The Lunge and its Progressions – Part 2

I hope you all enjoyed Saturdays BLOG on the Lunge and its Progressions – Part 1. Today, I follow this up with the second part of the BLOG and provide some even more challenging derivatives of the Lunge exercise.

7. & 8. DB Single Arm Lunge (Static & Walking) – These exercises are similar to the dumbbell standing and walking lunge, however involves holding only one dumbbell. Using this single arm approach makes the body want to rotate and therefore the core muscles have to work in an anti rotation manner to allow a smooth and controlled lunge to be performed. The standing lunge should be performed with both the same arm and leg and opposite arm and leg with it important to try and keep the hips and shoulders as level as possible.

9. DB Single Arm Overhead Lunge (Static & Walking) – This exercise involves holding one dumbbell overhead and then performing the lunge in a static or walking action. This progresses on the previous single arm hold by still creating an anti rotational movement but also requires shoulder stability and strength to perform the action. This again should be performed on the same and opposite sides and is great for a full body exercise.

10. Barbell Lunge to Press – This exercise involves placing the barbell behind the neck as in a traditional standing lunge exercise and stepping out into the lunge position. When in this position the barbell is then pressed vertically while holding the lunge position then returned to behind the neck before returning to the standing position. This places great stabilisation on the lower body due to having to hold this position (the knee shouldn’t touch the ground) and also works the upper body in the pressing action. This exercise can also be performed in a walking lunge action.

11. Dumbbell Lunge & Pressing – This exercise is similar to the one above except involves holding the dumbbells at shoulder height. However, by using dumbbells this allows a single arm pressing action to be used, which creates greater functionality and recruitment of the core and smaller stabilising muscles. In the video below you will see a lunge to double arm press, a lunge to single arm press (same side) and lunge to single arm press (opposite side).

Hope you enjoyed these lunge exercises and progressions and I hope it helps you put some variation and increased difficulty into your strength & conditioning programs. There are many other variations of the lunge that can be performed as well as using a variety of bodyweight lunge exercises, especially in warm ups.

It is important to remember when performing these exercises that it is done in a controlled manner and the key coaching points of the standard lunge are always followed:

  • The trunk should remain upright with the scapula retracted and chest out.
  • The shoulders and hips should be level throughout the movement.
  • The knee and hip should be level (both hips and knees have a 90 degree bend)
  • The front foot should be flat with weight on the heel and knee aligned with the big toe.

Always use a load that you can perform with good control and try not to progress the exercise too quickly. For further information on progressing exercises and making your training more functional, why don’t you contact KT Conditioning.


The Lunge and its Progressions – Part 1

Following my previous BLOG on How to make the Bench Press more Functional I wanted to look at another fundamental exercise for the lower body – The LUNGE. Over the next two BLOGs I am gonna give you some lunging exercises (with descriptions and videos) that’ll show you how to progress the exercise to make it more difficult and FUNCTIONAL!

First of all, can we remember what functional training is? Well I’ll remind you! Functional training is designed to increase the difficulty of an exercise by challenging the environment (of the body and equipment) to ultimately involve more smaller and deeply located stabiliser muscles. This greater stabiliser involvement will hopefully lead to a greater performance and improved training results as well as a reduced injury rate.

Whats is the Lunge? The Lunge is a strength training exercise primarily for the gluteals, quadriceps and hamstring muscles. A basic lunging movement involves stepping out from a standing position with feet hip width apart and bending the front leg until so it has a 90 degree angle. The back knee is lowered to just above the ground in a controlled manner and then the person pushes back off the front foot into the starting, standing position. Some key coaching points for the lunge are:

  • The trunk should remain upright with the scapula retracted and chest out.
  • The shoulders and hips should be level throughout the movement.
  • The knee and hip should be level (both hips and knees have a 90 degree bend)
  • The front foot should be flat with weight on the heel and knee aligned with the big toe.

However, as I said there are a number of lunging movements that can not only increase the contribution of the lower leg muscles but also increase the activation of the core and upper body muscles. Check out the exercises below.

1. The Barbell Standing Lunge – This is the traditional lunge exercise as described above. See the front and side views with legs changing in an alternating way. You can also perform the lunge action with the same leg for the desired reps. For this standing lunge you can also use dumbbells but as the load increases this may be held back by grip strength!

2. The Barbell Standing Reverse Lunge – This is a similar action to the standing lunge except you step backwards with one foot before driving back to the starting point off the front leg. This action increases co-ordination as you can no longer see where you are stepping and therefore increases the recruitment of more stabilising muscles.

3. Lunge to Twist with MB - This action is similar to the lunge action above except a medicine ball is used, which is held out in front at shoulder height with arms straight. After each lunge step the med ball should be rotated over the front leg as far as possible and then returned to the starting position. This action increases the stabilisation of the lunge and also increases rotatary strength of the core. This is a full body exercise with the weight of the med ball or even using a dumbbell used to increase difficulty, however it is important to maintain a stable lunge position each rep.

