power

Too much assessment - The real role of personal trainers and exercise professionals.

I like to think that the health and fitness industry has grown in leaps and bounds – resulting in (most) personal trainers having a thorough education in amatory, physiology, and the underlying principles of both exercise prescription and resistance training.

This, for the most part, is an extremely positive thing.

It has greatly increased the service quality of the industry in its entirety, effectively weaseling out those trainers who are in it for nothing more than just a ‘quick buck’ (which is ridiculous: anyone with half a brain realizes a quick buck in the fitness industry doesn’t exist).

This has come with an increased value being placed on assessments, and subsequently, the evaluation of an individual as just that – an individual – becoming the norm. This has led to a premium being placed on individualized exercise prescription, corrective exercise interventions, and of course, specific training programs.

But there is also a downside associated.

A number of personal trainers have veered too far to the dark side, spending way too much time assessing the function of individual muscles, while spending too much time focusing on corrective exercises - when they should in fact be training.

Do we really need to assess every little thing...

Do we really need to assess every little thing...

It is our role as exercise professionals to assess an individual’s capacity for movement as means to improve movement while also ensuring they are training both safely and effectively so they can meet their training goal.

If you find yourself spending 50% of a session on a foam roller or on a massage table, then you probably aren’t doing anywhere near enough training.

Yes assessment is important.

It allows us to establish a baseline for each individual, providing valuable information on areas of weakness and dysfunction. But more than that, it gives us an idea of where we can start training. It tells us what squat regression we should use, what hip hinge movements we should start with, and what single leg exercises will provide us the most benefit.

It is not our role to find out every tight piece of tissue – it is our role to get people moving better – building strength, stability, and function in the process.

 

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Why injury prevention and improving performance are one in the same.

Why injury prevention and improving performance are one in the same.

It interests me how injury prevention and training for performance are viewed at opposite ends of the training spectrum.

People often associate injury prevention with low level corrective exercises, foam rolling, and stretching, where performance enhancement is associated with lifting heavy, jumping, sprinting, and a whole heap of other cool stuff.

I genuinely believe that this view is flawed, and that not only can each of these training methods contribute to both injury prevention and improving performance simultaneously, but that preventing injuries is arguably the most important thing we can be doing toimprove performance.

Hunter Bennett Performance

 

How can injury prevention improve performance?

While this point is actually pretty simple (and logical) if we think about it, it often gets forgotten.

If we are injured, we can’t train.

If we can’t train, we can improve our performance.

See, simple.

Although if we were to break it down a little further, we can see that injuries impact our ability to train both in the gym and on the field. This will therefore limit our ability to improve strength and power performance, and skill development (both of which contribute significantly to performance).

Secondly, in a team sport scenario, if you can’t compete with your best players on the field, your chances of winning our reduced. As such, in season injuries can negatively affect an entire team’s performance.

As such, keeping your players healthy and able to train is paramount, and should be one of the key focuses of any strength and conditioning program.

Furthermore, those exercises that are perceived as ‘low-level’ (AKA corrective exercises, mobility exercises etc.) play an important role in maintain and improving joint mobility, trunk stability, and movement quality. These qualities can directly influence our ability to express power and strength, and subsequently our ability to perform at a high level.

So these exercises therefore play an important role in maximising performance, outside of reducing injuries.

 

How can performance based training reduce injury risk?

Now, when most people think of jumps, cleans, squats, and deadlifts, they don’t automatically think of injury prevention BUT they should.

Strength training using basic exercises builds tissue integrity. This applies to both muscle and connective tissue (tendons). By building tissue integrity, we improve the capacity of a given tissue to handle load, and produce and resist force. This alone improves our resilience to the likelihood of developing injuries of those tissues.

Furthermore, improving strength around specific joints can improve joint stability, which can consequently reduce the load absorbed by passive joint structures (ligaments and joint capsule). This can significantly reduce our risk developing ligament or joint injuries.

In a similar fashion, both jumps and other power based movements will not only improve our ability to produce force rapidly (AKA improve explosive power), they will also improve our ability to jump and land efficiently. This is extremely important as these movements produce a significant amount of eccentric force loading through the muscle tissue.

By improving both our ability to manage this eccentric force, and improving our ability to jump and land from a skill based perspective, we can limit our risk of injury during these highly demanding movements.

 

So, to summarize

Not only is mobility and flexibility important from an injury prevention perspective, but also a force production perspective. By improving our capacity to produce force efficiently during movement, these ‘corrective’ type exercises can lead to an improvement in physical performance.

