So for the last few weeks I’ve been training the Vanguard Women’s Volleyball Team.
Before I developed a program for them, I did my research. I looked up common injuries. I studied how volleyball players move. I attended their games to watch their SPECIFIC movement patterns. And I looked at many traditional volleyball training programs.
What I found was a lot of jump training. Olympic lifts. Box jumps. Sprinting. All the usual suspects were being used.
And don’t get me wrong…I love Olympic lifts. I love box jumps. I even love sprinting (actually it is really the only form of cardio I do enjoy).
But the more research I did, the more things just didn’t add up.
If many volleyball players suffer from shoulder injuries, why do snatches and jerks which would only serve to put more strain on their shoulders? And on top of the fact that many suffer from shoulder injuries, being college students, most of them are hunched over computers and books for a good portion of the day. This constant daily forward flexion and rounding of their shoulders increases their risk for injury when moving heavy loads overhead because they don’t have the range of motion to really get their shoulders up overhead without compensating.
And then on top of that even, Olympic lifts are really freaking complicated to get right. First off, they take a great amount of flexibility to really do correctly. Second, they take great stability. Third, they are complex motions with lots of moving parts which can easily be messed up! And fourth, to get people to move the loads that will actually benefit them takes a long time to build up to…Time that frankly I just didn’t want to waste at this point.
Ok so Olympic lifts were out…at least to start with. So…what about box jumps?
Eh…I would use them but they wouldn’t be the basis of my program. Box jumps could be great, but aren’t the BEST explosive power move. I would use them to work on landing mechanics but they wouldn’t be part of the daily routine.
Plus I wanted something that would get them stronger without being too redundant. They do a lot of jumping already.
Anyway, as I started analyzing programs, I started to realize that we needed to work on upper body strength and upper body flexibility more than I saw in many other programs. Elbow and wrist injuries were also common yet none of the programs really included any grip and forearm/hand strengthening.
Also, while watching the girls play, I was amazed at how much diving, rolling and mulitplanar movements there were. Rarely were they lunging forward or backward. Rarely were the squatting straight down. So…I figured we really need to work on stability in ALL planes of motion.
I had my work cut out for me. I wanted to build up their strength, but I had to do it slowly since their tendons needed time to catch up to their muscles AND they were also doing outside conditioning and practicing with their coach. I needed to work on the basics.
So I included the traditional squat and a traditional hip hinge, which I knew they would have already mastered or be able to master quickly so we could increase load. These would help them gain strength so that they could be explosive and powerful on the court. Strength always precedes power!
I then included speed, agility and quickness drills to improve their coordination and reaction time. If they wanted to react quickly on the court, they needed to work on their mind-body connection!
AND finally I addressed their areas of injury and their need to move in all planes of motion. I didn’t load them down with weight for these exercises. Actually all of them were simply body weight variations. I did lunges in different planes of motion. I used the sliders when necessary to make things more difficult. I did handstand holds and other isometric holds to work on scapular retraction to help their shoulder stability and strength. I did a ton of pulling motions, such as rows and pull up holds to work on their upper back and help improve their posture to improve their range of motion.
I even made sure to include plenty of grip work, which was definitely harder than most of them expected!
Of course there was also a lot of core work to help them stabilize when diving and rolling and a conditioning piece at the end to help them outlast and out-perform their opponents (none of which by the way was sprinting but will most definitely help them…and even improve their sprinting!).
So to sum up this long rambling post, the point is that you can’t just look up a workout program and figure it will work. I understand why so many athletic trainers use Olympic lifts because they are great and do really have many power and strength benefits for sports. But you can’t just look and train for one aspect of the sport. You need to consider injuries. Movement patterns. What athletes are doing when they aren’t playing or training. And even all of the new and INNOVATIVE training methods that are now out there. You want to help a player move better on the court, but that doesn’t mean that you should do the exact movements they do on the playing field! That also doesn’t mean you can’t use those movements.
The point is there is a lot to consider.
And that doesn’t just go for college volleyball players. It holds true for everyone!
