Cache Valley Strength & Conditioning

Established in 2008, CVSC is Cache Valley’s premier training facility with services ranging from personal training, program design, athletic team conditioning, HyperFit group classes and more.

Filtering by Category: Training

Constantly Varied or Random?

At CVSC we pride ourselves in thoughtful, progressive programming that is meant to enable athletes to have meaningful exercise and measurable progress. This means that sometimes you'll see a workout you've done recently pop up again or movements vary in weight or intensity over a course of time. These are tell-tell signs of programming. As in, planning daily workouts around a long-term goal. Not just picking what sounds fun or brutal for the occasion. As an athlete that means that if you follow the programming & show up consistently, you can expect to see the progress intended. Keeping a log book and following the workouts are great ways to see progress. Here's an excerpt from a Breaking Muscle on the danger of poorly programmed gyms and cherry-picking athletes.  Cherry-Picking and Birthday WODs: How to Stop the Madness

Cherry-Picking and Birthday WODs: How to Stop the Madness | Breaking Muscle

"Any time you cherry-pick your workouts, you are engaging in random, rather than constantly varied training. When you pull up tomorrow’s WOD on the gym website, see “5K run,” and opt to go down to a competing box to get a better ass-kicker, you are subverting your own progress. Presumably, the run is programmed by your coach for a reason, and if you opt out because you can’t stand running and would rather do something fun, your training has just become less effective.

When programmed correctly, you should be able to pull back to a bird’s-eye view and see a logical progression of like-kind and quality training sessions. Today may be a 5km run, but over the course of twelve weeks, you may notice that every Tuesday, there is some work toward better endurance.

What you see is a slow, but intentional upward progression. This should be supplemented by short aerobic power pieces, lactic endurance pieces, and other training during your week. But imagine if you look at the workout every Tuesday and think ,“Meh! Running again!” and just head on down to a competitors gym for “Double Grace.” Two things are happening:

  1. You are taking one piece of your own box’s puzzle and discarding it.
  2. You are taking a piece from a completely different puzzle and trying to jam it into your own."

 Read the Full Article HERE

Why Barbells Are Better Than Machines | The Art of Manliness

Why Barbells Are Better Than Machines | The Art of Manliness.

Here's a guest post on The Art of Manliness by Mark Rippetoe (if you are unaware he is an American strength training coach and author of Starting Strength, among several other fitness-related pieces).

"When a man walks into a gym, he may be confused about where to spend his time — in the section full of gleaming, easy-to-figure-out machines, or over by the barbells, where he might be more intimidated both by how to use them, and the kind of guys who are gathered there.

Let’s just clear it up right here: barbell training is the best way to train for strength. Bar none. Nothing else even comes close to the effectiveness of barbell squatspressesdeadlifts, and the Olympic lifts for the development of strength, power, and muscular size. The reason barbells are so very valuable is that they are the most ergonomically-friendly load-handling tool in existence – they allow very heavy weights to be gripped in the hands and moved directly over the center of the foot. Their extremely adjustable nature allows small increases in stress to be applied to the whole body over the full range of motion of all your major leverage systems; these small increases accumulate into amazing gains in size and strength for many uninterrupted years of progress.

A long time ago, gyms were equipped with barbells. And that was pretty much what you went to a gym to use – a steel bar and iron plates that were added to increase the weight. "

But then something happened just a few decades ago that changes the way a typical gym worked.

"An alternative to this perfectly logical approach to getting stronger was developed from some odds and ends that were floating around in gyms owned by guys who could weld: exercise machines that worked a few isolated muscles at a time. Simple versions have been in use for decades, and old photos of leg extension and leg curl machines can be found in magazines from the 50s and 60s.

In the middle 1970s, Arthur Jones began marketing his line of Nautilus machines to health clubs, sports teams, high schools, colleges and universities, and everybody else on the planet. Within a couple of years, he’d sold about $300 quadrillion dollars worth of the beautifully welded, beautifully designed electric-blue machines, 12 pieces at a time. Nautilus revolutionized the health club industry, establishing the concept of the modern gym, like the one you’re probably a member of with sales offices in the front, a huge roomful of shiny machines in the back, and several employees roaming the floor."