Strength and power based movements have the capacity to improve muscle and joint integrity, which can lead to a reduced risk of injury of those tissues.

Furthermore, by improving our ability to perform skill based explosive movements such as jumps and bounds, we can reduce risk of injury occurrence during those movements.

 

So: Training is injury prevention AND injury prevention is training (Prioritise BOTH)

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Should you Olympic lift?

The Olympic lifts are a fantastic way to develop power.

This is particularly important for those trying to improve athletic performance, as they provide an opportunity to develop power under load - something that is not achieved by jumps and other body-weight power-based exercises.

But (there is always a but…)

They do have some associated negatives.

Firstly, they have an extremely steep learning curve.

This means that they will require a lot of coaching, and take a lot of time to learn to before they can be completed safely and efficiently. This has further downside, as during this time when technique development is the focus, they will not actually be building strength or power, as the load used will be two small to elicit a decent training response.

Secondly, they require a HUGE amount of joint mobility – so much so that some people (due to various anatomical restrictions) may never be able to complete the full Olympic lifts (snatch /clean and jerk) safely.

hunter bennett performance adelaide personal training lose fat build muscle

 

So what can we do?

Well, like most things, it depends.

Obviously we screen someone’s movement, and if they have the capacity to Olympic lift (AKA deep overhead squat with no issues), then there is no real reason why we shouldn’t Olympic lift – particularly if they have the time available to learn them, and have a need to develop power.

If they are lacking the mobility required to complete full Olympic lifts, but have the time and need, then we can use ‘safer’ variations, such as hang power cleans. During this time, we can also try and improve mobility so that they can get into those demanding positions more comfortably, with the potential to progress to full Olympic lifts further down the road.

If they have a serious lack of mobility, and don’t have the time available to learn them effectively, the answer is probably no. Instead we would use jumps, loaded jumps, and medicine ball throws to try and develop power in a time efficient manner. During this time we would also work on mobility (because we know that mobility is important, yo).

 

Now, it is also important to note that we probably don’t have to complete full Olympic lifts with ANYONE (unless of course you are an aspiring Olympic lifter – then it is probably a necessity).

Like most things, we need to assess risk vs reward.

For most people, no matter what the population, the risk associated with performing the snatch probably outweighs its training benefits. While it is a great way to develop power, it places the shoulder in a compromised position under load.

This position is what I would consider high risk (particularly for overhead or throwing athletes), and as such would avoid it if possible.

Instead, the power clean is a much safer option, as we can develop power without moving into an overhead position. This reduces the load on the shoulder significantly.

Using another example, if someone does not have the hip mobility to deadlift from the floor safely, a clean may not be a good option – BUT a hang clean from above the knee would still be safe AND be a great way to develop power.

 

So, should you Olympic lift?

Like I said earlier, it depends.

If you have both the mobility and time available, and need/want to develop power, then there is not any reason why you shouldn't.

If you do not, then there may be more suitable options.

Like anything, assess, and make educated decisions.

 

Contact me if you have any questions, and if you like the article please give it a share on facebook!

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Training frequency: The forgotten factor for building muscle and strength

When writing a training program people normally think about two key factors.

Volume and Intensity.

While there is no question that these two factors are integral to promoting the growth of muscle tissue and neuromuscular strength development, there is one other factor that needs A LOT more consideration than it is getting.

Training frequency.

Training frequency refers to how often we train a specific movement or muscle group.

While body building splits (where we train each individual muscle group one time per week) are extremely popular, they may not actually be our best option for increasing muscle mass or strength.

It is commonly accepted that muscle tissue takes 48-72 hours to recover from a solid training session. As such, we actually have opportunity to train a muscle group more than one time per week without running the risk of overtraining (which honestly occurs VERY rarely in the weekend warrior…).

Klokov trains frequently, and hes jacked.....

Klokov trains frequently, and hes jacked.....

 

Training frequency and muscle mass

Increasing training frequency is a great option to provide muscle tissue with additional weekly stimulus.

By increasing training frequency, we can effectively increase the amount of work a muscle or muscle group gets each week. We know that increasing weekly volume is a great wat to stimulate muscle growth.

Additionally, by increasing training frequency, we also increase the amount of mechanical tension our muscle tissue receives over any given training week. This increase in mechanical tension considered another key factor in triggering muscle growth.