When you design a program for yourself, you have to consider many of these same variables. What are you looking to improve? What repetitive movements or odd positions do you find yourself in during the day that may create bad postural alignment and compensations that lead to injuries? How do you want to be able to move during the day? Are you looking to get better at running or chasing after a kid because chasing after a kid is a lot more than simply having energy and running straight ahead. It means quick cuts and potentially lots of random twisting and turning!
Anyway, just think about some of these things the next time you write up a workout. Consider your specific “sport’s” variables!
P.S. Probably even the most important part of all of this is the mental aspect I’ve included in their training. Right from the warm up everyone is together and motivated, which is huge if you really want a team to be strong and work well together!
I’m not sure where this really goes, but I found it on Facebook and thought it was awesome.
- Ryan saw this video and I thought it fit well with my post from yesterday. Most of the functional training we SHOULD be doing isn’t NEW…it’s actually some of the oldest forms of training!
- AWESOME! While I’m still working on holding a one-handed handstand, I’m also going to start working on this! A kip-up!
- The Crossfit games were this past weekend. Can I just say, “AWESOME!” To me there is no better test of true fitness than having to do activities and exercises that you haven’t necessarily prepared for! Annie Thorisdottir, you are amazing!
- Awesome! 86 years old!
- Hmmm…The OMG Diet….Get Skinnier Than All Your Friends…Uhmm…
- Wow. This is disturbing!!! Is there a conspiracy!?!
The Simply Stupid
- Seriously!?! The Paleo Diet is Uncivilized!?! I love how this woman can claim her information is CORRECT because she is an RD. She is still biased! She is a vegetarian!!!
- This pictures isn’t stupid. The fact that people actually think this way is the stupid part!
So I definitely have noticed more women in the weight room recently.
Unfortunately most of these women are doing high reps with very little weight. I’ve also noticed that most of them are only doing single muscle group movements.
The exercises that women seem to love:
- Bicep curls
- Tricep extensions
- Adductor machine
- Abductor machine
While these exercises can be great auxiliary lifts for someone looking to strengthen weak points in their bench, deadlift or squat, these single muscle group movements really are pointless to do otherwise. Plus if you do compound movements, you will work all of those muscles that you are working with those isolated exercises and many more!
Single muscle group movements don’t give you much bang for your buck. You don’t burn very many calories doing them AND you can’t spot reduce problem areas. So while you may be making your bicep stronger, you aren’t specifically removing flab from over the bicep.
Your time would be much better spent doing compound movements because they work the biggest muscles groups in your body, which will help you build strength, burn fat, acquire optimal body function and improve your health.
Lifting weight while using multiple muscle groups elicits a much higher level of positive hormones than training just one muscle group at a time. These hormones include testosterone, insulin-like growth factor 1, and growth hormone. These hormones are what will help you build lean muscles, burn fat, and improve your health.
So not only are you building lean muscles, but you are also more efficiently working your entire body to burn more calories than you would if you did an isolated muscle group movement. You also improve your cardiovascular health and joint stability and muscle balance across your joints by performing compound exercises.
So if you really want to work your bicep, don’t do a curl. Instead perform a pull up or a row. If you want to work your tricep, bench press or do a push up or even a full dip. If you want to work your adductors and abductors, do a squat or lunge or sumo deadlift!
AND if you need a workout with lots of compound exercises, check out the Man Bicep Weekly Workout!
I taught subbed a muscle conditioning class yesterday for Brian in which I pretty much killed everyone. Two exercises from the end, one guy stood up and said, “You win. I give up.”
I think my jaw dropped in shock.
I win? How does you quitting mean I win?
I was super upset by the fact that not only did he quit, but he also rejected my critiques of his form during class. He made a nasty retort when I tried to correct his lunge form and he made a nasty retort because he couldn’t handle the intensity of the class.
I was trying to help him and give him a great workout – not make him angry or make him feel bad!
Apparently he was so angry that he walked out of the class and told Candy that “There is something seriously wrong with that woman.” (Of course Candy thought he meant it as a complement, but I knew that it wasn’t based on his reaction from the class. haha)
But I honestly didn’t understand why the guy was so upset. Brian’s classes were always murder – I was just trying to match Brian’s intensity!
I was so upset in fact that I mentioned the incident to just about everyone, including Brian who usually teaches the class. Brian said that the guy had grumbled when Brian had directed him to do push ups from his knees (his form was bad when he did push ups from his toes). Apparently he listened to Brian even though he wasn’t happy about it.
