The Right Way to Do Dumbbell Squats

I think when his trainer said dumbbell squats, maybe they meant hold the weights not stand on them?

How do people come up with this stuff?

Shattered ankle in t-minus 5….4….3…

While on Facebook, this image came across my timeline.  I knew immediately this wasn’t some joke or staged exercise.  It was another “functional fitness” believer preaching the virtues of doing stability work.

Before I go on … Stability work is important!

What I do not agree with is the manner in which it is being done.  The image above clearly being one of those.

(more…)

5 Ways of Retaining Speed While Gaining Mass

Train for Speed

It’s a quandary that’s plagued athletes for decades: how do I increase my size without sacrificing my speed? No matter what your sport, or your goal, may be, chances are that you’ve grappled with the question of wanting to become both stronger and faster. Contrary to what you may have heard, the two are not mutually exclusive. Though it requires concentrated training over time, it is possible to add muscle mass and not only retain, but also improve, speed.

Whether you are a boxer, a runner, or just reading fitness elliptical reviews in preparation for starting a home gym, you may feel that increasing your bulk will make you a more competitive athlete. However, you are reluctant to sacrifice other important physical abilities like quickness and agility that may help you perform at your best level. In the sports world it’s relatively well accepted that increased bulk can make you lose certain capacities for mobility. Just take a look at competitive bodybuilding, for instance. Bodybuilders increase their muscle mass to enormous proportions, but their training comes with a number of drawbacks. They lose a significant amount of flexibility and moving quickly or making rapid changes of direction are all but impossible.

Bodybuilding may be an extreme example, but even gaining 12-15 pounds of muscle mass may affect your ability to move quickly and with precision, unless you train to maintain your speed even as you increase your size.

(more…)

Spot Reduction: The Legend; The Reality

You may have heard that Spot Reduction is a myth. That spot reduction is not possible and anybody claiming it to be such is incorrect.

This question came from an observant reader who asks…

QUESTION:

Marc,

Why is EVERYBODY saying that spot-reduction is a myth? One of the other blogs I read from another fitness expert says that spot reduction is possible!

Spot Reduction: Fact or Fiction?

He said “Current research is now finding that when you work a specific muscle, the intramuscular fat and the fat in that general area is where the body derives fuel for that exercise.

In other words, if you work your abdomen – you’re working those muscles in the area – the body turns to your belly fat for the most help in long-term fuel for that exercise.”

His exact words are that “if you do ab exercises (sit-ups, etc.), your body will use abdominal fat as fuel (glycogen) for that exercise, thereby burning it.”

In other words, the shedding of fat is not uniform all over your body!

To what extent is this true?

Thanks, and I look forward to your replies and analysis,

Mike

ANSWER:

Your fitness expert above is correct. Spot reduction at the very basic level has been proven to be true in a single study done in 2007. But before you run off and try the routine listed above you need to know a few more things.

After reading the comments on the news story above, it appears the only study I found was the same one referred to in the story.

One study does not make something a fact. 2007 isn’t exactly current either. 4 years after the single study, no other studies have been done to further the findings. My guess?

Not because it wasn’t proven to be true in theory but for the actual real-world usage of such a scenario.

Another expert and author in the field, Lyle McDonald at Bodyrecomposition.com, took this same study in 2007 and wrote about it in detail in 2009. ( McDonald is the author of The Ketogenic Diet, The Rapid Fat Loss Handbook, The Guide to Flexible Dieting and several other nutritional books.)

Lyle said, “Yes, there appears to be an effect whereby working a given muscle impacts on local fat cell metabolism but the effect is completely and utterly irrelevant in quantatitive terms. The amount of fat mobilized due to increased hormones or blood flow is simply insignificant to anything in the real world.”

The amount of fat mobilized due to increased hormones or blood flow is simply insignificant to anything in the real world.

Additionally, the news story mentions picking different abdominal exercises and recommends “perform and reach muscular failure.”

Another ab expert, David Grisaffi, C.H.E.K., CFT, PN, and author of the book Firm and Flatten Your Abs… said in regards to training your abdomainals and core to failure…

“One of the biggest problems with training the core and abs to failure is that the more fatigued you become, the more your form begins to break down. When your form breaks down, that is when injuries are most likely to occur. This is true for any exercise, but it may be truer for abs and core than any other type of exercise due to the susceptibility of the lower back.