4. Walking Lunge – The walking lunge involves lunging with one foot after another and is used more for developing acceleration compared to the decelerative action of the standing lunge. This action is shown with dumbbells but can also be done with a barbell as the load increases. This action increases stabilisation around the hips and can also be used to improve single leg balance and co-ordination by not allowing the stepping foot to touch the floor between lunges (which is seen on some reps)

5. Walking Lunge to Rotation with Med Ball – This action is a combination of the lunge to twist and walking lunge. Again, a medicine ball is used, which is held out in front at shoulder height with arms straight. After each lunge step the med ball should be rotated over the front leg as far as possible and then returned to the starting position. This is a great full body exercise.

6. Barbell Overhead Lunge – This action involves holding a barbell overhead and performing the lunge action. The video shows a standing barbell overhead lunge but this can also be performed in a walking action. Elbows should be locked out with barbell held above the head with hands about shoulder width apart. This again increases the stabilisation, increases core stability but also involves mobility and strength of the shoulders and triceps to hold the barbell overhead. In my opinion, another great full body exercise!

Why don’t you try these lunge exercises. They’re not only exercises for the legs but the core and shoulders I like to classify most of them as a full body exercise. Remember, always use a load that can be performed effectively in a controlled manner and try and train with a partner to help pass the you get in position. Let me know your thoughts on these exercises and hopefully they’ll provide a  challenge!

Also, look out for further lunging exercises and progressions next week!


The Basics of Nutrition – Energy Balance

Over Christmas I wrote some BLOGs to help you all start consuming a healthier diet. These included 10 Nutrition Tips for 2012, Soups and Smothies for increased fruit and veg intake and an Example Healthy Shopping List. Today I want to give you a greater understanding of Basic Nutrition and Energy Balance.

We all need to eat so we have energy to function. Energy is defined as the capacity to do work and is quantified in terms of calories (usually seen as kcals). Calorie content of food is calculated by measuring the amount of heat needed to burn it in a sealed chamber. There are 3 main food groups that produce energy, which are Carbohydrates, Protein and Fats.

1g of Carbohydrate and 1g of Protein both produce 4kcals of energy. However, 1g of Fat produces 9kcals of energy and therefore more work is needed to burn off fat. Therefore, check out some food labels in the supermarket, you should see that foods with greater fat content have a greater total energy. This is because fat produces 9kcals of energy to the 4kcals of carbohydrates and protein.

Energy determines whether we maintain, lose or gain weight. Energy Intake is the amount of energy we consume through our diet. While Energy Expenditure is the amount of energy we burn on a daily basis through our resting energy expenditure and our daily activities and exercise.

To maintain a stable weight – Energy Intake = Energy Expenditure

To GAIN Weight – Eneregy Intake > Energy Expenditure

To LOSE Weight – Energy Intake < Energy Expenditure

Therefore, manipulating either your energy intake through your diet or energy expenditure through your daily activities and exercise can hopefully make the GAINS (muscle) or LOSS (fat) in weight you desire. However, this is sometimes trickier than it seems, especially with athletes.

Everyone is individual and this can be helped by calculating the calories you personally need. Calorie intake depends on a number of factors (such as age, sex, height, body composition and activity level) and can be calculated using a formula known as the Harris-Benedict equation. The Harris-Benedict equation calculates your resting metabolic rate, which is then multiplied by your activity levels to calculate an approximate total calorie needs. The equations are:

Men: BMR = 66 + (13.7 x weight in kg) + (5 x height in cm) – (6.8 x age)

Women: BMR = 655 + (9.6 x weight in kg) + (1.8 x height in cm) – (4.7 x age).

For sedentary people multiply BMR by 1.2, for low active people multiply BMR by 1.4, for active people multiply BMR by 1.6 and for very active people multiply BMR by 1.8. This should give you an approximate Total Calorie Needs.

Why don’t you use these formulas to start calculating your energy needs now. To gain mass you need to be aiming to eat an additional 500kcals per day for a 1kg gain in mass per week. To lose weight you need to be aiming for a deficit of 500kcals a day for a 1kg loss in mass per week. Also remember other factors such as the number of meals a day, meal timing and the intensity and type of exercise you undertake play a part in how you gain or lose weight. For more nutrition information contact us now!


Can Postactivation Potentiation Enhance your Performance?

Postactivation potentiation (PAP) is a scientific principle that is used by strength and conditioning coaches to improve performance. Coaches have started using postactivation potentiation protocols in both warm ups and through training methods such as complex training (weights training that includes a strength exercise supersetted with a power exercise).

