Core Stabilizing (Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love Deadlifts)

30 05 2012

I figured an homage to a classic movie in the title will soften the blow…

As I mentioned last week when talking about how to boost your vertical jump, there are three exercises I consider the “Big Three” (very much like a certain NBA franchise in South Beach).  The first one, the squat, is great for building lower body strength since it incorporates pretty much every muscle fiber in your legs.

Today we’re going to talk about my LEAST favorite exercise of all time: the deadlift.  This is the brussel sprouts of a workout routine.  The reason I call it that is because while I hate doing it, it’s arguably one of the greatest exercises to help stabilize your core muscles (such as your abs…see how the primer set you up for this?)

Here is a video demonstrating how to properly perform a deadlift (courtesy of HanleyStrength.com)


Yeah this is a lot of information to process, so I’ll summarize it as best as I can for beginners:

  • The idea is to utilize the muscles in your lower back.  Think of your arms and grip as hooks, as opposed to part of lifting the weight.
  • In terms of positioning, the best comparison I can make is to a catcher’s stance before a pitch is thrown.  This means that your shoulders are parallel your knees (not in front), your back is straight and you’re looking directly ahead (or even a little higher, if it helps you to keep everything aligned).  The idea is to not arch your back.
  • Do NOT lock in your knees at the end of the lift.  The idea is to have constant tension throughout the movement.  Just like the way you can hurt joints in your elbows locking out a bench press rep too hard, the same can happen to knee caps if you’re using enough weight on the barbell.  Notice the slight bend in the example photo below:

Perfect Form. Notice no arch in the back!

Getting back to how this helps your core…the deadlift is not what one would consider a “glamour exercise.”  What I mean by that is the gains and development aren’t going to be as glamorous looking in a mirror as, say, barbell curls or the bench press.  However, if you’re serious about sculpting that mid-section,  you need to cover both the abs AND your lower back.  The focus should be a stronger core.  The six-pack will come if you perform the deadlift properly.  Think of it like rowing and bench presses: the push/pull evens out your body.  If only work one side, you’re going to be physically imbalanced.

Since I hate this move, I always put it at the beginning of my back workout (while I’m still on auto-pilot at 5:00 in the morning).  In fact, I suggest putting each of the “Big Three” at the top of your routine, since not only do they suck to do, but they also wake up all the other secondary muscles you’ll be working later on in your routine.

Enjoy!

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Your “Workout Wednesday” Primer (5/30/12)

30 05 2012

“My name is Jonathan.  My alter ego is Nerdy Gym Rat, with the superpower of visible abs and a hulk-smash expression.” – A text message to a friend of mine yesterday

While this is (mildly) a paraphrase from a conversation I had with a friend of mine, it did lead to the wish, on their part, of wanting the same superpowers (well…at least the abs part…the hulk smash thing would be a little scary).

Frankly, I didn’t think this was necessary for this particular friend, but I digress.  It did get me to thinking this morning during my cardio session, though.  Every person strives for that amazingly ripped/cut look, but more often than not, they go about it the wrong way.  Whether it’s by doing a million crunches five times a week or starving themselves, hoping to see results,  the true formula comes from what you do in the kitchen and a ton of dedication.

Since I’m not one to pull punches about my past, I’ll use myself as an example.  Coming straight out of college, the first few weeks at the gym got me at least a mildly visible “V” (as they say).  This was pretty cool…but let’s keep in mind this was almost four years ago (and there’s an obvious bubba keg in the middle of that V).  It’s taken me that long to get to where I am now and there’s still room for improvement, in my opinion.

Me at 22…a work in progress

My point in today’s primer is this:  there is no such thing as spot-fixing in the journey to a healthier lifestyle.  There’s no magic pill that’s going to burn away pesky fat.  I assure you, if you put in the time and effort (both in the gym and in what you put into your body), the results will come.  Don’t get discouraged just because it’s not happening on your time frame.

With that said,  today’s posts will focus on some important exercises that focus on those core muscles (not just your abs; that’s just one piece of the puzzle).  On Twitter, I’ll be posting some tips that you can do, even just sitting at your desk during your 9-to-5 grind.

Also, thanks to a suggestion by a reader (who I’ll keep anonymous, but REALLY appreciated their input via e-mail),  I’ll curate a workout routine that I have used.  I only have one thing to say about any routine that will be discussed in this forum:  if you don’t find it fun or challenging and you quit on it after only a couple of weeks, it’s obviously not right for you.  Don’t be discouraged!  There is more than one way to skin a cat on this road to a better you.

With that being said…let’s get to work, GymGeeks!





Playlist of The Day (5/10/12)

10 05 2012

Good Morning/Afternoon (for all you readers at lunch), GymGeeks!

Today, my shoulders & traps feel PHENOMENAL…but they won’t in the morning!  Soreness will surely come (new highs in barbell shrugs & lat raises).  Remember to use your supplements after your workout to do damage control in that department.  I recommend L-Glutamine, as it’s been shown to not only repair muscle, but to also reduce inflammation.  Pop two pills before and another two after your workout.  Your body will thank you for it.

I went a little old-school garage rock & indie rock with the new additions to the playlist.  You have to shuffle things up, just like your workouts.  If you hear the same stuff over and over, you’re going to pick up cues when to get into the zone and when you can rest.  Your brain is a big-ass muscle and like all other muscles, it needs confusion for overall growth!

What are you guys listening to today?  Share tunes with me and you’ll get credit in the next posting!





Playlist of The Day (5/9/12)

9 05 2012

Good Morning, GymGeeks!

Today, I did a little bit of elliptical training (of course as a form of HIIT).  I know I’ve touched on the subject of HIIT in bits and pieces in previous posts, but I will be writing up a full post later today to explain and prescribe a few starter routines!

Rap DOMINATED my headphones today, as you’ll notice.  I didn’t really get into the genre until I was much older.  Before age 20, if it wasn’t metal, it was CRAP.  Now, if it’s got a good beat, it finds its way onto whatever player I’m using.  I try to find the rock remixes on Spotify (since those are the ones I actually use), but sometimes the Travis Barker remixes aren’t there (ex: Flo Rida today).  An hour of this once a day (twice a week) keeps the doctor away!

Enjoy!








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