 

Training Frequency and Strength

While increasing training frequency can have considerable influence on increasing muscle size, it is the way in which it can influence strength development that is arguably most important.

Demonstrating maximal strength requires the integration of both the nervous and muscular systems. The role that the nervous system plays in recruiting motor units and muscle fibres to produce force is extremely important in this demonstration of strength.

This becomes even more important during large compound movements (such as the squat, deadlift, and bench press…) where a large amount of neuromuscular coordination is required.

By increasing training frequency, we can increase our ability to recruit muscle fibres during these complex movements. This allows us to become more efficient (and subsequently stronger) at these specific lifts.

In fact, within most training circles, the completion of these complex movements is considered a skill. Put simple, the more we perform these skills, the better we become at performing them. These improvements come through an increase in neuromuscular coordination and increased in muscle fibre recruitment.

Furthermore, these increases in neural development are likely to have a greater carryover to our endeavours of athletic performance.

Increases in motor unit and muscle fibre recruitment will make use more efficient and more powerful during athletic movements such as sprinting, jumping, and bounding.

 

Practical Considerations

So we know that increasing our training frequency can have significant improvements in our ability to develop strength and build muscle tissue, but how do we implement it into our weekly training program?

The easiest way is to split up your training week into upper body and lower body days, in which each day has a slightly different emphasis.

For example, we might have a squat dominant lower body day and a hip dominant lower body day where both squats and deadlifts are performed on each day, but the core lift changes slightly.

The same can be said of the upper body days, where we might have a push dominant day and a pull dominant day, where although we perform both pushing and pulling on each day, the primary focus differs slightly.

For example:

Monday – Hip Dominant Lower Body Day

Deadlift 5x5
Front Squat 4x8
RDL 4x8
Walking Lunges 3x10
Single led RDL 3x10

Tuesday – Push Dominant Upper Body Day

Bench Press 5x5
High Bench row 4x8
Overhead Press 4x8
Chin Ups 4x8
Incline DB Press 3x10
Batwing rows 3x10
DB Fly’s 3x10
Single Arm DB Row 3x10

Thursday – Knee Dominant Lower Body Day

Back Squat 5x5
Sumo Deadlift 4x8
Front Squat 4x8
Bulgarian Split Squat 3x10
Reverse Lunges 3x10

Friday – Pull Dominant Upper Body Day

Bent over BB row 5x5
Overhead Press4x8
Weighted pull ups 4x8
Bench Press4x8
Seated Row 3x10
Seated Shoulder Press 3x10
Single arm cable row 3x10
Decline DB Press 3x10

So while this program is not perfect (certainly no individualisation...) it does provide a good example of how we can integrate an increase in training frequency into our training program.

As a bonus, the increased use of compound exercises associated with an increase in training frequency can stimulate greater muscle growth and strength development due to further increasing the amount of load (and subsequently mechanical tension) we lift for any given week.

 

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions about training frequency!

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Offset loading – what is it and why you should care about it?

In what feels like a never ending quest to find the best ways to build muscle, increase strength, and improve athleticism, we are frequently looking for new training techniques to help us reach our goals as quickly and as effectively as possible.

While I am strong believer that the basics will get you MOST of the way there, there are definitely occasions when different methods of training can have a very positive effect on our results.

One of the methods that I have been having frequent success with (both personally, and with my clients) is offset loading.

Hunter Bennett Performance adelaide personal training

 

Offset Loading

Offset loading is a training technique that is extremely simple to implement, but can have huge benefits.

Pretty simply, it refers to loading one side of the body to a greater degree than the other.

So as a very simple example, we could do farmer carries with a heavier load in one hand than the other (which is then repeated on the other side – can’t have those imbalances...).

This exact same loading method can be applied to squat and split squat variations, both bilateral and unilateral deadlift variations, and upper body pushing and pulling variations (think single arm dumbbell presses and single arm dumbbell rows).

This can be done by completely unloading one side while adding significant load to the other side, or using a slightly lighter load on one side and then a slightly heavier load on the other side.

 

Benefits of offset loading

While its method of application of simple, offset loading can have a number of benefits dependent on your training goal.

The initial benefit that we get from offset loading is due to the demand it places on the body to maintain stability. By loading more on one side we create flexion and rotation forces at the trunk and the hip that would not be there with regular loading parameters.

Therefore, the muscles of the trunk and hip must work overtime to maintain a neutral lumbo-pelvic position.