But when I gave him some form advice, he shot me down and refused to follow it. So I asked Brian, “Why did he listen to you but get really upset at me?”
Brian said, “Maybe because you’re a girl.”
Again, I think my jaw dropped.
WHAT!?! He didn’t want to listen to the teacher and TRAINER because of my gender!?! Was Brian being serious?!?
Yep he was. Sadly enough there are some males out there that won’t listen to a trainer because the trainer is female.
Why? Why should my gender matter? What difference does it make that I’m a girl?
The only explanation I can find is that his belief that I shouldn’t be critiquing him came from the belief that women don’t AND SHOULDN’T lift heavy weights and that all they do is run.
In some men’s minds, the weight room floor is still a male domain.
Seriously, can someone of the male species explain it to me? Why don’t some of you men think women belong in the weight room? Why do men shun female advice in the gym?
Every day I hear the lies of conventional wisdom perpetuated and sometimes I just want to scream. Here are some things that I’ve heard recently that go along with conventional wisdom that are complete and utter BULLSHIT.
Piece of Conventional Wisdom: Women shouldn’t lift weights because heavy lifting will make them bulky.
Conversation (about six months ago):
Me: So what diet, or how much protein, do you think someone needs to add more muscle if they are lifting heavy?
Nutritionist: Why are you lifting heavy?
Me: Because I want more muscle and I want to be stronger. (I think I had an expression of “That is such a dumb question! DUH to get strong and add more muscle!”
Nutritionist: But you don’t want to get bulky do you? If you lift too heavy, you may get bulky especially if you are taking in a ton of protein.
Me: Uhmm…I still have chicken legs and I eat a ton of protein and have been lifting heavy for a while. I want to get rid of my chicken legs…
Nutritionist: Well I wouldn’t lift heavy as a woman. I do lots of cardio.
Me: (I left the room.) End of conversation.
REASONS THIS IS BULLSHIT: Let’s get one thing straight right now…LIFTING HEAVY WON’T MAKE YOU BULKY! If you can’t accept this…you are on the wrong website. I’m not even going to take the time to list all the reasons why this is incorrect. If you need me to refute this piece of conventional wisdom just read about any other post on this blog. Or just take a look at this picture…Is this a big bulky woman? I’d hope your answer is no….
Piece of Conventional Wisdom: You need to eat breakfast and you should eat 3-5 small meals a day. And you definitely can’t work out on an empty stomach.
I tried intermittent fasting a few months ago and really liked it. I told people about it. The common reaction I got was: “You won’t be able to lift as much on an empty stomach or you will run out of gas. Your workouts will be hurt because you haven’t eaten.”
Lots of people also said there was no way they could do it. They said they NEED breakfast. They DON’T NEED breakfast. They are just conditioned to want it.
REASONS THIS IS BULLSHIT: To date, I’ve had some of my best lifting days and workouts on days when I’ve fasted till after I workout. If you want more proof that intermittent fasting works, visit LeanGains.
Piece of Conventional Wisdom: 45-65% of your daily calories should come from carbs.
Conversation (When people find out that the only carbs I eat on occasion other than cheat days are fruits, vegetables, and potatoes.)
Person: I could never give up bread! And I need carbs to get through my workouts and to refuel afterwards.
Me: But on most diets you have to give up something. With other diets you’ve managed to give up “bad” foods like fatty meats. If simple carbs, like white bread, is bad and bacon isn’t, why can’t you just switch what you give up.
Person: But you need carbs to function. The food pyramid has carbs on it.
REASONS THIS IS BULLSHIT: Ok for one, most people aren’t working out hard enough to really NEED carbs. And if you are doing crossfit intensity workouts, add in potatoes and such and you will be more than fine.
For two, it is never easy living life the healthy way. Of course there are outside temptations, but really you’d rather eat bread than butter and bacon? I don’t know…butter and bacon for bread seems like a pretty good trade-off to me…Plus, doing something that will make you healthier makes sacrificing bread seem very worthwhile.
If you want more information about letting go of carbs and why you DON’T need them, visit Mark’s Daily Apple.