Research by Dr. Laurence Morehouse of University of California at Los Angles found that when doing abdominal exercises, especially sit-ups, you over-work your hip flexor muscles – the psoas and the iliacus. When the exercises are performed quickly (form breaks) or all the way to failure (form breaks), the hip flexor’s pull on the lower back is increased.

When performing your core exercises, always be conscious about form, especially as you begin to get tired toward the end of a set. You should terminate your set at or before the point where you notice that your form breaks in the slightest, and that is usually a couple of repetitions before reaching muscular failure.”

So let me summarize and review ….

Spot reduction based upon a single 2007, peer reviewed, published article appears to be valid. However, based upon the results of the study in question, the benefits are not significant to real-world usage.

Furthermore, based upon David Grisaffi’s recommendation of abdominal training, do not train your abdominals or core to muscular failure. Stop short and keep your form intact.

I stronly enourage you to read the references listed and come to your own conclusions.

Sincerely,

Marc David
author of NoBull Bodybuilding

Research References:

Do This – Burn Fat. How to Spot Reduce Belly Fat (Is It Possible?). From http://dothisburnfat.com/blog/spot-reducing-belly-fat/

Stallknecht B et. al. Are blood flow and lipolysis in subcutaneous adipose tissue influenced by contractions in adjacent muscles in humans? Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2007 Feb;292(2):E394-9. From http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16985258

Good Mornings or Good Night?

Although I can’t say I’ve seen Good Mornings done in quite some time, I know that growing up I saw plenty of pictures of how a proper Good Morning should be done. If I had more then 3 wishes left in this lamp, I wish that somebody would go find every book and every website with this exercise and cross it out with a Sharpie pen.  This is one exercise that almost everybody gets wrong.

Case Study #1:

I have a very good friend, who will remain nameless, that gave me another tidbit of advice. He’s been instrumental in helping me train legs. I’ve never pushed myself so hard. So when he gives advice, I know it’s coming from a reliable source that’s much better then any scientific study.

He began with some good mornings. At first it was the bar. Then it was 20 lbs. on each side. Pretty soon he was doing 225 lbs. That’s a lot of weight. But having the strength to do it and the youth, he pushed on. Until one day, POP! Forward he went, with 225 lbs. How he didn’t break his neck is somewhat of a miracle.

Case Study #2:

As with any exercise, and the motivation of a bodybuilder, we will continue to push ourselves to new limits.  There are many other options for compound movements that do the same thing but with much less of a risk. So skip the good mornings and try some dead-lifts or stiff-legged dead-lifts. You won’t be missing out on anything by skipping the good mornings except maybe weeks of recovery or a broken neck if you don’t do them right or forget this is an isolation movement and not a compound.

Now I’ve been hounded since the day I first recommended against doing the exercise called “Good Mornings.”  I personally find you can build up a strong lower back using many other, safer exercises.  But in all fairness, you can do these correctly if you let go of that silly mentality to load up the bar every week as if you were trying to set a new bench press record.  It’s an isolation exercise and while other muscles are involved, it’s still considered an isolation exercise for the low back muscle group.

But I was able to find just one.. ONE.. video showing the proper technique.  I found over 40 videos on YouTube of fully loaded bars that were nothing more than really bad squats.

Video of Good Mornings Done Right
(opens in a new window)

Proper Technique:

  1. Place a barbell on your shoulders
  2. Keep your head up and your back straight
  3. Bend at the waist with your legs locked until your upper body is parallel to the floor
  4. Return slowly to the standing position

Notes:

  • Can also be done with the knees slightly bent
  • Technique over weight
  • Using lighter weight
  • Not bouncing
  • Not using momentum
  • Not trying to do some modified squat or glute thrust
  • Slow, controlled, focused on lower back

While you won’t personally catch me doing a Good Morning exercise in my gym, that doesn’t mean they cannot be done correctly.  From the last video above, they can and if you are one of those people that must try every exercise, then keep those points in mind.  I would never wish a back injury upon anybody.

Here’s hoping you stay injury free,

Marc David
“The NoBull Muscle Guy”
www.nobullbodybuilding.com