This makes offset loading a great tool to use when we are limited for time and want exercises that provide big bang-for-your-buck, as we can improve core stability while also loading the upper or lower body.

Not only will this increased demand for stability build core and hip stability strength, it also provides a great opportunity to work on any imbalances we may have in regards trunk and hip strength.

Additionally, offset loading is a fantastic way to introduce more total volume into your training as we have to do twice as much work than we would with normal loading methods.

This increase in total volume can directly increase our total time under tension AND the metabolic demand placed on the muscle tissue – both of which can contribute to increased muscle hypertrophy significantly.

And while using offset loading is not the best way to build strength on its own (because the total load used is reduced), correcting imbalances can indirectly lead to greater improvements in strength over time.

 

Offset Loading Programming Considerations

So now we know the benefits of offset loading, it is HOW we implement it into our training that makes all the difference.

Firstly, irrespective of whether our goal is hypertrophy or performance based, exercises using offset loading should be used strictly as assistance exercises, and should not replace our core strength lifts. This is because their capacity to build strength is somewhat limited, as they will not provide the mechanical stress necessary to increase maximal force production.

BUT, due to the various other benefits that offset loading can have, they should be used as either the first or second assistance exercise in our training program.

Example Lower Body Workout

Back Squat 4x6
Romanian Deadlift 3x8
Offset loaded Bulgarian Split Squat 3x8 /side
Walking Lunges 3x10/side

Example Upper Body Workout

Bench Press 5x5
High Bench Row 4x8
Single arm Landmine Press 3x8 / side
Single arm Renegade Row 3x8 /side

Incorporating offset loading into our training can be a great way to increase core and hip stability, correct any imbalances we may have, and promote muscular hypertrophy.

Additionally, using offset training can promote further strength development by improving stability and eliminating those imbalances!

 

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Do Hip Thrusts for Posterior Chain Strength and Power

I recently wrote a post on low bar vs high bar squatting (you can read it HERE if you’re interested), where I claimed (a claim I still stand by) that one of the few truths within the health industry is that strong and active glutes are integral to low back health.

While making this claim is all well and good, I thought there was a little more I could do in regards to discussing how to increase glute strength.

As a result we have this blog post.

So here we go.

Dem glutes

Dem glutes

 

The glutes are one of the largest muscle groups on the posterior chain. They are powerful hip extensors, which explains why having strong glutes can seriously improve our athletic performance (think sprinting, bounding, and jumping).

While I have covered the importance of glute activation extensively (HERE), I have not talked about improving glute strength nearly enough.

 

Enter the Hip Thrust

The hip thrust is a posterior chain dominant exercise that focuses on hip extension strength specifically.

The hip thrust was made famous by the Glute guy himself, Bret Contreras. Since its meteoric rise in popularity, hip thrust strength has been demonstrated to have a direct relationship to a number of performance measures, with specific emphasis on sprint speed and measures of horizontal power (think broad jumps etc.).

To perform the hip thrust, all you need is a bench and some glutes (for an example check out the video below).

 

While it looks quite simple, there are a few key cues that allow you to maximise the benefits of hip thrusts.

1.       Keep your heels flat on the ground

2.       Keep the spine neutral by bracing your abs HARD (avoid excessive lumbar extension in the bottom position)

3.       Squeeze glutes HARD

Hip thrusts are an awesome exercise to develop posterior chain strength and power. As a bonus, they are extremely easy to load. You can use resistance bands, barbells, or even weight plates as a way to add external resistance to the hip thrust, making it an extremely versatile (and beneficial) exercise.

 

Programming Considerations

I typically use the hip thrust as an accessory exercise on my lower body days after either squats or deadlifts.

I use pretty typical loading parameters dependant on my current goal, for example if I am training for strength I might use a 6x4 set and rep scheme, whereas if I am training for hypertrophy and GPP, I might use a 4x10 set and rep scheme.

As I have already mentioned, the hip thrust is a great way to build posterior chain strength and power while also promoting spinal health.

As an added bonus, hip thrusts can be a useful tool to help build that ghetto booty you have always wanted.

 

Contact me if you have any questions!

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Low Bar vs High Bar Squat – What’s all the Fuss About?

Within the health and fitness industry there are a few truths that are (in my humble opinion) undeniable.

1)      To promote fat loss, you need to maintain a weekly energy deficit.
2)      To improve performance, you need to train for strength and power.
3)      Strong and active glutes are integral to the health of the spine.

