Keep Your Eye On The Long Run: Returning To The Gym Post-COVID 19

Michael Jordan Obstacles don't have to stop you.

We have all been through it. Training is going great but then, bang, it’s not. Something has gone wrong.  Maybe we fell off our bike or twisted a knee and injured ourselves. We tell ourselves that we are strong and so we try and lift our regular weights. That goes wrong. We realise we need to rehab our injury. When we finally get back into the gym to build back our lifts, we understand that our bodies are deconditioned. We have the memory of when it all went wrong, be it when our back went out, or when we lost the ability to put pressure through our knee and collapsed. In this situation, we mentally understand how to build back. We can comprehend the risk involved if we don’t do this correctly. Knowing this, we are careful and we follow our program, easing the weights back up.  We learn where we have developed weaknesses over this period and we attack them with accessories. We also learn where we have gained new strengths. Slowly we became one with the bar again.  

 

Hannah Altman Squat set up in the gym at Iron Underground

By now most of us will be facing the situation where we are deconditioned, but for an altogether different reason.

Maybe this is because we have not had access to the barbell and have been doing more callisthenic workouts.

Or maybe we have just been lifting heavy and skipping our accessories because we don’t have our friends there to bully us into doing the boring work. Maybe we are training with equipment that is less than ideal so we have tweaked our form to minimize our chance of failing and really injuring ourselves ( #Stayhome #Staysafe #Kinda #Ihope ).

 

This pandemic will finally end…  Okay, so now you are back ‘home‘ (AKA in your gym), the bar is loaded and you go straight back into it. Guess what? You are likely going to get injured. The first thing you are going to have to acknowledge is that you are going into training a post Covid-19 you, so you are likely deconditioned. The difference between coming out of the pandemic and coming out of injury is you most likely won’t have that voice in your head telling you not to do anything silly, reminding you of the consequences of pushing back to that training volume and load too fast as you have your head saying, I want to PB. 

 

Hannah Altman squat Paul Thompson at Iron Underground

 

Just because you may be feeling strong doesn’t mean that your body is able to handle the same workload straight up as it could before this crisis as your musculature and connective tissues are going to be slightly deconditioned. The body is no longer used to handling the same stress as it could pre-Covid. Along with this, you will have lost some of your movement patterns.  Being back on normal equipment will change your movement patterns. If you push back into your old loads and old training patterns right away you are likely to find yourself visiting the physio. The best way to build back to the pre-Covid you is to gradually increase workload with submaximal loads and minimum volume as your muscles start to adapt again and you regain that muscle memory. The aim here is to allow yourself to increase your muscles’ and your bodies’ work capacity. If you do this you are more likely to be able to increase your strength and hopefully hit a new PB down the track when it counts. Remember the goal is not to hit a questionable PB the day the gym opens and get injured. The goal is to go back to training and hit a big PB on the platform. Keep your eyes on the prize and remember you’re in this for the long game.

Strength, A river cuts through rock, not because of it's power, but it's persistence, slow & steady wins the race at the end of the day

 

 

Remember, post-Covid training is a lot like post-injury training, it’s all about being patient, not A patient, and building back.

In the next article, we will be looking at good progressions for coming back to squats after some time off from the gym. 

 

About the Author:

Hannah Altman is a qualified exercise scientist BHS| BCOM | MPHIL, and Strength Coach Fitrec, a Pilates instructor and Nutrition Coach PN1 Elemental L2, focusing on injury prevention for strength athletes. She is currently studying for her doctorate at Queensland University of Technology.

She holds multiple junior bench-press records, the current one being 95kg, and has a top bench-press of 103kg at 69kg bodyweight. She is ranked in the top 20 in Australia based on Wilks in all three lifts and in Bench-Press.

She currently coaches out of Iron Underground in Albion, Brisbane, and online.

To book a complimentary session; to get a 10% discount for rehab, prehab or just performance and to increase your bench, choose from the options below. Contact Hannah on 0452285271.

