What You Should Know About Weight Training: Staple Movements and Program Implementation
Now that you have an idea of what it will take to establish the habits and mindset for success with a weight training program, we can begin to get into the fun stuff!
While I firmly believe that every and anybody has the potential to make exponential leaps in strength with a properly regimented program and consistent application, I am first and foremost an advocate for having the ability to coordinate your body when needed, as needed (motor control). It is also important to have the skill for knowing how to move loads in seemingly odd positions and your bodies orientation in relationship with these loads (positional strength) to decrease your risk for intensifying any previously existing faulty movement patterns that may lead to a potential injury or pain. If you’re out due to an injury or excessive pain, those are ultimately days off of work, structured exercise, family time and whatever else you need your body to do on a day to day basis.
Knowing that there are other ways to train strength other than linear movement is an important consideration, in order to provide your body the necessary framework of proper development and capacity for performance at its highest function. Loading movement skillfully and tactfully has tremendous carry over into our daily actions, and is one of the most beneficial and gratifying forms of training that I have led myself to herald, due to its relevance with everyday life. Positional strength training is a great complement to any weight training program, in my opinion.
Just as there are many directions to move, there are an equal amount of variables that we can utilize when implementing our weight training to change the demand we place upon ourselves. We can use these variables as a way to make our training more interesting, to better understand some of our weaknesses and areas to work on, as well as a way to elicit a greater response in our body’s ability to adapt and build quality fibrous content, or the health of our tissues.
Now on to the meat and the bones. Below you will find a list of key variables to apply to your current training toolbox, and start to reap the immediate benefits!
Eccentric loading or “Negatives“
Controlling a load on its descent or act of lowering.
Isometrics or “Holds”
Maintaining a load under muscular tension
The act of raising of the load, or when force exertion is at its highest in relation to the load
Working within a limited range of the muscles capacity, to further develop in weak points of strength or power.
Your grip or hand positioning and its direct affect on the musculature recruited
Your foot stance or leg positioning and its direct affect on musculature recruited
Each of the aforementioned variables has an importance. There is no right or wrong way, but more so an inattentiveness to a variable’s SPECIFIC outcome in accordance with your desired outcome, and ability to perform the task. If your movements or training aren’t on the same page as your ability to move at the given moment, there will be a lot of gray area. Understand why you are doing something and then apply it, all of the time.
Negatives, or eccentric loading, is a fancy word of describing the downward phase of a load, prior to a high force acting upon it. It adds valuable benefits to increasing muscle density and quality, motor control, joint health, and recruitment of stabilizing musculature to support the primary function at hand. All the above will translate to a healthier and more able moving joint, an increased workload or “time under tension”, and better neurological recruitment of the muscle in an isolated or integrated function.
How to utilize it
2, 3 or 4 second counts on the “down” phase of the load. Keep in mind that the “down” phase of the load refers to where the weight is on its path, not always the body’s direct action.
For example, the negative on a squat would be the lowering of the body toward the floor, as a Lat pull down would be on the weights return to rest or the upward phase of the movement. Best way to differentiate between the two would to be determining when the load will be at its path to rest, before force is required.
Now that the weight has been controlled on its down phase, we move even slower, or in this case actually, not at all.
An isometric contraction can occur through various ranges of movement, but for this purpose of application it will occur at a muscles end range, prior to where you would be exerting force to get it back to where you started (most of the time).
Keep in mind that an isometric through various ranges have a very high importance as well, and being strong in the “in between” ranges has a strong translation to overall strength/ power.
Similar to that of a negative, an isometric focuses on the muscles ability to recruit fibers to stabilize a load under tension, communicate with neighboring groups to provide a strong foundation and an their ability to enhance neuromuscular effeciency. Holding tension under the right circumstances can allow for greater force production, ability to mitigate stress, and the laying down of new and stronger tissues.
How to utilize it
Counting 2,3, 4 or 10 second holds based on your ability to sustain quality form and return back to position safely. Keep in mind that the more time under tension, the less “reps” you have to worry about, because the workload is often far more demanding.
Holding the lowest point of your push up while maintaining muscular tension
Holding the barbell or dumbbell just slightly off your chest before you push it back upwards
DB Row: Holding the row at the top of the motion when the back is under tension.
Finally, the point we have all been waiting for. The moment of full exertion.
By eliminating the momentum of the weight or your body’s elastic reflex, you are now able to truly tap into your ability to recruit for strength or power. Until you can fully master these variables through the entire range of the load, you have not yet truly mastered it.
