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Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better: Installment 37

Written on March 23, 2013 at 4:14 am, by Eric Cressey

Courtesy of Greg Robins, here are this week’s tips to improve your nutrition and strength and conditioning programs.

1. Try these two cues to keep your butt down with your bench press technique.

2. Remember to have fun!

If you are reading this post, then you probably fall into this category: You take the time to educate yourself on training and nutrition – so much so that you might tend to find yourself over analyzing and reasoning everything you do. That’s all well and good, but think back to the days when you just started training. Maybe some of you had to fight against your will to workout, but most of you probably did it because you – I don’t know – actually liked it?!

If I scrutinized everything I did in my training, I’d come to the conclusion that about 20% of the stuff I do isn’t that “intelligent” at all. Then why would I do it? After all, aren’t I supposed to know better than most? The truth is that too many people know too much for their own good. They overanalyze and dissect every little thing they do in the gym.

I used to be one of those guys who scoffed at others in the gym who did curls and triceps extensions. “Ha!” I would think. “What a waste of time, they should be doing more compound exercises.” Now I know enough to think otherwise.

Make sure your training includes some things you just want to do. Want to do curls, and shrugs, and band extensions until your arms explode? Do it. Be safe, but have some fun, for crying out loud.

3. Try spaghetti squash, a versatile vegetable that requires very little preparation.

Spaghetti squash is awesome as a vegetable side, and you can even use it to replace pasta in various recipes.  The best part is that it’s ridiculously easy to prepare.  How easy?  Try this.

Cut the squash in half, and scoop out the seeds.  Pour a little olive oil on both halves, and then sprinkle cinnamon, salt, and pepper on there.  Bake it at 350 degrees until it softens up. 

Yep, it’s that simple.

4. Ladies, consider doing more volume.

I have trained my fair share of women. I have coached numerous figure competitors, female athletes, a few female strength athletes, and enough middle aged women that I feel like I have 5 or 6 people in my life who would willingly claim me as their son. Heck, I even train my own mom twice a week.

There are quite a few things I have realized about training women, but one stands out: they THRIVE lifting weights at about 50 – 75% of what they’re actually capable of lifting. Maybe it’s a neuromuscular coordination thing, a mental thing, or likely a hormonal thing. The point is I am very certain it is true.

50-75% is an optimal intensity for training at higher volumes. Volume is a measure of “total work done,” and knowing that, I tend to keep the volume in a woman’s program (person dependent) quite high. Smart waving through varying amounts of volume should still take place for the best result. However, the “low volume” mark for women can be set higher than that mark for men.

For the women out there, consider training at a higher volume more frequently. This is easily done by adding additional sets to your main exercises and/or by adding 1-3 drop-down sets after your main work sets. The following is an example of a drop-down set:

A1. Squat – 3 sets of 6 at 185lbs, followed by 2 sets of 10-12 at 145lbs

5. Match hand position to stance width.

Recently, Eric did a short video on hand spacing difference between the sumo and conventional deadlift. In short, with the wider sumo deadlift one should utilize a wider spacing, and with a narrower conventional stance the opposite is true. This tip is also applicable to the squat.

Many people advocate getting the hands in as close to the shoulders as possible. I find this works very well with narrower stance squat set-ups, such as the Olympic high bar squat. However, as taller individuals move their feet wider and wider they may find more success using a hand spacing that is also wider. Many folks can go super wide and manage to move the hands in quite narrow. While this does create a lot of “good stiffness,” it may not make for the best control of the bar, or ability to find the optimal spinal position.

A very narrow hand position will force the torso to extend quite a bit, keeping the torso more upright. That fits well in a stance width that depends on a more vertical back position to keep the bar over the center of the foot. However, as the feet move out wider, the lift changes, and a more pronounced forward lean is optimal for keeping the load over the center of the foot. It’s not the answer for everyone, and many people are successful doing the opposite of that. If you are having issues getting comfortable under the bar, give this a try!

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13 Responses to “Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better: Installment 37”

  1. Chris Says:

    A tip for cooking the squash, microwave for 1-2 mins before cutting in half. Makes it alot easier to cut

  2. Ronell Smith Says:

    Now I have no excuse for not trying spaghetti squash. Been curious but never pulled the trigger.

    Also, you hit the nail on the head as regards volume. I’m amazed at how people (men and women) are all over density but adding sufficient volume and intensity is woefully lacking.

    RS

  3. Shane Says:

    Love points 2 and 4. I used to be the point 2 guy. Not anymore

  4. Alex Says:

    Nice tips on the bench, i tend to lift my butt on heavier sets and i feel pressure on my neck, i will definitely give this a try..

  5. bree Says:

    Wow! 185lbs???!!! Like about 83/84 kilograms right?? So about 40kg on both sides! I mean I’m a big girl and all(around 105 kg, 1.76cm tall) but i’m no way near that yet!! The best max I did was about 30 kg!! (15kg on both sides). So I could go way up still huh?? How fast can I go up to those numbers like squatting 185lbs???
    Can I reach that on my own(like I always have train uptill now still) or do I hire a coach for this?? I’m dead serious so please let me know. Thank you!

  6. Eric Cressey Says:

    Bree,

    I’ve seen a lot of females squat that heavy. It’s very doable with the right mix of effort, consistency, and technique practice.

  7. Sven Says:

    Hi Eric,

    You say for woman weights at about 50 – 75% are the best for training.

    I just wonder might it be true for young male athlets too, I mean age of 14 to 18?

  8. Greg Robins Says:

    Sven,

    For sure. I think sub maximal training is where it’s at for athletes. Especially younger ones. I should have clarified a little better to add that while females thrive up to 75%, in many cases even higher, they tend to breakdown when going for 90%+. It’s not always the case, but more times than not.

    You will run into many women (I certainly have) who can hit a certain weight for 5 reps but can’t touch their theoretical 1RM. If we take this concept to be valid, then it makes more sense to stay at lower percentages and achieve various performance / physique related goals through the addition and progression of volume, rather than intensity.

  9. Megan Says:

    I have found tip #4 to be very true for myself. An injury sidelined me from doing much lower body work, so I have been focusing on my upper body with a bit less way, but more sets/reps, and I’m getting quite strong. lean, and developed! It’s great and fun.

  10. Sven Says:

    Hi Greg,

    Thank you for explanations. Can you give any reading suggestions about sub-maximal training method?

    Kind regard,

    Sven

    PS I am not professional coach, just father trying to help my kids.

  11. vanessa Says:

    Liked this article! I squat heavy my Max is 265lb and I weigh 155lb. I tend to use narrow grip in the HBBS. I will try the wider grip and test how the load feels! :)

  12. Chris Says:

    I just bought the squash today before reading your post. Hmmmm, might just give it a try…
    I agree on using wider stance in squats. I have been practicing it for a while and find that it works great.

  13. George Says:

    All super useful tips! I’m starting a weightlifting program within the next week or so, so seeing all these technique pointers will give me a good head start. From reading the comments, it looks like I’m also going to have to invest in some spaghetti squash.

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