 

 

Covid-19 Band Survival for Powerlifters

  How can I stay consistent with my training through this COVID-19 pandemic?

     One of the key things that any powerlifting coach will tell you is how important being consistent with your training is.  Why is it so important?  That is because if you are not consistent with your training you are going to lose muscle and as I’m sure you all know; muscle is pretty hard to put on.  That being said, I’m pretty sure that the one thing that no powerlifting coach had ever considered when warning athletes not to lose consistency in their training was the federal government making gyms illegal because of a pandemic.

coronavirus covid-19 image

Image Retrieved From: https://tse4.mm.bing.net/th?id=OIP.Hzq_JBCpF30HMs138QRmWwHaCn&pid=Api&rs=1

 

But Covid-19 has come and we need to stay in control of our individual training, for our own mental health and for our future WILKS scores.  So, what are we going to do about it?

 You are probably in one of two positions right now. You either have a home gym and you are training, but you don’t have perfect equipment and all the accessories equipment that you are used to is not there. You might have imperfect safety racks etc or you’re in the position where you have almost no equipment at all. I’m not going to lie to you but you are probably going to lose some muscle mass, but having said that, there may just be a silver lining.  If you are a powerlifter you probably have an injury history or you struggle with mobility. This is the perfect time to focus on your mobility and strengthening your weaker muscle groups. It is easy to strengthen small muscle groups with nothing more than a glute band and build up your core. You can build your glutes, develop strength surrounding your sacroilliac joint (SIJ) in your lower back, improve hamstring and ankle mobility. You can build that latissimus dorsi strength; along with building strength around the muscles that help to rotate the glenhumeral joint in the shoulder, these being the posterior deltoid, infraspintus and teres minor. As well you can build strength other muscles, such as the coracobrachialis, which is used with shoulder flexion, these muscles are so important but often get neglected when we are busy focusing on our primary lifts. Building strength and stability in these smaller muscle groups can help you mitigate your risk of injury once you get back into the gym.  

Glute types

Image Retrieved From: https://tse4.mm.bing.net/th?id=OIP.Hzq_JBCpF30HMs138QRmWwHaCn&pid=Api&rs=1

What working on these smaller muscle groups and core strength and, what we will call powerlifter mobility, will mean for you is that when you are squatting you may find it easier to hit depth and keep your core engaged.  If you keep your core engaged you are less likely to fall forward in your squat, you will find it easier to get into position and to create tension in your squat by having that improved shoulder mobility.  That improved ability to protract your scapula will allow you to produce tension in your deadlift and hold form when you are benching and improve your ability to hold position through improved ankle mobility.

Resistance bands for training through covid-19

Image Retrieved From: Amazon Resistance Bands

The Covid-19 crisis is here, but from a powerlifting point of view, we must make the best of the hand we are dealt, and take advantage of it to rehabilitate any injuries or minor muscle weakness by focusing on strengthening some of those smaller muscle groups. And for this you don’t need much equipment, just a band.

My next article will be how to get back into the gym and training after having all this time away from the gym.  I will discuss how to avoid injury by looking at some of the common mistakes that deconditioned lifters make when going back into high load strength training such as powerlifting, strongman and weightlifting.

brain with dumbbells image

Image Retrieved From: https://masterofmemory.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/135-1080×675.jpg

Infinite Strength & Rehabilitation has put together a complimentary generic powerlifters band mobility program available if you email me. As the program is generic it is not specific to individuals. If you would like some one-one guidance, feel free to Message Me or email me.

 

Stay Safe, Stay Strong & Become Mobile.

 

Hannah Altman – Squats; High-Bar v’s Low-Bar? There is no incorrect answer!