Piece of Conventional Wisdom: Bacon and butter are not good for you. High fat diets will raise your cholesterol higher and that is bad. Use vegetable oil or low-fat substitutes instead.
Conversation: There have been too many conversations about this with everyone around me. But the usual I hear is: “Dude all that saturated fat is so bad for you.” “You know that is going to raise your cholesterol? You really should use margarine instead.” “You cook with duck fat? You should use vegetable oil instead.”
REASONS THIS IS BULLSHIT: Usually when I hear these things, I become speechless because I don’t even know where to begin explaining how wrong they are.
I would just love for one of these people who say this to me to provide me with a study proving I’m wrong (a study that I can’t prove wrong). Of course they never do yet they question me (and I’ve actually done the research not to mention discussed the research with other people, such as Ryan, who’ve done even more research).
I mean I challenge anyone to bring me a study that definitively proves that fat is bad for you and that processed crap like vegetable oil, margarine and low-fat substitutes are better.
Here is my proof that fat is good and all that other CRAP is bad:
Mark’s Daily Apple
Good Calories, Bad Calories
For a full list of evidence, visit the UCLA Ancestral Health Symposium.
Oh and something that really pissed me off today….Denmark has put a tax on foods with saturated fat. This list of taxed items even includes olive oil. Does anyone else think there is something wrong with this? Check out the Time Magazine article on it.
So today during our workout, we took a couple of videos to show our form.
The first video is of one of our favorite exercises – deadlifts. This is during my warm up round.
1. I set my feet and my hands. My feet are a little wider than shoulder width apart and my hands are right outside my shins.
2. I sink low, putting my weight in my heels.
3. I put tension on the bar by pulling up as I raise my head and chest. (You always want your head and chest up instead of sagging toward the floor. This will keep your back from rounding. I sometimes even like to raise my chin right before I settle in to remind myself to keep my chest up. And you can also look at the ceiling to remind yourself not to round. Don’t pull your whole head up. Just pick a place with your eyes.)
4. I pull up on the bar by pushing through my heels, keeping my butt down. (Don’t let your butt come up too fast or you will put more strain on your back.)
5. As I pull up, I keep the bar close to my legs. (Usually my pants or shins are scrapped up from the bar after a deadlifting workout!)
6. At the top I lock out by squeezing my glutes and pressing my hips forward.
The other main lift we did today was bench. After a push up/pull up pyramid yesterday it wasn’t easy. Candy rocked it out though. Below is one of her sets.
1. Set your hands about shoulder width apart.
2. Tuck your elbows in slightly as you lower the bar. (Your upper arms actually shouldn’t be at a 90 degree angle to your torso because this puts more pressure on your shoulders.)
3. Lower the bar all the way to your chest/upper abs.
4. Press back up, locking out your elbows. Always push back toward the rack.
5. Throughout the movement try not to arch and keep your feet on the ground.
Now go out and lift!! Work on those Man Biceps! 🙂
Below is a testimonial for the Man Bicep way from Judy! Thank you Judy!!!! We love your biceps!
When I’m lifting, I love looking in the mirror and seeing the definition of my toned, strong muscles. I’m really not narcissistic; I just like seeing the payoff of all my hard work.
And yes, it is hard work…all those sweat-filled hours on the gym floor lifting heavy stuff, ridiculous rounds of plyometrics, lots of heart-pumping cardio, etc. But never has something made me feel so good about myself, so alive.
I used to be totally intimidated by the “scene” on the weight room floor.
Now, I feel like I belong there and I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t give myself high-fives when I compare what I’m doing on the floor compared to others, many of them guys.
It’s not always easy (nothing good ever is), and yes, there are many days I totally beat myself up over a less than perfect workout (sometimes those weights just feel too heavy), but in the end, all those heavy weights and pools of sweat pools on the gym floor have made me so happy with myself….and that is the best reward.
Plus, my “awesome arms”, “compliment-demanding calves” and quads that get used as the basis for pick-up lines by other cyclists are an added bonus!
My mom is the ultimate testament as to why women should lift weights. I’ll let her prove it to you…with a few of my comments under some of the photos!
Below is the first post by the Man Bicep Mom!
I read recently that fashion experts recommended that older women select fashions that show off their best feature.
