People are really starting to love my random blogs. Many people email me and tell me that they keep the page minimized on their screen throughout the week so they can check out all the different links and thoughts that I post. In this week’s random blog you’ll learn how to detect bullshit, how to avoid making errors in reasoning, how to win internet arguments, how we learn, the secret to innovation, the three stages of truth, the 80/20 law, new exercises, and a bunch of great links to check out!
1. Baloney Detection Kit
In the Strength & Conditioning Field, we encounter a lot of BS! We need to know how to distinguish legitimate claims from baloney. Here’s a great video by Michael Shermer that describes his “Baloney Detection Kit” which was inspired by the brilliant scientist Carl Sagan.
Here are the ten questions to ask yourself when examining a claim:
1. How reliable is the source of the claim?
2. Does the source make similar claims?
3. Have the claims been verified by somebody else?
4. Does this fit with the way the world works?
5. Has anyone tried to disprove the claim?
6. Where does the preponderance of evidence point?
7. Is the claimant playing by the rules of science?
8. Is the claimant providing positive evidence?
9. Does the new theory account for as many phenomena as the old theory?
10. Are personal beliefs driving the claim?
2. Logical Fallacies
In Strength & Conditioning, we are constantly developing new and improved methods. If you stand on the cusp on innovation, then you’re going to have to convince people that your claims are valid. If you want to be a good arguer/debater, then you need to understand logical fallacies. A logical fallacy is simply an error in reasoning. You need to avoid them in your own logic and be able to spot them in other’s logic. Some of the more common logical fallacies include ad hominem, appeal to authority, bandwagon appeal, begging the question, card-stacking, confusing correlation with causation, non-sequitur, red herring, and straw man.
3. How to Win Arguments
In Strength & Conditioning there exists a tremendous number of internet forums that debate fitness related information. If you want to win arguments on internet forums, then you have to learn the art of internet war. This is some funny stuff! Check it out here and here.
While in college studying to be a teacher, I studied “learning theory” which incorporated different theories from badasses in the field of Education such as Jean Piaget, Lev Vygotsky, and Howard Gargner. We learned that individuals tend to learn new things by attaching new knowledge to prior knowledge and organizing the information into webs or frameworks of knowledge called “schema.” When people have a basic foundation of prior knowledge they can more readily understand, assimilate, and cement more advanced knowledge because they attach the new knowledge to existing schemata. This helps explain why some smart folks get so damn smart and why knowledge tends to snow-ball. In the field of Strength & Conditioning, guys like the late Mel Siff and William Kramer were/are known for possessing such great wealth of knowledge. Why is this important? Chances are you’ve attended a lecture or read an article that was way over your head and too advanced. You probably didn’t retain any of the knowledge because you didn’t attach it to prior knowledge. Most failed learning is simply due to an inadequate base of fundamental knowledge. All knowledge builds upon itself which is why it’s so important to take a broad array of courses and possess a vast understanding of different fields and topics. I thought of this when I was watching a Thomas Myer lecture on Fascia. Charlie Weingroff was in the room and I thought to myself, “I bet Charlie is grasping a lot more of this than I am since he has more prior knowledge onto which the new information could attach itself.” The take-home points for this topic are:
1. It takes time to get really smart
2. If you are trying to get someone to understand what you’re talking about, make it relevant for them by finding a way to relate to their prior knowledge
3. If you want to really understand how a certain coach, therapist, or expert thinks, try to understand how they organize information (schema) which profoundly impacts the way they think.
For example, I look at a barbell hip thrust as the best sprint-vector hip extension strength training exercise which can assist in increasing maximum speed. Some coaches look at it as a maximum glute activation exercise that trains the brain to fire the glutes. Some coaches look at it as an assistance exercise that can build the squat and deadlift but is less “integrative” than the primary lifts. We all organize information differently. Think of some of the various bright-minded folks in our industry – Boyle, Cook, Weingroff, and McGill. These guys all think similarly but quite different when you really learn the way they think. Figure out their schema to learn how they tick. For more information about schema you can click here.
5. Inperts vs. Experts
In 1960, a cosmetic surgeon named Dr. Maxwell Maltz wrote a longtime best-selling self-help book entitled Psycho-Cybernetics. He pointed out that most of the world’s great discoveries have come from people outside of the field of discovery. In contrast to experts, he called these people “inperts” and explained how experts tend to think within the box, while inperts tend to think outside the box. In the field of Strength & Conditioning, we often look outside of our field for answers to various questions since we’re too busy training athletes to become an expert on certain topics. Often an outsider who has an extensive background in an area such as Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Mathematics, or even Dance or Physical Therapy can offer extremely valuable insight that has the potential to greatly impact the way you think and operate as a trainer. Don’t underestimate the value of these outsiders as they don’t think inside the box like most people in a given field.