Low-Bar Squat                              High-Bar Squat

Emily J Seymour Low Bar Squat
Photo: IU’s Emily J. Seymour
Keely Reinke High Bar Squat
Photo: IU’s Keely Reinke

 

 

 

V’s

 

 

 

 

 

High-Bar v’s Low-Bar Squat?

There is no incorrect answer!

Whether you choose to use a high-bar or low-bar squat will depend on multiple factors, such as goals, gym, age, and injury history. Though both high-bar and low-bar squats are both squats, and they can both be used to supplement each other, the bottom line is that at the end of the day they are both very different lifts and they rely on different movement mechanics and transfer of forces.

In general, high-bar squats are used by the population at large in the gym as well as by weightlifters, CrossFit athletes, and cross-training athletes, for example.  As for low-bar squats, powerlifters often use them when competing on the platform. You also find that athletes training for strong man competitions usually use low-bar squats.

Barbell Placement For The Squat…

As the name implies, in a low-bar squat the bar is placed on the back across the spine of the scapula. In other words, the bar is resting on the posterior deltoid. On the other hand, with high-bar squat the bar is placed on the upper back, lying above the shoulders, just below the C-7 vertebrae.  A very common mistake untrained gym-goers make is placing the bar too high thus putting pressure directly on the C-7.  This is why they often get pain in the neck and sometimes in the hand. We will discuss this type of neural pain in our next article.  You will often see people using a foam pad or a towel to minimise the pain they feel when they are doing a high-bar squat, but the fact of the matter is that this pain is caused by the weight pressing against the C-7.

How does the Squat Work?

Now let’s break down how the squat works. With a low-bar squat, you have a wider foot placement than with a high-bar squat. Your hips are pushed back and you will have a slight forward lean and, in general, a wider hand grip. The width of the grip depends on the individual.

On the other hand, with the high-bar squat, you typically have a narrow stance and lifting shoes with a heel are used to assist with this movement. Your hips are directly under the bar and you hold your chest nice and tall and your hands have a narrower grip. But just like with the low-bar squat, the grip depends on multiple factors that are different with each person. There is no size fits all hand grip.

 

Low Bar Squat

Tara Reinke Low Bar Squat
Photo: IU’s Tara Reinke

The Benefits of Low-Bar Squat …

The low-bar squat is generally used for two main reasons, one of which is to build up the posterior chain. This build-up occurs because the low-bar squat forces the hips back to produce and absorb the force. This creates the forward lean of the chest and, in general, allows lifters to lift heavier weight. This is why we generally see this type of squat used in powerlifting, where the aim is to squat as much as possible to depth and to be able to grind your way out of that hole. Low-bar squats ensure that the torso can be horizontal while the load shifts more into the posterior. This allows the glutes and hamstrings to be more involved and requires less range of motion from them. When the torso is upright like it is when we are performing a high-bar squat, this limits the ability of the body to get out of the hole when under a substantial load.  This is why, for powerlifting, the low-bar squat is a platform favourite for most coaches and lifters.

 

Low Bar Squat

Hannah Altman Low Bar Squat
Photo: IU’s Hannah Altman

 

The Benefits of High-Bar Squat …

High-bar squats are the most basic form of squatting and resemble a position stance used in general day to day living. They also typically have a positive spillover into weightlifting and most performance sports as they build certain muscle groups along with building core strength and improving posture.

In our next article, we will look at how to choose your squat variation in order to minimize injury risk and improve platform performance.

About the Author:

Hannah Altman is a qualified exercise scientist BHS| BCOM | MPHIL, and Strength Coach Fitrec, a Pilates instructor and Nutrition Coach PN1 Elemental L2, focusing on injury prevention for strength athletes. She is currently studying for her doctorate at Queensland University of Technology.

She holds multiple junior bench-press records, the current one being 95kg and has a top bench-press of 103kg at 69kg body weight. She is ranked in the top 20 in Australia based on Wilks in all three lifts and in Bench-Press.

She currently coaches out of Iron Underground in Albion, Brisbane and online.

