Random Thoughts

By January 12, 2012 Random Thoughts

It’s been a long time since I posted one of these, but once upon a time my readers loved my random thoughts.

1. Mathematics of Sports Science Over the past year I’ve really delved into the mathematics of biomechanics and am interested in teaching you some of the numbers. Mathematics is the language of the universe and I’ve pulled up a ton of the literature that pertains to:

  • Spinal Loading
  • Hip ROM
  • Hip Extension Torque
  • Ground Reaction Forces
  • Peak Power Outputs

When you can envision the forces, torques, ranges of motion and peak power outputs involved in sports and exercise in newtons, newton-meters, degrees and watts, then you can get a very good understanding of what’s occurring and what needs to happen in order to improve. It is my hope that more coaches start learning these types of numbers as it will assist them in becoming better coaches.

Math Automatically Makes You Awesome!

2. Unsolicited Advice A couple of weeks ago I posted a blog that discussed my policy at commercial gyms – I don’t offer unsolicited advice. Even though I could help nearly every single person in the gym improve upon their form or program design, I think of the golden rule: “Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you.” The other day I was performing box squats and some random guy came up to me and started lecturing me. He had very good intentions, but he didn’t possess a sound understanding of biomechanics and was informing me that I’m going to hurt me knees by sitting back so far. I could tell that this guy wasn’t the type to want to learn anything about knee joint loading during the squat (or hip or lumbar spine loading for that matter), so I opted to not try to teach him a thing or two and just nodded my head and thanked him for the advice.

Box Squats Are Actually a Knee-Friendlier Way to Squat

Over the years I’ve had well-intentioned folks advise me to not squat, not deadlift, not military press, not dip, not bent over row, not hip thrust, roll my shoulders when doing shrugs and stop at parallel during squats. Ironically I guarantee that I get hurt way less often than the folks who offer me unsolicited advice and most of the time I’m around three times stronger than these folks. I just want to be left alone to train the way I want to train. For this reason, I choose to avoid ponying up unsolicited advice when training in commercial gyms. Sure some lifters would appreciate it, but many would be annoyed (even if my advice is sound) as in general most people want to be left alone when they train.

3. Hip Thrusts Sans Padding A while back I wrote in a TNation article that I no longer use padding when I perform hip thrusts. To prove it, here I am doing 495 x 3 without a pad. I don’t feel any pain when doing these. Just as in the case of squats, Zercher squats, front squats, hook grip, etc., eventually the pain goes away with hip thrusts and you no longer feel the bar digging into your upper hip flexors and lower abdominals. I have not experimented with this method on women and skinnier men so I’m not sure if they would experience issues with this method.

4. Coffee As of a few weeks ago I never really drank coffee (maybe on average a cup per month). For some reason over the past three weeks I’ve become completely addicted and started drinking 3-4 cups per day. Diet coke just wan’t cutting it so I had to move onto the hard stuff!

Where have you been all my life?

5. Ego Depletion and Healthy Habits I was reading Matt Perryman’s blog and came across something interesting – a phenomenon known as Ego Depletion. The premise behind ego depletion is that self-control is finite, and throughout the day, each time you have to utilize will-power and exert self-control you get a little bit weaker and find it more difficult to conjure up the will-power to utilize self-control and make the proper decision. This caused me to think about how this applies to nutrition. If I have junk food in my kitchen then every time I eat I have to exert self-control to avoid devouring the entire box/carton/bag of junk food. Eventually I’ll cave and wake up on the floor smothered in chocolate. If I don’t have any junk food around, then I don’t have to use up any “self-control” and I find it easier to avoid making poor nutritional decisions in life. For this reason I think it’s wise to set up healthy habits and put yourself in positions where you don’t have to constantly be tempted to be unhealthy.

Don’t set yourself up for failure!

6. Nutrition/Physiology Gurus Has anyone in the industry noticed this tendency? I won’t name any names, but many (not all) of the nutrition, fat-loss and physiology gurus in our profession are some of the cockiest guys I’ve ever come across. They seem to treat people like crap, tear into people and find the whole world annoying (except for those who agree with their every word). I’ve decided to venture more down the biomechanics path and I haven’t met many coaches who have a better understanding in this area than I do, yet I would never think that this knowledge gave me the right to talk down to everyone, nor do I feel superior to those who aren’t as well-versed as me. It’s as if there’s a direct relationship between understanding physiology and being an asshole. I freakin’ love science, but being a science whiz doesn’t make you cool. Being cool makes you cool.