6. The Three Stages of Truth
A German philosopher named Arthur Schopenhauer who lived from 1788 to 1860 stated that:
All truth passes through three stages. First it is ridiculed. Second it is violently opposed. Third it is accepted as being self-evident.
In Strength & Conditioning I remind myself often of this quote as new truths take time to seep in and gain acceptance.
7. Pareto’s Principle
The Pareto principle, which is also known as the 80/20 law, states that roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.
In Strength & Conditioning this is important as most likely 80% of our gains in strength come from the big basics such as squats, deadlifts, bench press, bent over rows, military press, chin ups, and dips. I like to think that hip thrusts and walking lunges can be in that group as well but you get the point. In sports, 80% of our gains in speed come from sprints and basic plyos.
This is important for NCAA strength coaches as in-season rules permit 20-hours of athletic activity per week and off-season rules permit 8 hours of athletic activity per week. This doesn’t leave a lot of time for screwing around!
Still, we should keep striving to learn more even though the remaining 20% of things is very technical, exhausting, and convoluted. There is much we’ve figured out but so much we haven’t figured out. But this is necessary for advancement.
8. Insurance Policy
I always tell people to take a multivitamin/mineral as an insurance policy in case they’re not getting enough of a certain nutrient in their diet. Now that I know that roughly 1/6 of the world is deficient in Vitamin D, I’m relieved that I gave the advice I did regarding supplementation. Perhaps taking vitamins is a main reason why there aren’t even more Americans who are Vitamin D deficient.
I’ve always been a shitty sleeper. I’ve literally struggled since puberty to go to sleep at a normal bedtime. My body tells me to be like a vampire. I’m also a very light sleeper and wake up from anything. If you’re anything like me then you must follow two basic rules which will change your life:
1. Get an industrial fan, point it straight up into the air, and turn it on at night for “white noise.” You won’t hear any dogs barking, horns honking, car alarms, doors closing, or birds chirping. It’s seriously a life-saver.
2. Put dark curtains over your existing curtains so absolutely no light enters your room. Seal out any light so that your room is literally pitch black. Another life-saver.
These two practices will greatly improve your quality and quantity of sleep.
10. The Barbell Glute Bridge is Huge for MMA
I keep meaning to write an article on strength training for MMA purposes but I never seem to get around to it. As many know, I’m really strong at barbell glute bridges. In fact, I can currently barbell glute bridge 545 lbs for 6 reps.
How does this help in MMA? I could go on for an hour about how glute strength and glute power will increase striking, clinching, take-down, submission, and take-down defense abilities, but one specific situation is worth mentioning; the full mount.
I’ve found that my glute bridging strength makes me very hard to hold down in a full-mount position. In other words, my glute bridging strength helps me escape full-mount positions quite easily. Since I’m able to thrust 545 lbs, a 225 lb opponent feels like cup-cakes.
Of course, there is much technique involved in BJJ so certainly it matters whether an opponent has his hooks in, whether he’s at your hips or sitting higher on your torso, and how tight he is gripping you with his thighs. However, this hip-bumping power can come in really handy in full-mount situations as you can buck so forcefully that they fall off balance which prevents them from landing serious blows and attempting submissions in addition to providing you with opportunities to sweep or escape. In fact, I developed a special method of full-mount escape where you literally launch the guy and escape out from in between his legs. In short, if you’re a fighter or a strength coach for MMA, the barbell glute bridge can be a life-saver.
Here’s a video of me tossing 225 lbs around like it’s cotton-candy.
225 lb Explosive Barbell Glute Bridge
11. Not Everyone is Built to Squat
I hear this comment all the time but no one ever talks about why some people aren’t built to full squat. When full squatting, your body forms what I like to call a lightning bolt (from the side view). Since the barbell needs to stay over your mid-feet, some individuals’ lighting bolts don’t look to good when they get to the bottom of a full squat. Depending on the lengths of their torsos, femurs, and tibias, some people may have much more forward lean at the bottom of a full squat than other people. It’s all about anthropometry!
12. Bench Rows are an Awesome Exercise for the Back
13. Band Seated Rows are a Great Exercise for the Back Too
14. Make Front Planks Harder By Performing the Long Lever Plank
15. I’m Still Trying to Get Up to a 600 lb Deadlift
On Monday I did a 545 lb sumo dead on my fifth set of deads (which followed five sets of squats). I think I’ll get 565 next week and then it will be a slow and steady climb. I can’t wait to get to 585 which is 6-plates on each side. A 12-plate deadlift earns you an irrevocable man-card for life.