To book a complimentary session; to get a 10% discount for rehab, prehab or just performance and to increase your bench, choose from the options below. Contact Hannah on 0452285271.

 

 

Hannah Altman – Rowing to Bench-Press Success

Hannah Altman – Rowing to Bench-Press Success

The latissimus dorsi (lats) is the primary muscle that is used for the pulling motion, such as in rows. It acts mainly as a shoulder extender but plays important secondary functions as an internal rotator, adductor, and horizontal extender.   

 

latissimus dorsi lats

 

Though these muscles are not the most important part of a bench, they do lay the foundation for a strong bench. 

When you are bench-pressing you are in internal rotation. Along with this, you will be in a position of internal rotation, shoulder flexion, shoulder abduction, and horizontal flexion. Strong lats are important when it comes to raw bench particularly for lightweight female lifters.

This is because strong lats will allow you to press against the bench to help grind the bar back up. This being said, lats are even more important when it comes to equipped benching, which we will touch upon another time. 

 

A successful bench press means being able to control the eccentric phase of the bench, which is essentially rowing the bar into the chest.

This is the result of being able to control the movement in your upper back. Being unable to do so is what often keeps a lifter’s bench from progressing, as you need to be able to control this motion. As well, you can’t allow this motion to be so slow that it leaves you fatigued; leaving you unable to press the bar back up.

What Are The Main Muscles Used In The Bench-Press?

With regards to bench-press, the main muscles you will be using are the agonists located in the chest, triceps, and shoulders. When we think about the bench-press these are the muscle groups we often want to focus on building. We often forget about the antagonist which, in bench, is primarily in the upper back and the lats. These are responsible for the downward movement (row) that happens during the bench-press action. 

To summarize, using the back to help row the bar into your chest will mean that the body will produce an effect like a spring-loaded device. This is why equip bench, once one learns how to control it, is stronger than raw bench.  And, this is because the muscles can throw the weight back up as soon as the muscles release into the press phase.  This allows the agonist muscles to unload maximal amounts of torque. 

What Accessory Exercises Build A Better Bench-Press?

Hannah Altman Pull UpsAccessory exercises that build lats are crucial to bench-press past a certain point. Rows are one of the best exercises you can do for your lats. And, when it comes to rows, the stricter the better. Being stricter means that you can’t use the momentum from the body to cheat the movement. For example, one can do pull-ups and chin-ups with no cross fit movements. If those are a bit of a challenge you can use a band for assistance or ask your training partner to help you. You can also jump into them and control them down etc. One can also do landmine rows and lat pulldowns to name a few other appropriate exercises. Another key to success rests with warming up the lats with a band to get them firing before you start training. 

Remember, the bench-press is more than the press. There are two sides to all stories. Remember the row in your bench, it is not just all about the press. 

Next year we will look at the press in bench-press and trust me when I say, it is all about the chest. 

About the Author:

Hannah Altman is a qualified exercise scientist BHS| BCOM | MPHIL and Strength Coach Fitrec, a Pilates instructor and Nutrition Coach PN1 Elemental L2, focusing on injury prevention for strength athletes. She is currently studying for her doctorate at Queensland University of Technology.

She holds multiple junior bench-press records, the current one being 95kg and has a top bench-press of 103kg at 69kg body weight. She is ranked in the top 20 in Australia based on Wilks in all three lifts and in Bench-Press.

She is currently coaches out of Iron Underground in Albion, Brisbane and online.

To book a complementary session; to get a 10% discount for rehab, prehab or just performance and to increase your bench, choose from the options below. Contact Hannah on 0452285271.

 

Hannah Altman – How To Drive Through Your Shoulders In Bench Press

Hannah Altman – How To Drive Through Your Shoulders In Bench Press

Think About Those Lats!

 

In this article we are going to focus on how we can use the bench to create torque and drive that bench PB, moving on from last article’s focus on the arch.

