By: Barbell Logic Team
School is out and summer is upon us. As we bid farewell to spring and look forward to summer we think that perhaps the season will bring leisure and extra training time. But inevitably summer’s lease is too short and there is way too much fun to be had—kids are home from school, summer travel plans, weddings, and the beach or pool are calling your name. All this means that summer offers both challenges to your regular training schedule and the chance to share your strength training with others. We collected some of our content below that can help you navigate your summer training a little better.
Traveling and Training
For many of us, summer vacation offers one of the few times to travel during the year. The change from your normal routine often means that training takes a backseat. Below are a few resources to help you train successfully while traveling, without taking time away from the fun.
Eddie Kuehne is an expert on training while traveling. Here he walks you through how to plan, how to pack, and the tips and tricks for successful training during your summer vacation.
By systematizing your training, you can cut down your training time. By trying breaking down your workout into its component parts and systematizing it where you can. You are keeping all the training variables the same, you are just cutting out the fluff and extra you spend in the gym that is not directly related to getting stronger.
Coach Nikki Burman just released these Banana Chocolate Chip Muffin Top Cookies, which are perfect for the summer cookout. (Source: Better Bodies by Burman). These go perfectly with Cold Brew Coffee as brought to us from reader Kyle Johnson.
If appropriate for your training, the Barbell Logic YouTube Channel has recently added some How-To videos that can help you get Jacked and Tan for summer:
General Conditioning and body fat loss
Or maybe your summer prep involves some HIIT conditioning. Check out the video and article below for advice.
“Using a sled, exercise bike, or rower, HIIT tends to complement strength training better than long slow distance training. The “high-intensity” nature of HIIT maximally taxes each of your energy pathways in a short amount of time. The net result is that your body is forced to replace ATP and glycogen stores for up to 24 hours following a relatively short bout of HIIT conditioning. Excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, a side-effect of both resistance training and HIIT, bumps the caloric “cost” of HIIT to levels that make it useful for fine-tuning your energy balance. If done with low-impact implements it does not interfere with your strength training as much as long-distance or endurance training.”
Of course, if you have a coach, let them help you with your summer gains, travel training, and nutrition. They know you better than we do. But we hope you will stay strong this summer and keep training.
Do you have any summer training hacks? Contact us and tell us about them (email@example.com)
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By: CJ Gotcher, SSC
From day one with a new lifter, I tell them to look at a spot on the ground 5-ish feet in front of them, and once we’ve found the correct gaze that gets the head neutral in the bottom of the squat, “eyes” and “spot” become the cue for the lifter to refocus and look at that point. This eye direction is part of the Starting Strength teaching progression, and it’s one element many people struggle to understand.
If we’re trying to go up, why would we look down?
First, in our teaching progression, we start by teaching people the movement without a barbell. Unfortunately, without a weight, there are a wide range of possible positions that will keep the lifter in balance, at depth, with their back in the right place, and we want to teach them the back angle they will best lift heavy weights with. The eye gaze is an elegant solution. By setting the lifter to a point where the imaginary bar is approximately over the midfoot and adjusting the head until it’s neutral at the bottom (5 feet is just a ballpark figure), we have given the lifter visual feedback they can use to find that correct back angle.
More importantly, though, we want to keep the hips and shoulders moving up together out of the hole.
When most new lifters look up, they lift the chest early and the body compensates by bringing the knees forward slightly to keep the weight over the middle of the foot. This is a natural reaction because the cervical spine (the neck) is connected to the thoracic spine (the upper back). However, when the knees go forward, even a little bit, the quads (which are already working their asses off) have to produce more force. Bar speed tanks. The lift feels like death.
It seems simple, then. If looking up brings the chest up too early, just don’t look up. This begs the question: why do some strong squatters look up, usually to horizon but sometimes even higher, when they squat?
Oftentimes, these lifters are front squatting or high bar squatting with limb lengths that favors a more-vertical back angle. In such a case, I would expect the lifter’s eyes to be up at horizon and the exact position will matter less since their head is nearly neutral at horizon anyway. It’s also common to see lifters who are just phenomenally strong, and despite their chest raising slightly, and bar speed visually slowing down, they power through.
Even so, there are some skilled lifters doing low bar squats who can execute excellent hip drive with their eyes up. If someone has an otherwise excellent squat and looks up into the rafters, do we have to fix it? Maybe.
I almost hesitate to mention this because it’s not as big a deal as it sounds, but I think there is a slightly increased risk of injury from looking up, especially in jerking the head up as you drive out of the hole. The spine is meant to extend. We do it all the time without injury, and some have argued that because the barbell is below the neck, the cervical spine isn’t under load and the head position shouldn’t matter. Maybe normally, that would be true, but under a load, things below the spine have an impact upstream.
Specifically, when the weight gets heavy, the traps contract to tighten the supporting frame of the upper back. However, the upper traps connect at the base of the back of the skull. When you reach your neck to look back, there isn’t much pressure on the cervical vertebrae or the muscles surrounding it. If you crunch your neck to do so (think thrusting the chin forward instead of up, which is what we tend to do under the bar), you probably feel discomfort as you reach your end-range-of-motion. Combine that with the downward pull of the contracted traps (especially if you’re ‘whipping’ the neck back in the lift) and you risk going beyond that range and causing injury.
I (sadly) have personal experience giving myself mild neck sprains with pullups and deadlifts during my first 2 years of ‘getting after it,’ and the mechanism was the same: craning the neck with contracted traps.
All that being said, I still hesitate to mention it. First, it’s a minor issue. I’ve never heard of a ruptured cervical disk from squatting. Mostly we’re looking at sprains and strains and, yes, they will definitely put a damper on your dance card for a few days, but you can train through them.
Second, debating this point back and forth, a great question keeps coming up: what does a ‘normal’ or ‘neutral’ head position look like? We know when we’re looking at something that’s just ugly, and most coaches can agree on what neutral looks like (mostly), but when does it become excessive? It’s one of those fuzzy areas- “I know it when I see it”- and that’s just not convincing.
In the end, can I tell you confidently that your neck position will hurt you or that it’ll derail your training? Not confidently. Still, as a coach, I will teach all of my beginner lifters to look down when they squat and emphasize hip drive because among beginners, the reflex is almost universal. If I’m working with an experienced/strong lifter who’s been looking up for years and has excellent hip drive, I’ll work at getting them to lower their gaze, but it’ll be lower on the priority list of issues to correct.
Finally, a disclaimer: if you experience particularly severe neck pain, tingling or numbness in the arms or extremities associated with neck pain, or painful neck stiffness beyond 2 or 3 days after exercise, I recommend you see a doctor.