16. Gymnastics Training Can Yield Some Pretty Good Results!
I stumbled across this T-Nation interview with Coach Sommer the other day:
T-Nation: That’s impressive. I’ve heard stories that these athletes can lift a surprising amount of weight in the deadlift and other lifts, even though they never train these lifts. Is that true? And if it is, how’s that possible?
Sommer: Gymnastics training does indeed build incredible strength. For example, I was not a particularly strong gymnast, yet I was able to do a double bodyweight deadlift and weighted chins with almost 50% extra bodyweight on my very first weight training attempts.
One of my student’s, JJ Gregory, far exceeded my own modest accomplishments. On his first day of high school weight lifting, JJ pulled a nearly triple bodyweight deadlift with 400 pounds at a bodyweight of 135 and about 5’3″ in height. On another day, he also did an easy weighted chin with 75 pounds, and certainly looked as though he could’ve done quite a bit more. We’ll never know for sure because the cheap belt I was using at the time snapped.
Why gymnastics training results in such high levels of strength is still unclear. My personal opinion is that the secret lies in the plyometric nature of the movements. In a way this reminds me of the results experienced by Adam Archuleta, with the exception that we’re using bodyweight variations combined with straight arm work to obtain our results.
17. Dave Tate on the Importance of Strength for Football
Here’s another great excerpt I came across this time from Dave Tate:
Dave Tate: To be strong you must have strength. Pretty simple concept, don’t you think? So did I, but then I started getting a lot of e-mails telling me strength isn’t important for sports. So I had to go back to the drawing board and rethink this one. After many hours of deep thought I still have to say: strength is very important! A quick football example and I’ll move on to how to develop strength.
I’ve been told there’s no need for a lineman to be able to squat over 350 pounds as he’ll never have to move more than that on the field. This may be true if he had to move the 250 pound guy one time and it didn’t matter how fast he moved him. We know in the game of football that the rate of force development is very important. You don’t want people being moved slowly. We know from Mel Siff’s writings that max force in the barbell squat can be measured at around 60%. At Westside we’ve found close to the same percentage to be true.
The other thing we know is the average play will last under ten seconds and there’ll be between three and ten plays per drive. Our lineman who squats the “recommended” 350 will now be able to create max force at 210 pounds and may or may not be conditioned to do this more than one time. Too bad the guy across from him weighs 350! Who will wear who down?
Now, if the lineman could squat 600 pounds he’d create max force at 360. Does he have to actually squat 600 pounds? No! But he better be able to create max force with 350 pounds for eight to ten sets of two to three reps (around ten seconds set length) with 45 to 60 seconds rest. If not, he’s at a disadvantage.
18. How to Train When You’re on Vacation
When I travel I always try to stick to the plan and train hard despite the fact that I may be on vacation. Usually I can find a good gym but sometimes it’s just not worth the hassle when you’re out of town. Sometimes it’s best to just do a simple workout in the hotel or house at which you’re staying. I used to get all creative and try to hit all the different movement patterns but now I just keep it simple.
Nowadays I make sure to bring a TRX system and some JC Bands and think of it as an opportunity to take a deload week. I’m still going to get a great metabolic workout and providing a training effect that will help maintain strength while sparing the joints as there’s no heavy loading. Let’s say I was out of town for a week. I might do 3 full body workouts on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday with paired supersets consisting of 2 circuits of:
A1: Bulgarian squat (rear foot on bed, chair, or couch) – 20 reps each leg
A2: Feet-elevated TRX inverted row – 10 reps
B1: Bottom-up single leg hip thrust (back on couch, heel on coffee table) – 12 reps each leg
B2: Feet-elevated push up – 30 reps
C1: Band lat pull – 20 reps
C2: Band press – 20 reps
D1: Band hip rotation – 12 reps
D2: Front plank – 60 seconds
D3: Side plank – 30 seconds each side
Another caveat to this workout is that it would allow me to eat like a horse while on vacation without putting on much extra pounds.
19. Is the Reverse Lunge Knee or Hip Dominant?
I consider squats, front squats, lunges, reverse lunges, walking lunges, step ups, Bulgarian squats, and single leg squats to be knee/quad dominant.
I consider deadlifts, sumo deadlifts, rack pulls, trap bar deadlifts, good mornings, single leg RDL’s, glute bridges, hip thrusts, back extensions, reverse hypers, glute ham raises, Russian leg curls, pull throughs, and slideboard leg curls to be hip dominant.
The first reason is because I studied the muscle activation of every one of these lifts. However, let’s ignore that for now and focus on a different matter.
Most people nowadays know that they should try to include at least one knee dominant exercise and at least one hip dominant exercise in their workouts.
If reverse lunges were considered “hip dominant,” then someone could do a front squat and a reverse lunge and consider their workout “well rounded” when in actuality it wouldn’t be close. The person will have done a great job of hitting his quads, an okay job of hitting his glutes, and a crappy job of hitting his hamstrings.