Your feet should be positioned wherever they feel most comfortable when you are benching but ensuring that they are not going to slip and that they are providing a stable base to keep your bum on the bench. The goal of your foot Hannah Altman Bench Press Upper Back Set Upposition is that it is going to allow you to generate power from your legs to your upper back. That’s where the power comes from.

 

As you get more and more elite with bench-press you start to notice that everything makes a difference down to the shirt that you are wearing. If you wear a shirt that does not have good grip it is easy to slip out of your arch. In this case, your shoulders will no longer be even on the bench and you will no longer be in a position to drive into the bench with your upper back.

 

Some people think that bench is all chest and triceps but a major component is back strength wrist stability, core strength, ankle, thoracic and hip flexibility. We are going to focus on what the lats are doing during the bench press. This muscle can actually make or break your bench press and, surprise, this muscle is in your back.

 

The latissimus dorsi muscles, otherwise known in gym bro language as lats, are the large v-Hannah Altman Latissimus Dorsishaped muscles that connect your arms to your vertebral column. This is a series of approximately 33 bones called vertebrae, which are separated by intervertebral discs. The column can be divided into five different regions: the cervical, thoracic, lumber, sacrum and coccyx. Each of these regions is characterised by a different vertebral structure. They help protect and stabilize your spine, while providing shoulder and back strength. Your lats also help with shoulder and arm movement and support good posture.

 

 

If boosting your numbers on the bench is your goal, this requires building a bigger back. This will carry over to your other lifts.

 

When using your back the best way to think about things is to bench on your shoulders. But the key is to not lose your shoulder positioning on the bench when you unrack the bar. Once you have the bar in your hands the best thing Hannah Altman Bench Press Shoulder Set Upto do is think about trying to break the bar. The goal is to create power and torque in the shoulder joints. This comes from actively engaging your lat. As you press, you should feel your back muscles tightening and this will help you get through those nasty sticking points when you’re trying to get that PB and help prevent any shoulder injuries. This will also put you in a stable position on the bench, which should help ensure that you are even and won’t move.

 

Next time we will be looking at how to build those lats for a bigger bench-press.

A recommendation for a good bench shirt is SBD or Iron Underground shirts: They stick to the bench and are approved by World Powerlifting.

About the Author:

Hannah Altman is a qualified exercise scientist BHS| BCOM | MPHIL and Strength Coach Fitrec, a Pilates instructor and Nutrition Coach PN1 Elemental L2, focusing on injury prevention for strength athletes. She is currently studying for her doctorate at Queensland University of Technology.

She holds multiple junior bench-press records, the current one being 95kg and has a top bench-press of 103kg at 69kg body weight. She is ranked in the top 20 in Australia based on Wilks in all three lifts and in Bench-Press.

She is currently coaches out of Iron Underground in Albion, Brisbane and online.

To book a complementary session; to get a 10% discount for rehab, prehab or just performance and to increase your bench, choose from the options below. Contact Hannah on 0452285271.

 

Hannah Altman – How does the bench press work?

Hannah Altman – How Does The Bench Press Work?

Let’s talk bench press – arch and bench contact.

 

For women, the bench-press is arguably one of the hardest lifts to progress. In this next series of articles, coming out every two weeks for Powerlifting4women, we will be discussing how to break through the bench and avoid injury.

Hannah Altman Bench Press Set Up

 

A major point to consider with bench-press is that it is an extraordinarily technical lift and there is not a lot of room for technical breakdown if you want to get three white lights in competition.

 

 

The first thing to keep in mind with regards to bench-press is the set-up.

You need to set up to ensure your hands are in the right position for your body type and for how you’ll need to build your bench strength. This is because bench-strength is built in the accessory work that you do (December article).

Once you grip the bar you need to ensure that your feet are set so you have leg drive. You must have a decent arch such that your bum is in contact with the bench. You need to ensure that your arms are fully extended and that you don’t lose your arch when you unrack the bar because the bigger the arch the less the bar needs to travel.

