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Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better: Installment 33

Written on February 15, 2013 at 9:47 am, by Eric Cressey

Thanks to CP coach Greg Robins, here’s this week’s list of tips to make your nutrition and strength and conditioning programs more awesome.

1. Go narrower to improve wider.

People tend to spend a lot of time searching for that elusive exercise that will aid them in bringing up one of their big main lifts. Many are successful in their quest, and over time learn that one movement has great transfer to another. As an example, many people find improvements in the traditional good-morning has direct transfer to improvement in both their squat and deadlift.

Sometimes, however, what you’re searching for isn’t that far removed from what you’re already doing. Slight tweaks to the main lifts (squat, bench, deadlift), will cause you to make huge improvements to the lift in question. Some examples include: creating more range of motion, altering the tempo, or utilizing a different bar. One tweak in particular doesn’t get enough attention, which is unfortunate because it yields consistently great results. So what’s the change? Go narrower to improve wider.

If you want to improve your back squat, consider doing a few training cycles of narrow stance high bar back squats. When you return to a lower bar, wider stance position, you will have great return.If you want to improve the bench press, consider doing more bench sessions, or more sets within a bench session, with a narrower grip.

Lastly, if you’re a sumo style puller, work to bring up your conventional pull. If you already pull conventional, utilize snatch grip deadlifts. The set up for a snatch grip pull is generally a bit narrower, and forces you to drop the hips more so than the conventional deadlift.

2. Don’t limit your grip training to exercises that close the hand.

Admittedly, I have a pretty weak grip. Granted, there are different qualities to grip strength, just as there are different strength qualities. My ability to resist the opening of my hand is pretty good; due mainly to many years of holding heavy stuff. In my recent efforts to improve my ability “crush” and “pinch” I have done a few things. A few in particular I brought up in this Installment 29. Another approach that’s yielded a noticeable difference is training my hand “opening” strength.

The benefit to training finger extension is two-fold. First, doing so helps to keep the joints of the lower arm healthy. If you are doing a lot of heavy lifting or playing sports that are grip intensive, you’re spend a considerable amount time flexing the elbow, wrist, and fingers. Simply doing some work in the opposite direction will create some much-needed balance. Second, improving your opening strength will improve your closing strength. Stronger and healthier is never a bad combination, so what are some exercises to train finger extension. Here are a few I picked up in John Brookfield’s Mastery of Hand Strength.

3. Monitor outputs for more productive “conditioning.”

As I have harped on a few times, conditioning is somewhat of a “garbage term” mainly because it is too generally applied. What you do for conditioning should be in line with your training goals. If your goal is increased performance, in power development for sport or weightlifting, you want to make sure you’re training in a way that aids your end goal. Many conditioning protocols are designed to more or less run people into the ground. If not that, then they are not really designed with any rhyme or reason at all, except to include a day of moving around that makes you sweat and generally hate life for 15–30min. While something of this nature may be productive for fat loss, or to fill an exercise quota in general fitness populations, it is actually taking away from your efforts the other 3–4 days per week. Here are two easy ways to improve your conditioning days. Each is based on the concept of repeating quality outputs.

In scenario 1, you will adjust rest to produce consistent outputs. This is pretty simple. Start to monitor what you get done, and then adjust rest to continually do the same or better. For example, say you are doing 15yd shuttle sprints. You want to get 10 quality sprints in, and you have set a rest interval of 45 seconds between each one. You run the first two in 4.4s and 4.42s, respectively. Your third time is 4.56. At this point you would add 10s to the rest. You run three more with this rest all under 4.5sec. Your seventh sprint is 4.6, what do you do? Add 10s to the rest. Continue like this until all ten sprints are complete.

The same concept can be used for exercises done for repetitions under a given interval. For example, rounds one through three you were able to knock out 15 kettlebell swings in 20s. The fourth round you only got 14. Add 10s of rest, and continue.