But this revolution didn't work. Despite all the promises, marketing and ease-of-use, machines couldn't replace the barbell.

"When one is “strong” one’s entire body is strong, not just one's quadriceps, or biceps, or triceps. Machines have never formed the basis of the competitive strength athlete's program, because they lack the barbell's capacity for long-term progress: you cannot increase the weight on a leg extension for years, like you can a deadlift, because muscles do not normally work in isolation from all the other muscles in the area.

Since your body as a whole can move heavier loads than individual muscles, strength training using barbells applies much more stress to the system — in a good way — than a machine which is only working one isolated muscle group at a time. "

In short, machines can strengthen and build isolated muscles, but for strength gains, the ultimate goal of all training, they cannot surpass the effectiveness that come with barbell training, especially in compound lifts (deadlifts, squats, olympic lifts, etc).

Click here to read the full article. 

or here to read more Barbell training at Starting Strength 


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Stress - Friend or Foe

Stress is usually a maligned term for a state of unhappiness & anxiety to avoid at all costs - we are medicating for it, avoiding it and demonizing it. But stress is an important factor in getting stronger. Stress exhibits pressure on a person & garners a physiological response.

A simple way to asses whether a training program is working for you is to ask yourself "What kind of stress am I experiencing?"

A good training program will produce a stressor on your body that will exhibit change - muscle growth, fat burning, increased bone density, improved cardiovascular function, etc. This is referred to as "eustress", a type of stress that is beneficial for the experiencer. If you never train outside of a comfortable weight or pace you may never create the amount of stress necessary to see change. And so by avoiding stress (or challenges) you avoid growth.

On the other hand -if you are not recovering, if you're suffering from chronic injury or illness you are likely experiencing the symptoms of 'distress'. This is when a program creates more stressors on the body than the body can adapt to & to the negative affect of the athlete.

Oftentimes what is actually a beautifully written program that would normally garner 'eustress' becomes a bad program for reasons outside of the plan. Athletes I've spoken with frequently admit that in their eagerness to see results they are skipping rest days, pushing 100% on active recovery & often on top of poor sleep and nutrition. With any one of these elements, what becomes a scenario for gains becomes a distress on the body and the athlete no longer can recover quickly enough. There is such thing as too much of a good thing.

Trust in your program that you will adapt and grow,  don't skip your rest days, don't regularly stack extra workouts, eat well, sleep well & the results will come. Don't fear the stress - embrace it, understand it & grow from it.

 

More on stress and good programs from Catalyst Athletics. 

Homeostasis: The Basis of Training by Bob Takano

 

The Last Rep Rule & Virtuosity

Screen Shot 2014-09-03 at 7.44.25 PM A while back I came upon this post from CrossFit Thames that stuck with me. It talks about "The Last Rep Rule"

"Last Rep Rule is an idea that I should move better on my last rep than on my first one (since I had all the previous repetitions to practice for my last one) and that my workout is not over before my last rep is a good one. "

The essence of the goal - good movement & improved skill - is a great goal to aim for. Everyone has witnessed a gym-mate doing 1/2 hearted pushups or ugly deadlifts in the spirit of 'getting done'. But what is getting done in that situation is much less valuable, and potentially dangerous, than what could be gained from committing yourself to quality reps, through exhaustion & even under a time cap. If you watch the best of the best in any field, you will rarely see their form crumble - even at the last second of the last competition. The common response is "They could do more". Why? Because the common man's perception of judging what is 'hard' is when someone's body folds under the weight, their bar path diverts, or their kips becomes labored and jerky. But a professional in their sport knows, trains & lives in a way that reinforces good 'reps'. This doesn't just make them champions because its faster or more efficient, but also because injury is not a sign of success or prowess.

The article also touches on the counter problem to this. Intensity. You do not have to trade one for the other, and when they both coincide beautifully, you have achieved virtuosity. "Virtuosity: the ability to make difficult movements seem effortless, even beautiful." 

"How does the way you moved in this workout translate to how you will move and feel in the next one? Success is “doing your best today to become the best you are capable of becoming”. This applies equally to attention you put in the quality of movement as it does to intensity of your effort. Virtuosity (doing the common uncommonly well) is your ability to maximise these two together, not just one or the other."

