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Weightlifting for Youth Athletes

One great thing about training youth athletes is that they are in their developmental years and can respond really well to training stimulus. They’re also at the period of their life where they are not fully sure as to what they find interesting or what they want to pursue, so they are usually willing to try new things. Just recently at Lift Lab we started a free youth Weightlifting program for the summer. The plan is to teach athletes from grades 6th-12th to become as proficient in the snatch and clean and jerk as they can in just three months. This is really cool, and we are really excited about doing it, but why should a youth athlete be interested in it? What good is Weightlifting for the youth athlete? There are a few reasons why Weightlifting can be beneficial for a youth athlete… Proper Coordination Youth athletes are usually in the stage where they have trouble coordinating movements. During many athletic activities they just don’t look as “natural” as older athletes who have had more time and experience to develop their capacities. Learning the snatch and clean and jerk at a young age is great to teach a young athlete proper timing, rhythm and coordination. The snatch and clean and jerk are two very complex lifts, and if a youth athlete can start to develop the technique related to the lifts, they can get some carry over to other athletic related activities. Getting better at the snatch and clean and jerk isn’t necessarily going to make a young athlete better at draining a three pointer, but they should develop some physical characteristics associated with making them a better athlete on the court. Development of Strength and Power Keeping the conversation on the development of physical characteristics, no two characteristics are more crucial than strength and power. If an athlete can get stronger and more powerful this should automatically make them a better athlete. The snatch and clean and jerk and assistance exercises are a great way to develop strength and power with an athlete. The snatch and clean and jerk teach an athlete how to accelerate a barbell with a high velocity, which in turn develops power through the legs of an athlete. Assistance exercises associated with the Olympic lifts like squatting, deadlifting and pressing are great ways to load athletes up with a bit heavier weight so they can develop some overall strength throughout their entire bodies. Ability to learn new tasks When we are young everything is a learning experience. During our developmental years we are always bombarded with new tasks and new environments that we are unsure how to navigate in. If as kids we aren’t continually exposed to new things, we can begin to lose the ability to adapt and respond well to things that are unfamiliar. The sport of Weightlifting can pose a huge task on a youth athlete not just physically, but mentally as well. The snatch and clean and jerk are very complex movements that can be hard to understand and perform. Just like pitching can be hard for a young athlete just starting out, so can the Olympic lifts. If a youth athlete can learn and gain confidence when performing the Olympic lifts this should bring good carry over to other parts of their development. When faced with new tasks and uncertain circumstances a youth athlete with experience in Olympic lifting might approach it with a bit more confidence than their counterpart that hasn’t been subjected to novel stimulus. Option for another sport Most kids grow up playing the popular field sports like football, baseball, softball, basketball, soccer, etc. The harsh reality is that most kids growing up playing these sports will not end up playing professionally. What does this mean for someone who has grown up their entire life competing, but will have no other competitive outlet after college? This is where the sport of Weightlifting comes in. Weightlifting is awesome because there is no age or ability restriction. People compete into their 60’s. Weightlifting can provide another competitive outlet for a youth athlete. It also provides a sport that an athlete doesn’t have to quit if they can’t get a college scholarship. An additional benefit is that most kids that start Weightlifting fairly young can get pretty darn good and can potentially earn opportunities to represent the U.S.A in international competitions later down the road. Weightlifting is still a niche sport and because of this the competitive ceiling isn’t as high as more mainstream sports like football or baseball. Lastly, an athlete isn’t as limited to their genetic potential because things like general strength and power are a bit easier to develop than the top end speed and skill level of a LeBron James. The goal of this article was not necessarily to persuade youth athletes to dive into Weightlifting, but to let them know that it is an option that is open and to show some of the possible benefits involved with it. I was an athlete from about the age of six all the way through high school. Knowing what I know now, I really wish I would’ve been introduced to strength training and the sport of Weightlifting a lot earlier. It would’ve aided in my development to be good at other sports, and I would’ve probably used Weightlifting as another competitive outlet after high school.