I do that. I show off my arms and shoulders.
During the summer I take great delight in wearing sleeveless outfits so that I can showcase my sculpted shoulders and arms. And I get compliments, too!
I’m 61 years old and people admire my arms and shoulders! I’m Cori’s mom and I’ve been lifting weights for over 20 years.
I have never bulked up or been accused of looking manly. I’m thin, very stylish and very feminine looking. In fact, I probably have weights to thank for that. I look good in clothes because I still have a firm, sculpted middle and a tight butt.
No muffin tops for me; no baby bump tummy; no sagging butt; and definitely no jiggly arms!
You’re probably thinking I’m deluded and very full of myself. She has muscles and she still looks good in her clothes, right!
Here are my stories.
I was trying on a linen suit at Talbots. The suit was unstructured but cinched in at the waist with a tie belt. I stepped out of the dressing room to look at myself in the three-way mirror. Another customer looked at me and said, “That suit looks wonderful on you! You have to buy it!” When I was paying for the suit, the saleswoman thanked me and said, ” I think you sold another one of these for us. The woman who admired you is trying it on right now.” See, muscles and all I look good in clothes.
I have another story.
I was at Anthropologie trying on a slinky, sleeveless dress with horizontal stripes. Again I came out to look at myself in the three-way mirror and another customer complimented the way I looked in the dress. She turned to the saleswoman and asked if she could find the dress for her. This woman was thin with a nice figure, but she didn’t have my muscle definition. She tried the dress on and said, “It looks good on me but looks better on you.”
Now the reason I tell you this is that, either because of my muscles, or maybe in spite of my muscles, I look good in my clothes. At the very least, my sculpted muscles have not detracted from the way I look in my clothes. I would venture to say that because of my muscles I look good in my clothes.
And isn’t that what we all want?
I am also going to suggest that I think women like the way muscles look on other women. Here are my stories.
A long time ago, probably a year or so into my weight workout regimen, I was at a dinner auction for my children’s school. I was wearing a long dress with thin, little shoulder straps. After dinner one of the teachers came up to me and said that she had been sitting at a table of teachers and that they had decided that I had the best dress. “We also love your shoulders. Do you work out?”
Just last week, I was meeting this woman for the first time. I was wearing a sleeveless dress. We were introduced and then she immediately reached out and touched my arms saying, “I love your arms. They are so sculpted.”
One more story. I was looking at pictures of female runners with a group of women. Except for me, none of the women lifted weights. A couple of the women ran. I can tell you that the women ooohed and ahhhhed over the pictures of women with defined muscles. They loved the women with shredded arms and shoulders, abs and legs. They commented on how beautiful they looked.
And so now I ask the million dollar question – why do women refuse to add weights to their workouts?
The only con I have ever heard is that they are afraid they will bulk up and that just won’t happen. You have to have testosterone to bulk up. I have girlfriends who workout and are in great cardiovascular shape. They know I use weights and love my muscle definition, but still they don’t add weights to their workout.
Why ladies, why?
It is a proven medical fact that weight training helps prevent osteoporosis and osteopenia. It is also a proven fact that it helps prevent sarcopenia, the age-related decline in muscle mass and function. We start losing muscle in our 40s and continue losing at a more rapid rate in our 50s. Losing muscle mass causes us to become weak and frail, less stable and surefooted. Losing muscle mass also causes us to gain weight in our 40s and 50s. Muscles are active tissue that burn more calories than fat. So it follows that as you lose muscle, you burn fewer calories and, unless you drastically change your eating habits, begin to gain weight.
So ladies, add weights to your workouts.
There is no downside to lifting weights. You will help prevent osteoporosis and sarcopenia and will feel strong and active and look beautiful.
Weights will also make your workouts more interesting, adding variety to the same old cardiovascular activities. I look forward to my weight workout days.
By the way, weight workouts come in a lot of “varieties and sizes”.
Cori enjoys power lifting twice a week mixed with circuit training on the other days while I have spent the last 20 years doing circuit training workouts from The Firm in the comfort of my home. I have a collection of 3, 5, 8 and 10 pound weights, and I do weight workouts three to four times a week. I love them!
