of your insightful and educational posts!

  • Ron says:

    When you get a chance, you should look into the story of Lee Murray. He’s a former UFC fighter who knocked out Tito Ortiz in a fight outside the ring and orchestrated the largest cash heist in history. I saw video somewhere of them loading 55 gallon trash barrels full of cash into the back of a truck that was about the size of a ups truck. They could’ve gotten away with more money, but they didn’t have enough room for it all.

    http://www.si.com/mma/2015/02/06/si-60-breaking-bank-lee-murray-heist-ufc

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WcSt3_JiQFo

  • Joseph crozier says:

    Pretty sure Lamar Gant pulled 683 at 132 at one point: http://www.powerliftingwatch.com/node/15465

  • Jason says:

    Bret, if you care about possible spam, on pt 7. 2 lines from bottom,

    “In addition, this week I outfitted my very first office. I’m very proud of it and have been working away with a smile on my face. Distance calculator between cities”<—- ******** "A grown man needs his own man cave."

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