Weightlifting for Youth Athletes

Benefits of Mindfulness

Most people understand that it would be in their own best interest to start working out to get more physically in shape. However, most of us don’t apply this same line of reasoning to our minds. Our minds are very important. They’re the basis for our experience. The quality of our minds can very much determine the quality of our lives. Our minds are always with us, so it makes sense to want to train them to improve the character of our experience, such as our relationship to the world and our relationship with others. So, what’s something we can do to train our minds that’s been put through scientific scrutiny so we can take comfort in knowing a proven method to use them to the best of our ability? Something that’s been recently studied and shows quite a few benefits is mindfulness-based meditation. Mindfulness meditation is the process of bringing one’s attention to the present moment. One may focus specifically on the breath, on certain sounds, on certain smells, or on certain sensations within the body. The goal is to simply focus on whatever arises in the present moment. The opposite of this would be to be lost in thought, which, in itself, can be tricky to understand, because much of the time we don’t even realize that we’re lost in thought. I don’t want to spend the length of this article describing mindfulness meditation, but I want to share the benefits that have recently been studied and documented. So here we go… 1) Reduces Stress and Anxiety Research has widely shown that mindfulness is useful when coping with stress. A paper in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research suggests that “mindfulness training might enhance general features of coping with distress and disability in everyday life.” The paper even goes as far as to suggest that it can enhance these same features in people with more extraordinary conditions of serious disorder or stress. The patients included in this study were those with fibromyalgia, cancer diagnoses, coronary artery diseases, depression, chronic pain, anxiety, obesity, and binge-eating disorder. While the bulk of the research on mindfulness related to dealing with stress seems to suggest that mindfulness doesn’t help get rid of stress or prevent it, it helps people cope with stress and helps them recover better from stress whenever they experience it. In the above-mentioned paper, many such improvements were seen across a spectrum of standardized mental health measures, including quality of life, depression, and anxiety. Benefits were also seen in physical well-being, such as dealing with medical symptoms, sensory pain, and physical impairment. https://s3.amazonaws.com/academia.edu.documents/30863901/MBSRMAJPR2004.pdf?AWSAccessKeyId=AKIAIWOWYYGZ2Y53UL3A&Expires=1548709133&Signature=ufmerwv5r0bNPKdw4Y6cH8Z56Ws%3D&response-content-disposition=inline%3B%20filename%3DMindfulness-based_stress_reduction_and_h.pdf 2) Improves Focus/Attention It would make sense that meditation improves attention and focus, because the whole practice centers on paying close attention to whatever arises in the present moment. It’s widely known that whatever you specifically practice is what you’ll get better at. If you practice bench pressing, you’ll probably get better at it. This applies to meditation, as well. If you practice paying close attention, even for 10-minutes a day, it’s likely that this will start to apply to other parts of your day, as well. A paper in SAGE Journals in Psychological Science suggests that intensive meditation training improves aspects of attention, but it also improves other core cognitive processes, such as working memory capacity and non-verbal intelligence. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3132583/ 3) Decreases Symptoms of Depression In the same way meditation helps to cope with stress and anxiety, it can help manage symptoms of depression. A study in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine showed that participants in an 8-week mindfulness-based stressed reduction (MBSR) program had decreased the severity and symptoms of depression. A mindfulness-based meditation practice seems to decrease symptoms of depression by allowing you to be mindful of experiences associated with depression. Having the ability to be mindful of negative emotions and stressful situations allows one to not sit with those experiences for a prolonged period of time. There’s a huge difference between allowing yourself to be angry for a couple minutes compared to an entire day. The next time you feel negative emotions coming on, try to fully experience all sensations of that emotion and see how long those feelings actually stick around. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4365440/ 4) Improves Sleep A study in JAMA Internal Medicine researched the effectiveness of a mindfulness meditation program on older adults who experienced sleep disturbances. What the study found was the mindfulness meditation program had roughly the same effect on improving sleep as other pharmacotherapy treatment modalities. It seems that meditation has this effect in the same way that meditation helps deal with stress. Meditation can help train the brain to be less reactive to stressors and other stimuli that puts the body in an excited state. Having the ability to be less reactive to such stimuli helps to put the body in a more relaxed state, which allows for better sleep. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/2110998 5) Increases Compassion The Department of Psychological Science in SAGE Journals conducted a study of 39 individuals to test whether or not meditation had any effect on compassion. What they found was that individuals who participated in 8 weeks of meditation were 5 times as likely to show compassion by giving up their seat to someone who was suffering than those who didn’t participate in the meditation practice. What’s more striking is that the help occurred in a social context, where other individuals were not helping the person suffering, which would make it less likely for another individual to take action to help the sufferer. There are multiple reasons why meditation may increase our compassion for other people, but it’s likely that the chatter in our minds is reduced, making us more focused on the outside world and less on ourselves. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Paul_Condon/publication/256075736_Meditation_Increases_Compassionate_Response_to_Suffering/links/568192b708ae051f9aec5469/Meditation-Increases-Compassionate-Response-to-Suffering.pdf 6) Increases the Quality of Relationships Understanding what meditation can do to help all the above mentioned carries some weight to other things that we would like to see in our lives, such as having quality relationships. If we can learn to deal with our stress and negative experiences here in this world, do you think that it could help us build better relationships with other people? Do you think being able to hold a longer attention span and being less lost in thought in our own minds can help open us up to the experiences of others? I would say, “Yes” to both of these questions. Meditation has been shown to increase the quality of our minds and how we interact with the world, so it would be understandable to think this would transfer to our relationships with others. As I was beginning to research for this article, I was quite blown away with the depth of literature supporting the benefits of meditation, specifically mindfulness meditation. I always knew it was something that was very beneficial—drawing from my own experiences with meditation, but I was unaware of how much research was out there supporting my original thoughts. If you think about what you’d like to see change within your mind that supports your contribution to the world and those around you, it becomes apparent that meditation helps us to increase those things. As mentioned earlier, our minds determine the character of our experience. It only makes sense that we need to start training our minds to live a life full of what we want to experience within the world. Quality Meditation Apps: Waking Up by Sam Harris https://wakingup.com/ This one I personally use and find it to be phenomenal. 10% Happier by Dan Harris https://www.10percenthappier.com/ I haven’t personally used this app, but I have heard great things. Headspace https://www.headspace.com/ Headspace seems to be one of the most popular meditation apps and one that starts the user off very slowly. Links to Research Articles: Mindfulness-based stress reduction and health benefits. A meta-analysis. https://s3.amazonaws.com/academia.edu.documents/30863901/MBSRMAJPR2004.pdf?AWSAccessKeyId=AKIAIWOWYYGZ2Y53UL3A&Expires=1549041134&Signature=ZawLlMOjBOng1In%2FzHUMPQoirRQ%3D&response-content-disposition=inline%3B%20filename%3DMindfulness-based_stress_reduction_and_h.pdf Intensive Meditation Training Improves Perceptual Discrimination and Sustained Attention. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3132583/ Decreased Symptoms of Depression After Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction: Potential Moderating Effects of Religiosity, Spirituality, Trait Mindfulness, Sex and Age. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4365440/ Mindfulness Meditation and Improvement in Sleep Quality and Daytime Impairment Among Older Adults With Sleep Disturbances. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/2110998 Meditation Increases Compassionate Response to Suffering. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Paul_Condon/publication/256075736_Meditation_Increases_Compassionate_Response_to_Suffering/links/568192b708ae051f9aec5469/Meditation-Increases-Compassionate-Response-to-Suffering.pdf