Postactivation Potentiation is defined as an increase in muscle twitch and low-frequency tetanic force after a previous conditioning contractile activity. Therefore, PAP may enhance the capacity of muscle to produce more force at a faster rate following subsequent muscle contractions. This means that performance in a vertical jump or sprint may be enhanced following a set of back squats.

As well as using PAP within my coaching, I have also examined its effects within a research study (Till, K. & Cooke, C. 2009. The effects of postactivation potentiation (PAP) on sprint and jump performance of male academy soccer players. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 23[7], 1960-1967). This study examined the effects of PAP protocols on vertical jump and sprint performance in academy footballers. In the study, players performed 4 warm up protocols in a cross over, randomised and counterbalanced design involving either a standard dynamic warm up or a dynamic warm up plus either a 5RM deadlift, 5 tuck jumps or 3 isometric leg extension MVCs (maximal voluntarty contractions). Following this warm up protocol players performed three 20m sprints and then three vertical jumps.

No significant group effects (p>0.05) were found for sprint or jump performance following any PAP protocol, however performance was improved following the deadlift and tuck jump warm ups. When changes in performance were compared between individual players a range of responses were found with responses ranging between a decrease in performance of -7.1% to an increase in performance of 8.2%. These findings suggest that PAP methods can enhance performance in a warm up protocol, however the greatest gains seem to be on an individual basis. Strength and conditioning coaches and players themselves need to examine individual responses to PAP methods during training to establish whether athletes are either responders or non-responders before implementing or rejecting PAP procedures into individual warm up and performance preparation routines.

A number of factors, including method, exercises, intensities, volumes and recover times, need to be considered and understood for the implementation of PAP and these will be discussed another time. However, consider how you could start implementing PAP protocols in your programs to add some potential speed and power gains or why not contact KT Conditioning to find out more!


Developing a Balanced Upper Body Strength Training Program

Today, we have another BLOG from one of my interns, Ben Mays ( Ben discusses developing a balanced upper body strength training program, which follows on from his previous post on developing a balanced lower body training program.

For me it seems more simple to develop a balanced upper body than lower body strength training program. But hands up whose seen this guy in the gym before:

Yep, its the gorilla posture guy! But why does this occur and how can we avoid it? Well to start off with the more technical term for the gorilla / hunchback posture is Kyphosis and it is defined as “an exaggerated forward curving of the thoracic portion of the vertebral column.” Basically it occurs when the anterior (frontal) muscles of the upper body become stronger whilst the posterior musculature (the back) of the upper body does not! This causes the anterior musculature to become short and tight forcing the shoulders to roll forward creating the so called “gorilla posture”. Problems from this hunching can include impingement of the shoulders, problems with the scapula and back pain. All things i’m sure most people would like to avoid!

Ok then, so we know some of the problems that commonly occur if an upper body training programme is not well structured, so how do you structure it properly? Similarly to lower body training I like to break down upper body into four areas: Bilateral Pushing, Bilateral Pulling, Unilateral Pushing and Unilateral Pulling.

Bilateral Pushing: Bilateral Pushing exercises work all the prime movers of the anterior musculature, primarily the pectorals and anterior deltoids. Common exercises would include the Barbell Bench Press, Millitary Press, Push Ups, Dips or Decline/Incline Bench Press variations.

Bilateral Pulling: Bilateral Pulling exercises work all the prime movers of the posterior musculature including the lats, rhomboids and traps. Common exercises include the barbell row, chin up variations and cable rows using a supsension training system (e.g. a TRX trainer).

Unilateral Pushing: As well as using the same muscles as bilateral pushing exercises, unilateral pushing exercises also activate the muscles of the rotator cuff to act as stabilisers. Common unilateral pushing exercises include dumbbell bench and shoulder presses and single arm push ups. (See some interesting functional bench press exercises on my previous BLOG).

Unilateral Pulling: Unilateral Pulling exercises again use the same major muscle groups as bilateral pulling but again uses some of the smaller stabilising muscles of the shoulder and back. Examples of unilateral pulling exercises include dumbbell rows and single arm cable row variations.

Programming: With regards to programming, the key area to focus upon is making sure that there is a correct ratio between the pushing and pulling exercises. In order to prevent the gorilla posture described above a ratio of at least 1:1 is required. This would mean if you did 3 sets of 6 on bench press you would also do 3 sets of 6 chins during the same session. Therefore, within a week the same number of exercises, sets and reps need to be equal for the pushing and pulling action.

A 1:1 ratio is the bare minimum in my opinion. Although some people (e.g., Brett Contreras) program as high as a 2:1 pull to push ratio. (pulling:pushing).( ). Anyway I hope that gives you a few ideas for programming your upper body training.

Thanks for another interesting BLOG Ben. Hopefully you picked up some info on upper body strength training, and remember to make sure pulling is the priority in your strength and conditioning training program.