7. Hip Thrusts and the Rest-Pause Method Something I really like about hip thrusts is that they lend themselves very well to the rest-pause technique. I described this technique in a SCJ article in addition to the constant tension method. With the rest-pause method, you perform a certain number of reps, rest a little bit, perform a couple more, rest, etc. Some would call this a “cluster set” but I’ve seen the terms used different ways over the years. Regardless, below is a video demonstrating the method. You’ll notice I perform 6 reps, rest around 8 seconds, then I perform 2 more reps, then rest around 12 seconds, then perform 2 more reps for a total of 10 reps. This method would theoretically produce superior neural adaptations.

8. Hip Thrusts and the Constant-Tension Method Since I mentioned the constant-tension method I figured I should show a video. This method would theoretically produce superior muscular adaptations. Watch Karli (this is a workout from around 14 months ago that I had her do) at 2:21 – 2:58 seconds into the video. You’ll notice that she busts out 145 x 20 reps in only 38 seconds (around 1 second up and 1 second down) while controlling the weight through a full range of motion. Smaller plates are used (25 pound plates rather than 45 pound plates) so the plates never touch the ground to prevent resting.

Damn I had Karli’s form looking amazing! Just sayin’. And the song in that video still gets me all riled up! Okay that’s all folks! Catch you on the flip side. – BC

28 Comments

  • Craig says:

    I agree with your comments about ‘gurus’. I’ve unfollowed because their hostility (do they think it’s bravado?) was unacceptable.

    Your rest-pause set is very similar to Borge’s description of what he calls myo-reps. Whatever they are called, I agree that it’s a very effective way to train.

  • I look forward to the biomechanics. Long ago I got a mechanical engineering degree, and enjoy bringing that knowledge into training.

    • Bret says:

      Steven, having a mathematical/engineering mind really helps understand biomechanics/movement but unfortunately most coaches can’t afford the equipment needed to provide the numbers so we have to rely on more subjective feedback. At any rate it’s still important to understand and appreciate the numbers.

  • Steve says:

    Hey Bret. Love the blog, and one of the reasons I enjoy it so much is because of your writing style – it’s obvious to me that you aren’t a cocky jerk. Keep up the good work!

    • Bret says:

      Steve – thanks bud! I think most of us male fitness writers have a bit of cockiness in us, but I’ve been humbled very much this year. Now I’m very turned off by cockiness and appreciate when folks are more humble. Thanks again, BC

  • Juliet says:

    “being cool makes you cool”

    I like it.

  • Mark Young says:

    Hey Broseph,

    Check out the vid of the ego depletion stuff I included here. Definitely worth sharing.

    http://markyoungtrainingsystems.com/2011/05/willpower-fat-loss-and-what-to-do-about-it/

    • Bret says:

      Marcos! I suspected that this was right up your alley. Great video, I just watched it. Would love to catch up one of these days, many congrats on your Toronto decision. Very happy for you, BC

  • Sean Andersen says:

    Hey Bret! Love the Random Thoughts! Keep ’em coming!

    Sean

  • Matias says:

    Happy new year, big guy. Glad to see you’re back at it, though I must say that I am totally disapointed that you didn’t school that guy trying to teach you about squatting…lol. Man, you NEVER know who you could be talking to.

    You have to be the voice for those of us that don’t possess the knowledge or speak the biomechanic lingo. For all the times we were approached at the gym with some foolishness and didn’t have the ammunition to fire back, except for some quotes from our favorite bloggers.

    It already sucks that I can’t expect to run into a real expert at the gym that will offer a tip, unsolicitedly. But this guy swung the door wide open!!! Next time, you walk in and say “hello” from Matias.

    P.S. Only half-way kidding.

    • Bret says:

      Matias – the problem is that I had just started squatting and wanted to squeeze in a good workout, and the gym was closing in 45 minutes. Otherwise I might have asked him if he wanted to learn something about squatting biomechanics and then broken out some drawings, etc.

  • Blake Denny says:

    Hey Bret, great post as always. When you used to work with you female clients, how often did you switch up between rest pause and constant tension? Did you tend to stick with moderate to high reps with hip thrusts?