Benefits of Mindfulness

Practical Steps to Losing Weight

This could easily be made into an article about being more disciplined. If you just stop being lazy you will lose more weight. However, that’s not where I want to go with this because I don’t actually think it is that easy. Losing weight for one person might be equivalent to making a million dollars for another. The truth is that some just possess more luck. Genes, environment, hormones, and personality all add to the concoction of why it might be easier for some to lose weight compared to others. An entire book can be written on this, but it is not exactly what I want to discuss. I want to give some simple and practical advice as to why I think people are struggling to lose weight and what they can change to do it better. My hope is that my words can be helpful to just about anyone struggling to lose weight. Start small Much of why I see people struggling to lose weight is because people want to try and change too much. They sort of want a complete lifestyle change. While a complete lifestyle change might be the right thing to do it has to be made in small steps. The human brain really enjoys consistency. If you try to disrupt too much of that consistency it’s going to be very hard to manage all of the variables, and it will be very easy to go right back to what you were doing. You might then take the attitude of “well, I tried but it was just too hard so I might as well go back to what I was doing.” I understand this attitude, but it makes no practical sense at all. This is why when making a new goal to lose weight, it is important to start with one small behavior change at a time. This is something that your brain can manage and doesn’t cause too much chaos in your life where it might be likely that you will resort back to your old ways. Habits that have been formed for years won’t be broken in just a few weeks. Stick to managing one thing at a time. If you’re a huge drinker of pop cutting down to one a day might be the best step forward you can take to losing weight. Americans don’t have problems losing weight, but a problem of keeping the weight off. I think this is because most undergo a complete lifestyle change and see progress but have not made it manageable in the form of creating good habits and behaviors that are sustainable. Focus on the 20% Another reason I see people failing to lose weight is because they are putting their focus on the wrong things. A lot of people want to focus on the diet, or focus on the workout plan, or what everyone else is doing to lose weight. These may seem like good things to focus on, but they are really next steps and not a good starting point. The 80/20 rule (80% of your success or your output comes from 20% of your inputs) would suggest that you need to focus on a few things that will create most of your success. What might that 20% look like when trying to lose weight? Let’s start with getting 7-8 hours of sleep, surrounding yourself with a supportive group of people, hire a mentor/coach, add vegetables to every meal. This isn’t a super flashy lifestyle, but I am willing to bet if every person trying to lose weight did those things, they would see tremendous progress right away. Rather than getting bogged down on which diet (keto, intermittent fasting, Paleo, etc), or training modality (HIIT, weight training, Orange Theory, Crossfit, etc) you want to choose, starting by mastering the basics. Dial-in your 20% and you will be happy to see what your 80% looks like. Lift things Well I might sound like a hypocrite for previously just saying you shouldn’t worry about what type of training modality you choose; you should definitely be lifting weights. Like…. really be lifting weights. One of the best things you can do to improve your body composition is to lift weights. I heard Dr. Layne Norton on a podcast appearance with Joe Rogan saying “if you are arguing about diets but not lifting weights, you are missing the point.” (By the way, that was a really good podcast on all things nutrition and body composition. Check it out here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u93oh9kC-rU). The reason for him saying this is because a lot of health benefits one seeks can be associated with increasing lean body mass, and lifting weights is the surest way one can increase lean body mass. Increasing lean body mass will help someone improve their body composition just by increasing the ratio of lean muscle mass to fat. If you’re fat stays the same, but you add muscle you have reshaped your body in a way that looks leaner because you have added more muscle. (side note: most of my time working with people who just start weight training I rarely see muscle mass go up and body fat NOT drop). Increasing muscle mass will also make someone burn more calories simply not doing anything. Muscle is very thermogenic, which means it takes more energy from your body to conserve than any other tissue. The more muscle mass that one has the more energy that will be burned at rest. A lot of health issues that people worry about can be associated with being overweight and carrying too much fat. It’s easy to hop on the fear mongering internet train and think you need to cut out all toxins from your environment, but the reality is that’s attributing to about 1% of your overall health problems. Remember our 80/20 rule from above. I want to address one last point about people, women mostly, thinking they will get too bulky if they start to lift weights. I can understand the worry, but this is fairly far from the truth. The truth is, yes you can get bulky from lifting weights. However, the amount of years of SERIOUS weight training you have to go through to get to that point is very overwhelming. And, you might even have to add a little illegal substance to your diet as well. Unless you start training like a crazy person and eating protein like a crazy person you will probably not have to worry about getting too bulky. I hope this information was practical enough to help some people out there. If you want to chat more about how I can help my email is Justin@liftlabco.com and I will be happy to help assist you with your goals!