Read the full article here: The Last Rep Rule - CrossFit Thames

Midline Stabilization (or How to Safely Body Slam a Human)

Midline  

Here's an article from Tabata Times about Midline Stabilization worth reading:

Coach Glassman defines midline stabilization as “…rigidity along the spine during functional movement.”

"I believe this is the first, and one of the most important skills, any CrossFit athlete should master.  Why?  It’s all about safety and efficiency.  Anytime we let our head and spine come out of alignment during exercise, we increase the potential to injure ourselves.  It’s pretty obvious to see how poor midline stabilization can lead to injury.  Beyond the safety and proper mechanics involved when we have midline stabilization, it also allows us to be more efficient and powerful."

" I like to equate our midline to a transmission of a car, whereas our sexy butt and legs (throw in our shoulders and arms too) are our engine.  A rock solid midline allows us to transfer all the power from our prime movers to whatever heavy, nasty object we are trying to sling around, including just your body. "

 Read the article (link below) for 6 steps to achieving stabilization and avoid rounded deadlifts, 'slinky' pushups & painful thrusters.

READ UP

Seven Tips For Balancing Training With Life

 

"Lack of time is the most commonly cited excuse for not exercising. But surveys suggest that those who exercise regularly are just as busy with their jobs, families and other responsibilities as those who don’t work out. So the time excuse is just that: an excuse." - Matt Fitzgerald via  Seven Tips For Balancing Training With Life

There are very few of us who have the luxury of training whenever it feels convenient, and for the rest of us, it often is very inconvenient. Waking up at the crack of dawn before the kids wake up, after a long day of work, during your lunch break, snuck in between classes, the weekends when you could be sleeping in, or just seasonally.

These sacrifices of time can sometimes feel daunting and in some cases, create job and family conflict. Its then you have to ask yourself what is most important and how to make it a priority. With good planning and realistic adjustments, working out can be a consistent, beneficial addition to your week. Courtesy of triathlon.competitor.com are seven tips for finding that balance between all the things that  are important to you. 

Make a Schedule

"Sit down and write out what you do and when you do it in a typical workday. Look for any waste or excess that can be addressed to create more training time."

Focus on Quality "...before you even look for ways to increase the quantity of your training, first increase its quality."

Be consistent "Consistency is the most important characteristic of an effective training regimen. So if you don’t always have time for what you consider a “full workout” every day, then at least try to do more than nothing every day." 

Read the full list here and assess whether your habits and goals are insync. Eliminate those things that are wasteful or harmful and prioritize the good, whether that be more quality time spent with the gym, your spouse or your career. You don't have to pick one either, a healthy balance means honestly putting those things in order and devoting them the time they deserve. Make time for the things that matter.

Getting Old & Getting Better

Jack LaLanne  

We all are guilty of it at some point or another. "I wish I had started Cross Fit when I was his age!" "I'm too old for that stuff." "Just think what I could do if I'd known about this 10 years ago."

 

We feel too old, and too late to really achieve our 'prime' fitness. Now its just trying to hold things together & 'get through this'.

But this believe that physical fitness, athletic prowess is reserved for 18-24 year olds is a fallacy. Just because you didn't discover the power of High Intensity Training, mountain biking, swimming or weightlifting until you were in your 30's, 50's or 80's does not mean you can not achieve a level of fitness new to you. Of course, your training will have to be different, and less aggressive than if you were 18, but you have the capacity to still do things and feel how you never have before. Matt Foreman wrote about getting into weightlifting later in life and why its not such a bad thing compared to his lifetime of work:

"I hit all of my best lifts when I was 26. I snatched 341 back then. Now, I’m 41 and I snatch around 280. I’ll probably never get back to 341. That means I’ll never set another lifetime PR. But those of you who are starting at an older age still have a long run of PRs ahead of you. Maybe you’re not going to compete in the Olympic Trials, but you’re still on the way up. You’ve just learned how to do the OLifts. Even if you’re an old person, you’re still going to get that climbing-the-ladder phase we all experience in our early training years. You probably won’t be lifting the same weights as the young studs in their 20s, but so what? What you’re doing is still awesome."