    • Bret says:

      Blake – we did it all. I had them thrusting 3 days per week so some days we went heavy, some days lighter for high reps, some days single leg, some days with a pause up top, etc. For example, I might have had a female client do 185 x 3 x 5 on Monday, 2 x 15 single leg on Wednesday, and 95 x 3 x 20 on Friday. Maybe Monday I’d use rest pause and maybe Friday I’d use constant tension, and maybe on Wednesday I’d use pause reps up top. It’s the “same but different” thing – same pattern, different stimuli.

  • Sol Orwell says:

    Ever try to do hip thrusts like pause squats (hold at the top of the thrust?)

  • Adam says:

    Bret,

    I’m currently in my last semester of a Mechanical Engineering master’s degree and am writing a thesis on biomechanics. I would love to somehow parlay my experience in biomechanics into some sort of work in the fitness industry. However, I have no certifications, no training experience, never even worked in a gym. Do you have any suggestions on how I could make this kind of a transition? Should I stay in school and do doctoral work focusing more on exercise science or should I start focusing on training certifications? Any advice you could provide would be greatly appreciated. By the way, I think the work you do is fascinating. I have access to a lab with EMG, motion capture and force plates and the first thing I wanted to do when I started working there was to drag a barbell in and run some tests!

    Thanks,

    Adam

    • Bret says:

      Adam – Out of curiosity what school are you at? Good for you in regards to your education. If I were you I’d apply for an internship/mentorship with Cressey Performance, Mike Boyle Strength & Conditioning, or Athlete’s Performance. You’ll fast-forward your learning by several years and gain tons of practical knowledge – seriously this is an invaluable opportunity so take advantage of it. You can still do doctoral work and continue upon that aspect of your career as you’ll eventually get bored and wish to contribute to the literature, test hypotheses, etc. So don’t quit on that end, just start building up your practical knowledge/experience by doing an internship and then start taking on personal training clients. Best of luck, BC

      • Adam says:

        I go to U of Missouri-Kansas City where I also got my undergrad. Do you really think I’d be a competitive applicant for a position like that with a purely engineering background? All my strength training knowledge is 100% self-taught; I’ve never even had a true physiology or biology class, although some of my biomechanics classes did delve fairly extensively into muscle, bone, joint and tendon function and anatomy. And as I mentioned I’m very familiar with bioinstrumentation.

        Thanks for your response! I appreciate it.

        Adam

        • Bret says:

          Adam, you never know unless you try. I only took one course in biomechanics prior to being accepted to AUT – my undergrad and master’s are in education. I’m self-taught in exercise science, and I’m getting my PhD in sports science and have written for most of the major fitness magazines. So don’t be intimidated by this. I recommend that you start studying for NSCA’s CSCS examination as that always helps. But if you apply to CP, MBSC, AP, etc., the most important qualities are being humble, showing respect, demonstrating knowledge of their program, etc. I can teach somebody to be an awesome trainer very quickly if they have the raw materials, and I’d take a beginning trainer who is nice, logical and caring over an advanced trainer who thinks he knows it all and doesn’t care much about his clients any day of the week. Just keep these things in mind. Best of luck, BC

  • Matt B says:

    Hi Bret,

    Great post! I was reading over your thoughts on constant-tension method and you mentioned that you would load the bar with 25 plates instead of 45s to ensure no rest between lifts. I started thinking this might also help form and increase range of motion by loading a bar with smaller plates. For example, I’m 5’8 and sometimes I think I’m cheating myself by loading 45s on a bar for deadlifts and cleans because I don’t have to bend/squat down as far as a guy who’s 6’0 and over would. I’m wondering, would you suggest trainers to apply this same method to increase range of motion for clients on the shorter end of the height spectrum? Using a couple 25s instead of a 45 might only add an inch to the bend/squat, but I wanted to know if you thought this method to increase range of motion would have any merit.

    Thanks!

    -Matt

    • Bret says:

      Matt, this is indeed a great idea…and don’t forget about 35’s as they might be a perfect height. But at the end of the day variety is good and sometimes it’s good to perform full ROM (full squats, deficit deads, bottoms up single leg hip thrusts, etc.) and sometimes it’s good to perform partial ROM (rack pulls, high box squats, glute bridges, etc.).

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