Category: Training

Evidenced based training to ensure increased pain-free performance

Squats, Barbell Cleans and Kettlebell Swings

You have probably heard about the wonders of Squats in developing your lower body kinetic chain, and how it is an incredibly functional exercise that can build applicable athleticism. Is squats always the best exercise for you? In what scenarios would other exercise be more useful?

Squat is King!

Not very elegant execution of the squat

You heard it a lot. In modern times, we tend to sit on our rear end most of the time. Hence our gluteus (butt) muscle became less active. As the result, we tend to walk with our anterior (front) chain of movement. Over-dependence on anterior chain can lead to knee, hip and low back problems. Proper squat exercise will train you to use both your anterior and posterior (back) chain of motion. Allowing you to grow your strength in a joint friendly way.

Barbell Clean for Power!

messy form of barbell clean

The squat is an excellent exercise for beginner and advanced strength athletes. However, any strength coach worth his or her salt will know the principle of specificity. Although the squat is excellent strength exercise, most sports requires a combination of strength and speed, i.e. Power. Squat exercises only train for strength.

On the vertical plane, Olympic Weightlifters are probably the most powerful athletes by bodyweight. In order to bring the barbell off the floor either to your shoulders (clean), or over your head in one single movement (snatch), you must to have the combination of strength, speed and agility. These attributes are highly transferable to different kinds of sports.

This is why some modern day rugby and American football athletes also do barbell cleans. If you want to be able to express your strength in the field, you could also combine your squat regimen with some barbell cleans. Unlike the squat, proper execution of the barbell clean requires you to master the momentum.

Why Kettlebell Swing?

Kettlebell Swing by a chubby chap

You might have heard of kettlebells or seen these funny looking weights at your gym. Believe it or not, most of the people I saw using them didn’t know how to use them correctly. Just like the barbell clean relies on creating momentum to drive the bar up, the kettlebell swing also relies on momentum to drive the kettlebell from the back to the front position.

The difference between a barbell clean and kettlebell swing in terms of athletic gain is the line of action. As you can see on the barbell clean video, the line of action for a barbell clean is straight up. The line of action for kettlebell swing is a forward arc. Based on the principle of specificity, for an explosive forward power, the kettlebell swing can be more transferable to the athletic field.

Another benefit of the kettlebell swing is that it is more forgiving on the joints compared to the barbell clean. A moderately fit person that have received proper training for one month can do 100 swings in 5 minute with extremely low risk of injury. The same cannot be said with barbell cleans. When you train for explosive power, you want it to be able to last for at least last for a short burst of power instead of a single leap or two.

Keen on incorporating the kettlebell swing on your regular training? Try the kettlebell for beginner and have your friend record and comment your movement.

Disclaimer: Improper squat, barbell cleans and kettlebell swings technique can cause injury to your knees and lower back. if your joints feel sore after training, its a good idea to consult with a good trainer.

You need to add a widget, row, or prebuilt layout before you’ll see anything here. 🙂

Use It, Or Loose It

The first thing that pops into your mind when somebody said “elderly”

Bones, just like muscles, became stronger as you train them with combination of adequate rest and nutrition. As you grow past 30, they will plateau and then slowly go on a decline. Finally, for some people, they will experience muscle shrinkage i.e. sarcopenia. Aging and its related loss of strength is natural, hence even world class athletes retire. Common university biology undergraduate textbook will tell you that this gradual loss of strength to be expected.  And some personal trainers would simply advice old people to use barbie weights to avoid injury. But how good is this suggestion?

What the Research Says

Surprise! Multiple research, including at Tuft University have actually proven that elderly musculature responded to strength training just as much as younger people do. In fact researchers at University of Potsdam shows that elderly needs up to at least 85% intensity for the improving the rate of force development. Researchers in Korea have shown that even single joint strength training can improve balance on the elderly.

Some find it sensational, but its proven that old people can beat up young professional fighters, provided that the said old person trains properly

Why Do Most Old People Don’t Train?

Laziness is an easy answer. And its true that many of these elderly don’t even like spending time doing exercise in their youth. However, some of them were physically active in their youth. So what happened?

Very common hamstring stretch that could actually give you low back pain if not done properly

Pain is the answer! Be it low nerve pain caused by lower back disorder or joint pain caused by ligament or cartilage damage. Our spine and our joints are host to different connective tissues such as spine disk, cartilage and ligaments that unlike muscles, don’t have blood capillaries in them. Due to the lack of blood capillaries, these tissues do not recover rapidly. Think of how ankle sprain took longer to heal than a cut in the arms. Years, if not decades of bad movement habits are usually one of the reasons that causes these connective tissues to deteriorate over time. Faulty stretching can also cause ligament pain if it involves ligament instead of muscle stretch. Hence movements that used to be pain free became painful as they age.

What is the Solution?

If the elderly in question prefer a fast, easy solution, then do nothing and slowly use his or her mobility is a solution. If this prospect does not sound enticing to some people, then the only solution is to hit the weight room! After all, as mentioned at the beginning of this article, the research is unanimous that elderly should do weight bearing exercise. Of course for some people, a proper movement coach is needed, and some movement coach are more “equal” than others. As mentioned in my previous article, even the simple compound exercise done correctly can have rehabilitative effect while done incorrectly will damage your joints! This is the way our body is designed, especially for muscle strength, either you use it, or you loose it. For upper body exercise, the humble push up is one of the best exercise you can do without any equipment and can be easily adjusted based on strength.