10 Fitness Tips for August



Training for strength and athleticism together, upping your work capacity, two mechanisms for muscular development, simple squat fixes, and much more in this month’s 10 Fitness Tips.

1. A great read on how to “dominate pull-ups” from Element Crossfit. 

Particularly liked this part:

Throughout this entire post I am talking about the classic pull-up not the kipping pull-up. While kipping pullups have their place in conditioning training it’s my opinion that if you can’t do 4-12 consecutive strict pull-ups/chin-ups, your time in the gym would be best spent working towards that goal first, and high-rep kipping pull-ups second.

The differences:

And then this (although this is a chin-up, the principles are the same):

2. A few suggestions for workout “finishers” (end-of-workout exercise combinations to fatigue a certain muscle/muscle group).

An example finisher I like to do for the shoulders (one particular muscle group that responds well to high-volume training):

Shoulder press, lateral raise, front raise (no breaks in between, rest 60 seconds after each circuit, and repeat three times). Pick a weight that you can do between 10 and 20 reps of – you want to add some volume, but there also needs to be enough resistance where the last few reps are a bit of a grind.

3. Can you train for strength and athleticism at the same time? Tony Gentilcore believes so.

Must-read material for all athletes:

To get better at pitching, you need to pitch. To get better at kicking a soccer ball, you need to kick a soccer ball. To get better at skating, you need to skate. To get better at supflexing, you need to become an honorary member of the British Bulldogs.

This isn’t to say that everything we do in the weight room is moot and doesn’t have any carryover towards on-the-field performance. That’s just looney talk. Instead, all I’m trying to convey is that the main goals of a well-designed strength and conditioning program is to address weaknesses, imbalances, improve force production, reduce wear and tear on the body, and to help prevent injuries (among other things).

That said, it’s important that we get our athletes strong – as I always say: you can’t have qualities like power, agility (being able to absorb force and change direction quickly), endurance, strength endurance, and what have you without first having a base of strength to “pull” them from in the first place – but we’re also cognizant that we don’t want to turn them into slow lunks with the movement capacity of the Tin Man.

4. How to box jump properly:

5. Here is a good read on why you probably need to up your work capacity.

What is work capacity?

Supertraining author Mel Siff defined work capacity as “the general ability of the body as a machine to produce work of different intensity and duration using the appropriate energy systems of the body.”

If this is true, then by raising our ability to do work, all other attributes and characteristics will be more attainable, regardless of specificity. If general preparedness serves as the foundation to build off of, then the better the foundation and the better the structure will be.

I won’t post the entire article (as it is really long), but I’d recommend reading it. Some great tips for all levels of fitness.

Schemes and combinations aside, the rule is to figure out what your weakest link is and address it accordingly. Just remember that we’re trying to support your primary goal – whether it’s to get bigger, stronger, or kick more ass in general – not supplant it.

No one wins a medal or contest for having the greatest work capacity. But very few achieve glory without it.

6. Sitting is bad. Minimize how much you sit per day (it is generally unavoidable completely for most of us). 

It isn’t all doom and gloom, though:

Papers which focus on people rather than laboratory animals have found similar effects. Happily, this research also suggests the changes can be reversed by small amounts of fairly relaxed activity. A study published last year by Dr Dunstan found that breaking up prolonged periods of sitting with two minutes of walking every 20 minutes made a big difference. After feeding his volunteers a sugary meal, he discovered that people who had been walking in this way had blood-glucose levels almost 30% lower than those of people who had remained seated.

7. Two mechanisms for rapid muscle growth – yes please!

One of them is mechanical tension:

Sometimes when you’re lifting heavy weights, you might feel like a muscle is about to rip off a bone. This is mechanical tension. If you place tension on a muscle by stretching it passively (without letting it contract), the source of tension is called passive elastic tension.

If you place tension on a muscle by flexing it as hard as possible through an isometric contraction, the source of tension is known as active tension.

When you lift weights through a full range of motion, the muscles are placed under a combination of passive and active tension because they’re being stretched while being activated.

8. Seven squat dilemmas, solved.

Chances are you have been curious about one or two of these before (foot positioning, squat depth, and so on).

The next time you squat, try this simple correction:

Take your stance in slightly.
Force your knees out aggressively.

9. I linked to this a few months ago, but I gave it a read a few days ago and it really resonated once again – why everything you know about fitness is a lie (from Men’s Journal).

The main thing, though, is just to get going. Who cares if you put on more muscle than you really want? Or if you suck during a few weekend soccer games because the squats are hammering your legs? You’ll be on a journey, at long last, learning how to own the gym, how to make your thrice-weekly health-club sessions into a confident, focused process invulnerable to bullshit. You’ll begin walking right past all the muscle-isolation weight machines, feeling a little sorry for all the guys who still think those are a good use of their time.

You’ll start heading right back to the barbells instead, back in the gym’s darkest distant corner, and seeing them only as tools for your own ends, your own sports and goals. Once that happens, you’re on your way. You’ll certainly never need another article like this one.

10. Some Tuesday morning motivation… if you had told me that I would eventually link to an Ashton Kutcher video, I’d have said you were crazy. Well worth the few minutes:

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