Outside of that, the details become debatable.

And boy, do we like to debate them.

From what diet is the best, to what exercise is promotes optimal Tibialis anterior development (I kid, I kid..... kind of..), we love to discuss the minute.

One of those discussions that come up regularly is low bar vs high bar squatting. People will argue for hours about the differences between the two, often aligning themselves to one entirely.

Which is funny, because in the end the differences is a couple of inches.

Seriously.

hunter bennett performance

 

Two inches (if you’re lucky) higher or lower, and that’s the differences.

Well, there is a little bit more to it that, but honestly, not a whole lot more.

 

Bar Placement

As mentioned already, the difference ultimately comes down to the position of the bar on your back. With high bar squats, the bar sits on top of the traps, while with low bar squats, the bar sits just above the spine of scapula and slightly above the rear delts.

While this change is relatively minimal, it does result in some variances in technique further down the chain.

You see ideally, with a squat, the bar should sit over the middle of the foot for the duration of the lift. This is where those variations in technique come into play.

hunter bennett performance

 

Torso angle and Joint loading

To maintain the bar over the mid-foot, the angle of the torso changes slightly. With a high bar squat, a more upright torso is required to keep optimal bar position, whereas with a low bar squat greater trunk lean is required.

Maintaining a more upright torso places slightly more torque at the knee joint than what would typically occur during a low bar squat where there an increased trunk lean is observed (It is important to note that this is not a bad thing, it is just what happens biomechanically). As a result, the hips are loaded less, and we see a subsequent reduction in shear force through the lumbar spine.

Using a low bar squat position forces us to sit back and load through the hips, which subsequently causes an increase in the shear force on the spine (again, not necessarily a negative).

If we look at this from a muscular perspective, a high bar squat is going to place increased demand on the quads. A low bar squat is going to place an increased demand on the glutes and spinal erectors.

This isn’t to say that during a high bar squat there is no demand on the glutes and erectors (and vice versa in regards to a low bar squat and the quads), just that the demand is slightly reduced in comparison to the alternative.

It is also important to note that as a direct result of bar position, the extensors of the thoracic spine are going to be under less demand during a low bar squat in comparison to a high bar squat (this is in my opinion, why some people can squat more low bar than they can high bar).

 

Practical Implications

So what does this actually mean?

In reality, not a whole lot.

I often find that people who may not have had a whole lot of experience in the gym pick up the high bar back squat better as it more closely replicates goblet squats and front squats (which I typically use as a regression). As a result, we often start with those.

From there though, what I recommend becomes goal dependant.

If an individual’s goal is purely hypertrophy based, I will opt for whatever variation is more comfortable. This is because the muscular load is quite similar between the two lifts, and from a hypertrophy perspective, glutes and quads are going to get a heap of work either way.

From an athletic performance perspective, I would typically recommend a high bar back squat as the joint angles more closely replicate movements that require vertical power (AKA Jumping), and there is less load on the erectors (which are typically already copping a heap of load from exercises targeting posterior chain strength).

For someone trying to build a big ass squat, I would recommend low bar. As the thoracic extensors are taken out of the equation, we effectively eliminate what is often the weakest link in the chain. As a result, the hips and quads should be able to handle maximal load, increasing the amount of weight we can move.

 

But seriously, in the end, the difference is a couple of inches. High bar squats are still going to build strength, low bar squats are still going to improve performance.

The differences are minute.

Contact me today!

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Why the Front Squat is King

As an exercise, the front squat is heavily overshadowed by the barbell back squat.

It is considered a ‘regression’ in certain circles, where it is used as a mere stepping stone allowing you to move towards a full back squat.

Ultimately, the front squat does not get the love that it truly deserves.

That’s why I am here to tell you that it should be a staple in your training if your goal is to improve strength and overall athleticism!

hunter bennett performance adelaide personal training

 

The front squat smashes the anterior core

Most wouldn’t think it, but one of the key benefits of front squatting is the load it places the muscles of the trunk.

Due to the bar position being slightly in front of the torso, it effectively tries to pull the spine into flexion. This creates a HUGE demand on the muscles of the anterior trunk to maintain a nice upright spinal position, making it a fantastic way to build core strength and stability.

This actually leads quite nicely into our next point…

 

It’s hard to cheat a front squat

During a heavy set of back squats, it is pretty common to fatigue through the erectors of the lumbar and thoracic spine.