-Matt Foreman via "A Weightlifting Lesson from Miley Cyrus"

 

So you can't compete with the 20- somethings, but you also have the chance to hit numbers and times and lifetime goals that you have missed out on when you were too young to care about fitness & nutrition. Some kids have the unique capacity to become masters in their sport as a young age, but most of us were too busy trying to get a date to focus or too poor to eat anything but frozen chimichangas and stay up all night. And luckily, we were young enough that our bodies thrived anyway.

But as you age the importance of regular exercise increases dramatically. Without it, our bodies are losing muscle mass, bone density & mobility. You aren't just 'holding it together' with regular metcons;  every day you choose to be active and healthy you are strengthening your bones,  improving mental clarity & fighting Alzheimers, preventing heart disease, and living longer in general, and with consistency, achieving similar health benefits to those who have been exercising their entire lives!

And finally, understand that some of the best 'athletes' in any given gym are not necessarily those finishing first or lifting the most. The great thing about discovering new hobbies and passions later in life is the capacity to approach it with the humility of being a novice at 50 & the wisdom of knowing your body has limits. Or as Oscar Wilde put it, "I'm too old to know everything". When you are young, your body will take the abuse of poor movement patterns & overly-heavy weight but as we age your body won't tolerate bad form or poor mobility. You may be slower to load up the bar & quicker to correct mistakes - markers of a great client and habits of a  'lifetime athlete'. A good coach will recognize that the presence and persistence of athletes at every stage of life are the markers of a truly successful gym.

 The choices we make every day and at every age can help shape our golden years to be a lot more gold. Channel your inner Jacke LaLanne and do not let age be your excuse or crutch. 

 

 

 

Common Mistakes when Trying to Change your Body

weightsThis article from the Poliquin Group, "Seven Mistakes Women Make When Trying To Change Their Bodies" has great crossover application to men as well but primarily focuses on myths perpetuated in women's weight loss & fitness magazines and popular media.  A couple key being

#1. Focusing on Getting "Toned"

The average training program for getting “toned” has women lifting super light weights and doing bizarre exercises. This is not an effective strategy for changing your body.
 
We’re going to let you in on a little secret.  Getting toned requires two things to happen:
 
•    Lose excess body fat •    Increase the size of muscle cells to provide shape

#6. Fearing Dietary Fat

...filling your diet with beneficial fats (nuts, seeds, meat, fish, eggs, dairy, avocado, coconut oil) provides nutrients so the body can produce brain transmitters, build bones, repair tissue, and have a healthy metabolism.
 
Third, fat is critical for reproductive health in women because it’s used to manufacture hormones and improves gene signaling that regulates hormone balance.

Read the full 7 mistakes list here and educated yourself, male or female, on what dietary and training methods work best for you goals.

Stick-to-itiveness & The Dark Side of Training

Oftentimes in the pursuit of physical fitness we try out new training programs to garner new results. And with most people new to a sport/program/challenge, its not all PRs and victory laps. Its just a lot of hard work. Grueling, hard work. You might find yourself in the middle of a long set of burpees and decide that this programming really isn't right for you. First off, making decisions while doing burpees isn't the best idea. And secondly, ask yourself, "WHY do I want to switch/quit this program?"

  • Is it because its challenging?
  • Involves movements you dislike or struggle with?
  • You don't understand the point?
  • You haven't seen progress lately?
  • You are feeling excessively sore or suffering from injury?

If it involves any of these, you should first talk to your coach and tell them your concerns before you just jump the bandwagon. And if its any of the last two, you may have to ask yourself if you are A. following the program correctly and B. if the program is smart. C. if you have been following long enough to measure its success. If it is indeed a healthy program you are following well then results may just take longer than you expect & jumping to a new program that has more pullups and less rowing might doing yourself a major disservice. As Glenn Pendlay wisely wrote,

"...Giving in to temptation is almost always wrong. Assuming you are following a well balanced program to begin with, have some faith. The road to the top is always filled with curves, and the road will only get longer if you jump around from one thing to another in your training.