In truth there’s a continuum within each category of knee dominant and hip dominant exercise. For example, a reverse lunge would be at the far end of the “hip dominant” side of the knee dominant spectrum whereas a trap bar deadlift would be at the far end of the “knee dominant” side of the hip dominant spectrum.
In my mind in order for a routine to be “balanced” one needs to perform an exercise that looks like a squat and one that looks like a deadlift or a bridge. This strategy will maximize athleticism in my opinion as it hits the different directional load vectors and adequately strengthens the muscles in a similar manner in which they’re used in sports.
In truth, I like a 1:2 knee dominant: hip dominant ratio in my workouts so I like to see a movement that looks like a squat (quads), a movement that looks like a deadlift (hamstrings), and a movement that looks like a bridge (glutes). So I like at least 3 lower body movements in all of my total body workouts (and all three stress the glutes in different ranges of hip flexion so it leads to a well-rounded glute strengthening protocol).
In fact, my “standard” lower body workout consists of full squats, deadlifts, and hip thrusts. I probably do this workout 50% of the time lately.
20. What is the best glute activation exercise and why?
You have to look at the EMG research (which has only been done comprehensively by yours truly). Four case studies show that barbell hip thrust/barbell glute bridge movements activate the most glute musculature out of all movement patterns that utilize the glutes. This is due to 1) the incredible stability created by sandwiching your hips in between secured feet and shoulders, 2) a preferential anteroposterior load vector for the glutes, and 3) bent knees which reduces hamstring contribution due to inferior length tension relationships which forces more contribution upon the glutes. Start with bodyweight, learn to move solely at the hips and prevent “false hip extension” at the lumbar spine and pelvis, and begin adding resistance gradually in the form of a dumbbell, sandbag, plate, and eventually a padded barbell. Still squat, still deadlift, still lunge, and try to abduct and externally rotate the hips as well, but loaded bridging movements are king in terms of glute activation.
21. Mathew Perryman on Speed Work
I thought this was a great quote that Matt put up the other day which echoed my thoughts on the matter.
If you’re doing “speed” work with the bar and missing the same weight on your ME day every week, you should probably have a really hard think about your training. There’s a reason beginners are advised to stick to basic progressive overload. Simple never stops working. Complication takes experience.
22. Sleep Deprivation Blows!
Here’s a quote from a Newsweek article on sleep deprivation:
Moreover, cognitive and mood problems may not be the only consequences of too little sleep. Researchers at the University of Chicago have shown that too little sleep changes the body’s secretion of some hormones. The changes promote appetite, reduce the sensation of feeling full after a meal, and alter the body’s response to sugar intake—changes that can promote weight gain and increase the risk of developing diabetes. Since then, multiple epidemiological studies have shown that people who chronically get too little sleep are at greater risk of being overweight and developing diabetes.
23. What is a Motor Engram?
According to this article,
As it pertains to sports training, we attempt to create what’s called “Motor Engrams.” Motor engrams are specific pathways that the nervous system uses to minimize the work of the brain and spinal cord. As your body performs a certain movement or activity over and over, your body automatically creates one of these pathways, or engrams. Once an engram is created, your body will be able to perform that specific activity without nearly as much input from the brain. Your brain will tell your body to perform the movement and the engram will take over.
24. Mike Robertson on Bilateral vs. Unilateral Training
This was an awesome excerpt from Mike which echoes my beliefs on this topic.
To be blunt: Squats, deadlifts, power cleans and the like are your best option if you’re looking to get bigger, stronger, and more powerful. Can you improve strength, power or mass while training exclusively on one leg? To some extent, sure. But you’re not going to see the same kind of changes without some big, compound lifts in your programming. It really comes down to two key factors: Base of support, and the amount of stability you have.
25. Hardest Core Exercise Ever?
The Diesel Crew just put out this video and are saying it’s the hardest core exercise ever. I’ll have to give it a try; it looks tough! If prescribing this to others I’d make sure the athletes had great hamstring flexibility and core control to minimize chances of harming the low back.
26. Great Reads for the Week
Twice a Day Training by Charles Poliquin
Dumbbell Power Cleans are Dumb by Charles Poliquin
Functional Hypertrophy and Athletic Performance by Charles Poliquin
First White Boy to Break 10-Seconds in the 100 Meter Sprint!
So You Think You Can Bench by Dave Tate Part I, Part II, and Part III
Building Muscle Fast/Best Exercises by Jason Ferrugia
Addicted to Daily Squatting by Mathew Perryman
That wraps it up for the week! I’ll be back tomorrow or Friday with a new blog that I did with Keats Snideman on assessments.