I will take this opportunity to give kudos to The Firm. Throughout the years they have kept their workouts interesting and have always kept up with the latest advances in exercise physiology. I have The Firm to thank for the muscles and body that I have today.
But the real reason that I mention The Firm is to show that there are lots of different kinds of weight workouts. Experiment and find what you enjoy. Weight workouts are fun!
So, ladies of all ages, I implore you, lift weights! Stay healthy! Stay strong! Stay young! LOOK BEAUTIFUL!
Just do it! 😉
The other day Candy and I were working out on the weight room floor and Nancy (one of our gym members) said to Nick (one of our trainers) that she wanted to get “man biceps” like the man bicep sisters (me and Candy). Nick didn’t understand the joke (for an explanation of the joke click “man bicep” ). I had though overheard the comment, and I turned to Nancy and told her that she was well on her way to developing man biceps. She seemed pleased with the comment.
She then complained to Nick that she hated doing push ups (the exercise he was just then telling her to do). I then jokingly said that the push ups would help develop her man biceps and she said, “Yes but I don’t want to develop man pecs!”
It was a funny comment but it also took me back. How could she love the idea of “man” biceps and not the idea of “man” pecs!?! Had we just made lifting weights for your biceps acceptable?
It shocked me how deeply rooted women’s fear of weight lifting is. Even a woman who seems to support our weight lifting is afraid to lift heavy weights herself. It is exactly what the poll from an earlier post said – “it’s not for me but there’s nothing wrong with it.” That honestly seems to be the response I’m getting from most women.
Women’s logic works like this when it comes to weights:
Women don’t want to look manly. Men lift weights to get bigger and more manly. Hence, we see weight lifting as the way to get more “manly.” Of course we don’t consider the fact that weight lifting is only a portion of the equation and that what actually makes men pack on the manly muscle is TESTOSTERONE.
I mean hey I know heavy lifting isn’t for everyone. But try it before you knock it! You never know…you may end up loving the “man” pecs you develop! I know I do!
I just can’t believe this video. This is exactly what I’m battling against. This video is exactly why women are afraid to do weights! And Cameron Diaz isn’t big. She only has muscle definition because she freaking has no body fat like whatsoever! GRRRRRRRR ABC!! GRRRR!
And what was worse was where I found this video…on Fitcorp’s (a gym in Boston) Facebook page. A gym that posts a video about the fact that some people think women can be too toned!?! Uhm not a good move in my opinion!
I mean I guess they were trying to get people involved in their page…but still! Why even make women more aware of the fact that muscles may not be considered attractive to some people? That only makes trainers jobs harder – it is already hard to convince female clients to lift weights and now they have a video posted by their own company which will convince some women not to lift because they may become “too toned.”
Isn’t part of our job in the fitness industry to make people healthier? Isn’t lifting weights to gain strength, increase metabolism and bone density part of becoming healthier?
At least there was one bright spot in all of this…the poll attached to the video…”Cameron Diaz had recently been criticized for being “too buff.” We want to know … what do you think about women being toned & muscular?”
And the response so far….
5 people – “As long as it is healthy, it is beautiful” (Ok not bad but this is the same excuse overweight people use to not change their lifestyle.)
3 people – “Not for me, but nothing wrong with it” (Ok this bothered me especially since one of Fitcorp’s staff said this. Why isn’t it for you?…Probably because you don’t really think it is attractive but hey you are liberal and someone else can do what they want. These people definitely don’t support weight training.)
0 people – “It doesn’t seem natural” (PHEW!)
1 person – “I wish I looked like them” (COME TRAIN WITH ME!!!!)
1 person – “I’m a muscular woman and proud of it” (Uhm this one person was me…)
0 people – “I’m a man who loves muscular women” (Very disappointed that no man said yes. Women won’t fully want to gain muscle until they hear men saying it is beautiful.)
1 person – “Eh…who cares…leave them alone” (WHAT THE HECK DOES THIS EVEN MEAN!?!)
Ok so some bright spots…no one said it is unnatural and most women seem to think that it is ok…BUT the downside is that most women seem to think it is ok for any woman besides themselves. Very sad. I can think of numerous women who would look WAY better if they had some muscle AND most of those women would answer that it’s “not for me, but nothing wrong with it.”
Come on people.