Not losing that arch can come down to your breathing technique as one of many factors. Once you start the bench you lower the bar through the eccentric (downward phase) movement, then you need to be able to hold that stopping position at the bottom long enough to get a press command from the referee.

The concentric (upward phase) part is where things often go wrong in the bench press. You need to ensure your feet don’t move, your bum stays on the bench, the bar only moves in one direction (meaning that if you get stuck and the weight pushes you down you are finished). Also, you need to try and avoid hitting the rack because that can throw off your bar path and you won’t be able to lock it out. Oh, and don’t beat your rack command.

So, to summarize, there are heaps of components that go into doing a proper bench-press and if your technique is off you are likely to slip up and will end up getting a red light.

Hannah Altman Bench Press with Paul Thompson at IU Iron Underground, Brisbane

 

One of the biggest mistakes that lifters make is that they don’t train variation in their lifts. Every lifter has a sticking point and different variations of the bench-press can target those weak points so that you don’t fail your bench-press at the same point in the lift.

In this article, I’m going to focus on what, in my opinion, is the most important part of the female bench-press and how to avoid one of the biggest red light makers in bench. This refers to an Instragram post from the 23rd of August 2019 on HannahAltman ES.

The reason why we arch our back is to minimize the distance that the bar has to travel (shorter bar path). Though the one little down side of the arch is that the bigger the arch is higher the risk of lifting your bum of the bench.

 

This being said, there is a lot of false information out there claiming that arching one’s back for females will cause lifetime back injury.

What many don’t take into consideration is the fact that lumber and thoracic vertebrae and inter-vertebral discs are actually safest in a lordodic position, which is the fancy term for being arched. The main reason for this is that discs tend to herniate posteriorly due to the presence of an incredibly robust anterior longitudinal ligament in front of the spine.

Even if the disc somehow manages to herniate anteriorly, the resultant herniation would likely be asymptomatic as the spinal nerves are behind the inter-vertebral discs, not in front of them. Arching the lower and mid back does not push the limit-range of motion of the cervical spine in the neck, so there is less concern of the probability of injuring the neck with arched benching.

If your form is correct, arched benching (with a retraction of the scapulae) allows a greater use of the lower fibres of the chest muscles. Not only is this pushing angle likely safer for the glenohumeral joint of the shoulder, it’s also conducive to the great use of the larger mass of lower fibres (vs. upper fibres) of the pectoralis. This creates a more forceful lift without sacrificing as much safety as a flat pressing position might (August 24th 2019).

This being said, an increasingly common que used by coaches is to bench with one’s legs. The issue then becomes that when we do this we lift our bum off the bench, causing one to get three red lights. We end up lifting our bum, using this approach because when we drive through our legs we initiate the force towards the ceiling, which pulls our bums up.

Hannah Altman Bench Press Arch

However, if we focus on driving our shoulder into the bench, the force goes into driving the bar back up which is more likely to end in more bar speed and no red lights.

There is heap more that goes into the bench-press. Our next article will be on how to use the bench to generate more force and to minimise shoulder injuries.

About the Author:

Hannah Altman is a qualified exercise scientist BHS| BCOM | MPHIL and Strength Coach Fitrec, a Pilates instructor and Nutrition Coach PN1 Elemental L2, focusing on injury prevention for strength athletes. She is currently studying for her doctorate at Queensland University of Technology.

She holds multiple junior bench-press records, the current one being 95kg and has a top bench-press of 103kg at 69kg body weight. She is ranked in the top 20 in Australia based on Wilks in all three lifts and in Bench-Press.

She is currently coaches out of Iron Underground in Albion, Brisbane and online.

To book a complementary session; to get a 10% discount for rehab, prehab or just performance and to increase your bench, choose from the options below. Contact Hannah on 0452285271.