10 Fitness Tips for June

AC10

Unstable training, adding volume to lagging muscle groups, plyometrics, some motivation, and a lot more in this month’s fitness tips.

1. Unstable training, for the most part, is a waste of time.

There are some reasons/benefits behind unstable training:

It has been theorized that working on an unstable surface may decrease the load needed to activate the muscles and so it might be good for rehabilitation

But…

For the first result of the study – drum roll, please – the researchers determined that the more weight that was lifted, the greater the activity of the muscles. This was true irrespective of the surface. They then discovered that the surface itself did not alter muscle activation. That’s right, the unstable surface did not perform better than the stable one. And presumably the maximum lift for the stable surface was higher, but hard to say because they researchers didn’t test this. If you’re wondering why they didn’t test if the maximum the subjects could lift was comparable on the unstable surface, the reason is probably because it’s not safe to do so. To me, that alone should tell you something.

The best way to get “more stable?” Lift heavy weights with good form. You don’t play sports on bosu balls, so why should you train on one? Functional fitness is more about movement than surface stability.

2. Plyometrics (jumping, landing) play an important part of any athletic training program. But they are often used incorrrectly. 

landing a box jump

Some simple tips to improving jump mechanics:

First, make sure the athlete’s eyes and head are looking to where they are trying to reach. This will make sure the athlete’s entire body is working to ascend.
Secondly the athlete’s arm that is reaching upwards should be directly in line with their ear. Too many times athletes will reach too far forward or too far backwards. This will throw off balance and shorten the jump.
Lastly, make sure the athlete is jumping straight up and straight down. This seems obvious, but many times we will see athletes landing six inches in either direction of where they started. This means they are sacrificing height for distance, which is obviously not what we want.

Here is New York Islanders defenseman Matt Donovan doing a plyometric exercise for reactive speed and power:

3. Professional wrestler Triple H has completely overhauled his training, with a new focus on functional movements. A really interesting look at how he trains like an elite professional athlete.

Joe DeFranco is one of the best strength coaches in the country.

4. A good reminder on muscle development – weight on the bar matters less than how you move it.

A lot of people get caught up in weight, PRs, etc., etc. But you have to keep in mind that physique development is about maximal TENSION on the TARGET muscle. This isn’t weightlifting or powerlifting. It’s ALL about tension. Yes, more weight is one way to add tension, but too many people get trapped with too much emphasis on just getting stronger, setting another PR, moving a weight from Point A to Point B all the while compromising of their rep execution and sacrificing targeted tension.

5. What is the big secret to fitness? According to Mike Boyle, there isn’t one. 

The secret is hard consistent work. Nothing more nothing less. The secret is being able to do what others won’t. Not because your dad wants you too or your Mom wants you too but, because you want to. The secret is sacrifice. Sacrificing a night out with friends to lift, shoot baskets or shoot pucks. The secret is getting up hours before you have to so you can eat breakfast. The secret is never missing a workout. The secret is getting out early at practice to work on weaknesses.

Unfortunately, hard work doesn’t sell as well as the latest and greatest workout, exercise, or supplement.

6. The New York Times recently published a 7-minute full-body bodyweight routine. Fitness writer Adm Bornstein shared his thoughts on it here.

Can you get enough benefit in seven minutes? Is bodyweight resistance sufficient?

But let’s not confuse the part from the whole: I did not build a healthy body by working out 7 minutes per day and only performing bodyweight exercises, which is the foundation of the program in question. And I’ll go on record saying that you’d be hard pressed to find anyone that has. After all, if it only took 7 minutes to get into great shape, don’t you think fat loss would be less of an issue?

You can get a good workout done in less than 10 minutes (if you are really busy or travelling, or something). But over the long run, you simply need to work out for a longer duration of time to make consistent changes/improvements.

7. Don’t be afraid to add volume to stubborn muscle groups. 

da shoulder muscles

This works particularly well for the shoulders. From the above link:

Everyone has different genetics and thus will respond differently to the same workout program. Some people will add muscle very easily to their arms but struggle to build up their chest. Others will easily develop big pecs but will have a hard time getting their shoulders to grow. Using myself as an example, I add size without much trouble to my chest, back and legs. My shoulders and arms tend to lag behind. As a result, I do very limited direct leg work.

8. Do you really need to “learn” how to sit? The answer (which is yes) may surprise you.

9. This is probably the best video on deadlifting I have seen – great cues and reminders for all parts of the lift:

10. Some great tips from Charles Poloquin on improving your front squat.

Q. What are the best sets and reps to increase the front squat?
A. This is one of my favorite questions to ask my most successful colleagues, as there are many training protocols that will improve your front squat. Whereas higher rep ranges are preferred in the back squat, most experts prefer to train the front squat in a lower rep range, and frequently endorse doing singles in that lift. Every expert agrees that doing more than 6 reps in that lift is a complete waste of time, as the scapulae retractors cannot hold the proper position isometrically when the duration of the set is too long.

Oh, and next time you bail on a workout for a crappy reason, watch this:

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