In scenario 2, you will monitor outputs and end conditioning sessions (or the exercise) when outputs become unrepeatable. I’d use this after you have done a fair amount of work in scenario 1. This way you have a solid idea of what a good rest interval would be to accomplish ten sets of a given exercise and be able to repeat the same output every time. Once you have an idea of how you are going to set it up, you simply stop the exercise, or session, once you can no longer achieve the same output. Each week, or each session, your goal would be to get more sets in, with the same rest interval before you can no longer achieve the same output.

4. Clean up your step-up execution with this variation.

5. Teach your bench press spotter to give a proper hand-off.

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12 Responses to “Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better: Installment 33”

  1. Personal trainer Oakville Says:

    Really like the info on finger extension. An overlooked aspect but definitely important in everyday life especially as we age. We spend so much time in wrist and finger flexion that over time it will start to favor that position. Go to any nursing home and it’s as prevalent as kyphosis. Thanks keep working

  2. Eric Feigl Says:

    Not a huge fan of the double over hand spotting technique but great justification. Another useful tip is to always spot from mid-bar. I’ve witnessed inexperienced coaches and athletes lift from outside lifters grip and its just begging for improper lift off balance and injury.

  3. abdi Says:

    Would finger tip push-up work finger extension well ?

  4. Chris Johnson Says:

    Nice piece Eric!

    Dr. Nicholas Sr, who passed about 5 years ago, used to always talk about the importance of the rubber band drill. Great minds think alike! Keep up the good work!

  5. Jake Johnson Says:

    Great post as usual.

    I have been switching up stance width, particularly with front squats, are you are exactly right.

    I usually squat from a wider stance, but recently I switched it up, and I definitely saw some positive carry-over.

    Keep up the awesome content!

  6. Shane Says:

    I Use the finger ext with a rubber band. Love that one. Great take aways greag that i can use with my clients. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Brian Seelos Says:

    The finger extension exercises in the rice and with the cup are great. I have seen extension bands, but never seen the rice technique. I’m definitely going to thrown this at my athletes starting on monday.

  8. Scott Gunter Says:

    Greg,

    I like the finger extension exercises for balance and healthy joint mechanics but you mention they actually improve flexion grip strength. I was wondering if you could touch on the mechanism behind this. I’m highly involved with mixed martial arts, so I’m writing an article on grip strength and this would be an excellent addition.

  9. Derek Says:

    Greg – The hand-off tip was great. Simple yet often done incorrectly. Jar lifting tip was something I’ve never seen and will definitely try. Thanks!

  10. Daniel Says:

    I recently saw a video by Louie Simmons of Westside and he said that a narrow stance squat/dead lift does not translate to a wide stance, but a wide stance squat/dead lift translates to a narrow stance. I absolutely respect both people with different viewpoints, but both can not be right.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3LfuJihPhfQ

  11. Greg R. Says:

    Daniel, what Louie Simmons does with the population he works with, works for him. I am speaking from experiences in my own training, those I have trained, trained with, and those whose advice I find applicable to my training style and the methods I prefer to use with those I work with. I stand behind the concept that narrow improves wide. I also respect that not to be an absolute, as there are certain variables which change this concept. Nothing is absolute, and therefore – both can be right.

  12. Teddy Willsey Says:

    @greg – great response.

    @daniel – All training transfers, the question is how much and to what degree. It is the specificity by which you target your training that determines the dynamic correspondence and final outcome. Louie Simmons’ is a genius innovator, however, he primarily speaks on behalf of geared lifters w/a posterior chain dominant squat that minimizes knee flexion. This is why he advocates the wide posterior shifted box squat for his lifters; he likens this movement to a “hamstring curl.” In this instance, the narrow stance that typically shifts anteriorly and requires more knee flexion won’t be as effective. For an olympic style squatter, a narrow stance has a great carryover. This is an outcome based problem, what are your individual goals? To paraphrase Greg, it’s all relative.

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