This results in ‘caving’ of the trunk, causing a movement that kind of looks like a squat / good-morning hybrid that places a large amount of shear force on the spine.

This cannot happen during a front squat due to the bar position. If we lose our upright position during the front squat by caving forward, we will lose the bar.

This actually makes it a safer variation, while limiting poor movement patterns and poor compensations.

 

The front squat demands mobility

To perform a deep front squat, you need good mobility at the ankles, hips, and thoracic spine.

By front squatting often (and addressing any serious mobility requirements) we can improve mobility and movement quality, while also improving our strength throughout a large range of movement.

This can go a very long way in improving our ability to improve strength in the gym, reduce our risk of injury during athletic movement, and improve our overall athleticism.

 

Front squat strength directly carries over to athletic movements

Simply looking at the front squat we can see its similarities with a number of athletic movements.

The upright trunk position during the front squat is very similar to that we see during jumping, bounding and sprinting. So it makes sense that getting stronger in the front squat can directly improve our capacity at performing these athletic movements.

Additionally, due to its ability to build strength in hip and knee extension, it can also improve our ability to accelerate, change direction rapidly, and perform jumping and bounding movements.

 

The front squats improves squat and deadlift strength

The upright torso position of the front squat places a serious demand on the quads. This helps improve knee extension strength, which directly improves our capacity to perform other movements.

Obviously, this carries over directly to the back squat. Having strong quads is only going to improve your ability to squat more weight. Also, considering that the front squat can significantly improve strength of the spinal erectors, it will improve our ability to remain upright in the back squat. This improves our capacity to perform the movement, making it more efficient (AKA stronger) and safer.

Secondly, improve quad strength will significantly improve your deadlift strength off the floor. The first portion of the deadlift (floor to knee) is VERY quad dominant, and as a result front squats can seriously improve deadlift strength.

So, there you have it.

To summarise: Front Squats = Gainz

I would recommend using front squats as the core movement on one lower body day per week for lower reps (4 sets of6 reps, or 5 sets of 4 reps, etc.), and then as an assistance exercise on your other lower body days for slightly higher reps (3-4 sets of 10-12 reps).

If you want to get in contact with me with any training enquiries, fill out the form below and i will get back to you ASAP

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Box Jumps - A great way to develop power improve athleticism

Strength training is awesome.

Not only does it mean you get to lift heavy stuff repeatedly, but by building strength we can also become faster, stronger (DUH), more powerful, more resilient to injury AND more athletic.

By strength training and getting stronger we see a subsequent increase in our maximum force production (the MAXIMUM amount of force our neuromuscular system can produce).

Now this is great. Ultimately, the more force we can produce, the higher our ceiling for producing power (and subsequently, athletic performance) becomes.

BUT (there’s always a but….).

Unfortunately, for maximizing power development and athletic performance, strength training doesn’t tick all of the boxes.

See, if we only train to improve strength, we become stronger, but we won’t necessarily become more powerful.

To become more powerful we need to train to be fast and EXPLOSIVE.

By training explosively we can increase the rate at which we produce force, which improves our ability to jump higher, accelerate quicker and sprint faster.

For improving athletic performance, quick explosive training compliments strength training perfectly, as strength training increases the maximum amount of force we can produce, and explosive training increases the speed at which we can produce that force.

But how do we start training explosively?

Often improving power is done through the use of moving lighter weights QUICKLY. An example of this would be training using the Olympic lifts (Snatch, Clean etc.) and their variations. Unfortunately the Olympic lifts are fairly technical and have quite a steep learning curve.

Which finally brings us to the topic of the post.

hunter bennett performance box jumps

 

Box Jumps!

Box jumps are a fantastic exercise that allow us to improve our explosive power, but don’t have the learning curve associated with the Olympic lifts.

Additionally, with box jumps we are jumping onto something high, which results in less compressive forces placed on the body which makes them a very joint friendly exercise variation.

 

But there are a few key cues that need to be followed to make sure they are done safely and effectively.

Feet are flat with weight evenly distributed on landing.

Knees are neutral (no valgus).

Trunk is neutral and abs are braced.

And a big one - If you land in a position where your femurs (top of thighs) are lower than parallel to the ground, the box is too high. We don’t care about how tall the box is, we care about how high you can jump – there is a difference.

Now, because we are trying to improve power, box jumps DO NOT need to be done to failure. With power training it is always quality of quantity. An example rep range that may be used would be 4 sets of 3 repetitions, where each individual rep is done as explosively as possible.