A good solid belief in what you are doing and a willingness to stay the course and put the required amount of work will get you to the finish line a lot quicker than changing your training program every time you hit a bump in the road.

If you can’t do this, then just like Darth Vader, I find your lack of faith disturbing. "

Glenn Pendlay via Glennpendlay.wordpress.com

vader

So don't be the guy coaches can't stand. Have some stick-to-itiveness, set some goals, and may the force be with you.

How Exercise Makes Us Happier

Its not always obvious based on the faces of those pushing through a workout at CVSC  but exercise makes you happy, its science. For many that is tied to the community of friends that are made here and the positive physical changes in your body but the very act of exercise releases positive feelings. 

In an article from Fast Company: What Happens To Our Brains When We Exercise And How It Makes Us Happier 

"The first 20 minutes of moving around, if someone has been really sedentary, provide most of the health benefits. You get prolonged life, reduced disease risk — all of those things come in in the first 20 minutes of being active.”

So get moving and get happy. 

Safety, Respect & Being a Good Gym Member

IMG_3258 Making a gym a safe and fun place for everyone means a lot of things working together. Coaches need to ensure movements are being performed properly, that equipment is working correctly and that the floors & bars are clean. But there is another factor that can make or break these efforts; the athletes themselves.

Coming in with a positive attitude, awareness of your surroundings & respect for fellow athletes and equipment is what makes the gym a great place for everyone. Greg Everett of Catalyst Athletics, recently wrote about this in his article "Be a Good Gym Member: Safety, Respect and Taking Care of Equipment"

"The way you treat the equipment in your gym says a lot about you, not just as an athlete, but as a person. Whether or not you know it, you’re being judged, and if it’s by me, it’s probably harshly. For those of you with good hearts, but not enough experience to know proper facility etiquette yet, here is a handy list of rules to help you take care of the gym you train in, show the people around you that you care, and be safe. " -Greg Everett

He has written a list on some of the most common and offensive gym 'faux pas' that create a dirty, dangerous environment and shorten the lift of the equipment. Some are obvious, "Put Away Whatever You Use". While others may not be well-known courtesies like "Don't Drop Bars into Vertical Racks".

CVSC has  our own Gym Rules board covering some of the basics and if ever in doubt, ask a coach, they are there to help you! Not sure if you should load 45# plates onto a 15# bar?  How about 10# plates on a 45# bar? Ripped a callous on the pullup bar? Kicked the chalk bucket? Ask for some help and you will always be greeted with friendly guidance and when needed, a bandaid or Clorox wipe.

 

The Cardio Myth

This week we're talking about training. Specifically, cardio, or aerobic conditioning.

Featuring an article from T Nation documenting Rachel Cosgrove's experience with changing body composition when she trained for an IronMan. Her results were surprising and counter to the popular media's message that slow-state cardio is the way to burn fat and get in shape. When she had completed the grueling event she returned to interval training and had the results she was originally seeking with running. Every globo gym features an iconic long line of treadmills with women (and men) slowly plodding along in front of their tvs. While well meaning, they are clearly 1. Not approaching weight loss in the most effective and 2. most fun way. The enjoyment and time saving in a 20 min session of weight training and interval work can creating an environment where your body is building fat-burning muscle and you can engage in some therapeutic high-intensity exercise!

"...I still enjoy heading out for a run or a bike ride occasionally, but I don't do it for fat loss. I do it because I enjoy it. Think about it. If you do a thirty minute walk at a steady-state, moderate pace, you'll shed about 150 calories.

If you mixed in eight thirty-second sprints, you'll burn closer to 200 calories. But the biggest factor is that after an interval session, your metabolism can stay elevated for a full day and you'll end up burning two to three times the total calories you'd expect to burn from lower intensity exercise."

So, go ahead and go for a jog if it clears your mind and gets you out of the house, but know that if your goal is fat loss and muscle-building, devote at least 3 days a week to some form of interval or weight training. Depending on your fitness goals, you will find different CVSC classes will help you reach your goals and none of them involve treadmills.

So, who's up for some TABATA?

To read the full article, with pictures here, T NATION | The Final Nail in the Cardio Coffin.