How to utilize it
Starting from a dead stop, focus on the controlled ascent of the load at hand.
controlling over 2, 3, 4, 6 second ascents will be dependent on the volume of the load and your ability to move it.
Starting from a dead position such as
Anderson Squats: Starting in the lowest position of your squat, with the barbell or weights at rest on pins of the rack
DB Floor Press: Starting with elbows on the floor, focus on pressing to the top of the motion after a 2-3 second dead hold
Barbell Pin press: Having the weight close to the chest, but resting on support pins, from a dead position.
Partials are a great way to promote growth in certain or lagging areas of a muscle group, by working on certain ranges of its recruitment. Partial movement with a load has the benefit of increasing vasodilation or the supply of blood to the specific fiber area of the muscle. This is a great technique if you are trying to emphasize or build on weak points. Keep in mind to work the area as a whole overall between your partial sets, as an inattentiveness to certain ranges can potentially lead to faulty mechanics.
How to utilize
Upper 1/2 controlled range: working from the top half of the movement to its near lockout or extended position
Lower 1/2 controlled range: working from the bottom of the range to the near 1/2 way point of the range
Pulses: Working through either range but slowly pulsing when in range for 10-15 seconds
Full range: to complete after doing sets of partials
Goblet squat pulses: work from nearly standing to the 1/2 way point of the range, or from the bottom of your squat to the 1/2 way point of the squat
Partial curls: Working straight arms to half way range, or half way range to full range curl
Partial tricep push downs: Work from near resting range to halfway, or halfway to a full push down
Partial calf raises: Working from half raise to a full raise, or lower phase stretch to halfway raise
Just as variability of movement is a major key to health, we can manipulate various hand positions when weight training to elicit a certain outcome. The position and placement of our hands will place a new and often time more challenging demand on the area or areas we are training. Once the various methods of application are understood, we can really get creative in how we go about sculpting our body!
Please keep in mind that if you are trying out a new handprint for the first time, it is likely that you will be unable to move the same weight you did with one you have more experience training within. Please adjust accordingly.
How to utilize
Close grip: Place hands closer on a barbell, VipR, steel mace, or dumbell (in relation to body since hands are free)
Wide grip: Place hands a bit further than your standard grip on a barbell, Vipr, steel mace, or bring dumbells further from body through range.
Neutral grip or “Hammer grip”: Place hands vertical rather than horizontal on a swiss bar, VipR, steel mace, Kettle bell or Dumbell
Pull ups: Military grip vs Chin ups: Hands being overhand (Military) or underhand (chin up)
Reverse grip: place palms facing you on either a barbell, dumbell, or Kettle Bell
Offset grips: Place your hands or feet more towards one side or another on a tool such as a VipR, Steel Mace, or Barbell to recruit a higher demand on the forearms and intrinsic core stabilizers. Weights at 10-15 pounds can feel exponentially more difficult, so approach with caution and progress accordingly.
Decoupling of the hips: Lessens lower back or lumbar spine compression, promotes movement in the pelvis
Added core stability: Staggered stance is more neurologically challenging, thus requiring more energy to perform.
Healthy of the foot and its many bones: Your ability to hold a flexed foot and control a load through various ranges will ease the transmission of force in many areas of your body. It is the first point of contact in our most common means of locomotion. Walking and running. Healthier foot means healthier knees and hips
How to utilize
Staggered stance: Having one foot in front of the other, in a staggered manner with both feet flat on floor
Close stance: having feet inside shoulder width
Wide Stance: Having feet wider than shoulder width
Evert foot: Having toes point outwards
Inverted foot: Having toes point inwards
Single Leg: Standing or pressing with one leg elevated, or suspended in the air
Split stance: More aggressive than the staggered stance, feet will be further apart and back foot will be flexed, or elevated.
Bulgarian Split Squats (increased stretch on back leg, demand of foot stability)
Staggered stance presses: (Increased Core stabilization side of back foot)
Wide stance squats (Adductors)
Close stance squats (outer quadricep)
Inverted calf raises (Outer calf)
Everted calf raises (inner calf)
Building your foundation is so necessary if you are aiming at performing, looking or feeling your best. Based off the notion that we have nearly infinite ways to orient our body (other than flying), It is important to differentiate a good movement from a bad movement. Variability is a great tool to utilize and practice, but it does not mean we should go swinging around a 75 pound weight with no control. We must know our current capacities to move, understand the mechanisms we are about to perform and the reason behind it, with high respect and great intention with all that we do.