Similarly, they should be performed at the start of the session, before fatigue sets in. As fatigue inhibits our ability to produce force quickly, it is pointless to train for power when under significant fatigue. Because of this, box jumps should be performed after our warmup but before any heavy loading (eg. Heavy Squatzzz).

An additional benefit of programming box jumps before your heavy lower body exercises is that they ‘prime’ the nervous system, ultimately preparing the body for maximum contraction by potentiating the nervous system to fire more efficiently and at a faster rate. This will in turn improve your ability to produce force (strength), and increase the benefits of the following strength exercises.

An example lower body session that utilities box jumps effectively may look like this:

- Foam rolling and self myofascial release work
- Dynamic mobility warm up
- Movement preparation

- Broad Jumps 2x3
- Box Jumps 4x3
- Back Squat 5x5
- RDL 4x6
- Split Squat 4x8/side

And just like that you have a way to both develop power and improve the quality of your strength session immediately!

For any further info, contact me below!

 

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Fire up those Glutes! Glute Activation for Health and Performance.

I’m sure at one time or another you have all heard the term ‘Glute Activation’ thrown around. But really, what does that mean, and how does it apply training and athletic performance?

Just a brief background on two of those Gluteal muscles:

Gluteus Maximus, is a prime mover during hip extension (think jumping, sprinting, bounding), and plays an important role in providing stability to the lumbo-pelvic region.

Gluteus Medius, anatomically acts as an abductor of the femur but in a more functional manner provides stability to the hip and knee during single leg stance, and can play a role in lateral movement, whilst also stabilising the lumbo-pelvic region.

GLUTES!

GLUTES!

 

So what does this jargon mean?

It means that strong glutes have the potential to improve sport performance by making us faster, jump higher, and change direction quicker.

Just steering away from the sport performance side of things a little, it also means that they can provide stability to the hip, reducing load through the lumbar spine, which has the potential to improve or reduce the risk of developing lower back pain.

Now this is all well and good, but we have a bit of an issue.

Glute Amnesia (You can thank the great Mike Boyle for the term).

What is glute amnesia? Well it’s a term coined to describe the inhibited and atrophied glutes that 90% (approximate estimation...) of the population exhibit. Their Gluteal muscles have literally forgotten how to work! This is most likely a result of the increases in sedentary behaviour (sitting) that our modern lifestyle promotes. Sitting leaves the glutes in a lengthened, stretched out position. Spending a lot of time in this position results in them receiving a reduced neural stimulus, which leads to neural inhibition (they 'forget' how to work!)

And as an additional side effect of our sedentary behavior, is that not only have they forgotten how to work - they don't get the opportunity to work, which leads to both weakness and muscular atrophy!

This can lead to reduced athletic performance, greater risk of soft tissue injury through the development of compensation patterns, and low back pain.

So what can we do about it? We need to learn to activate and use those glutes!

How do we fire up the Glutes?

The introduction of glute activation exercises is a good start. A simple circuit of the following 3 exercise in your warm ups can go a long way to improving glute activation. This means they will be working more effectively during your workout, improving their strength development and potential for muscular hypertrophy.

Prone hip extension

Now the key here is to really focus on ‘feeling’ glute max produce the movement, while limiting the load on the hamstrings. If you feel the hamstrings working more than the glutes, give it a go with the knee bent to 90 degrees which will take the hamstring out of the equation.

 

Glute Bridge

Similar again, we really want the glutes to drive this movement, with no real feeling in the hamstrings. This can be done by squeezing your butt as hard as you can – imagine your cracking a walnut!

To make sure the hamstrings are staying quiet, you can physically touch the muscle belly of the hamstring during the movement. If it feels soft it means glutes are the main drivers of the movement.

 

X-band Walk

 

This is a great way to fire up gluteus medius. A key is to make sure is that you are feeling it in the glutes. If you feel fatigue in front of the hip, its most likely TFL driving the movement. This can be changed by stepping laterally and backwards slightly, to get a bit more hip extension involved in the movement. You want to feel the burn just posterior of the hip joint.

 

So a potential Glute Activation Circuit may look something like this

Exercise 1A: Prone Hip Extension x12/side
Exercise 1B: Glute Bridge x12
Exercise 1C: X-Band Walk x12/side

Repeat 3 times.

Hope this has provided a bit of info on the importance of the glutes, and a good way to warm them up!

If you are unsure where to start, contact me below!

 

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