Practical Steps to Losing Weight

Self-Image and Experience

I had the opportunity to set up a booth for the gym at Fishers Fun Fest, a local event put on by Fishers Martial Arts this past weekend. The event was geared towards kids so there was a lot of vendors with typical fun things kids like to do. There was axe throwing, multiple bounce houses, cotton candy, Kona Ice, and other opportunities to win FREE things. What were we offering? We had a barbell set out with some weights for kids to come see if they could lift it. Before the event, I honestly didn’t think any of the kids would be interested in picking up a barbell. How do we compete with Kona Ice and cotton candy?! I was very blown away by the result. Almost every kid that attended the event came up to lift the bar. Some kids’ multiple times. From a 14-year old with very little training experience to another girl licking cotton candy off of her fingers so she could get a better grip on the bar, I was pleasantly surprised to see all these kids getting excited about lifting weights. It wasn’t just about lifting the weight but being able to do something that they didn’t originally think they can do. It was this that got me thinking… There were adults at this event as well. We had a light bar with weights for the kids, but we also had a Rolling Thunder, a piece of equipment to test grip strength, for the adults. What I witnessed was that almost all the kids, whether they were a bit hesitant at first or not, gave it a shot to lift the bar while very few of the adults expressed any interest in the Rolling Thunder. So, my theory is that we as adults have either completely lost the ability to have some fun and try something new, or we are afraid of trying something new because there is the possibility of failure, or the experience not living up to our expectations. It wasn’t that the kids weren’t afraid of failing, but that they didn’t care and decided to do it anyways. I could be completely reading way too much into this situation, but I don’t think that’s the case. My theory as to why the kids dove into the experience of deadlifting and the adults expressed no interest whatsoever in the Rolling Thunder, or even were hesitant on letting their own kids deadlift boils down to self-image. At the early stages of life, we haven’t yet built up an image of ourselves in our mind. We don’t really think of ourselves as anything other than a kid experiencing new situations. Kids haven’t yet been fully conditioned by society and their peers as to what they should look like, what they should do, or how they should act. Most kids fully immerse themselves in new experiences because even if they fail, or it doesn’t meet their expectations, they haven’t yet conjured up such a huge self-image, so it doesn’t feel personal. They might feel emotional about certain situations, but because they haven’t yet been told enough times who they should be, they aren’t afraid to go get after it again. We as adults on the other hand are a complete mess. We have created an idea in our heads about who we are that any experience that could lead to that being shattered; we shy away from. It’s easier to not try something than it is to experience thoughts and emotions that don’t lend themselves to our previously held beliefs about ourselves. If you think of yourself as a strong person, it is much easier to continue to think that than it is to enter in a Powerlifting or Weightlifting meet to see how strong you really are. Society has created frailty. The fear of failure and negative consequences are so strong that we would rather sit on the sidelines because it makes us feel more comfortable. So, what is the step forward? I think the best step forward is to start stripping down our self-image. Why is it that we have created that specific self-image anyway? What if we have just continued to be sold lies and we continue to go along with them? What if we don’t really know who we are? What if we are constantly evolving and constantly changing? What if experiencing something new doesn’t have to coincide with our current beliefs about ourselves? Can we start framing bad experiences in a positive light? If we can start thinking about these questions in a different way, I think we are on our way. Sometimes kids have the answers right in front of us.

Self-Image and Experience

Keep Showing Up

When trying to be better at any endeavor we will experience setbacks or periods of time where the process seems very dull. We might even think of quitting. We might ask ourselves questions like, “do I still want to do this?” “Is it all worth it?” Those are questions that only you can evaluate. Are your goals important enough to keep wanting to show up? The important part is to keep showing up. Over time you will start to experience those same bursts of excitement that were there at the beginning of the journey. Or, you might finally come to the realization that whatever you are doing just isn’t for you anymore. If this is you, you might still be on the path, but maybe a different route. The only way to not stay on the path is to not show up. Not showing up isn’t going to answer any of your questions. Staying on the path is for those willing to embrace the frustrations, the setbacks, and the boredom to reap the rewards for what is to come later down the line. It isn’t easy, but the world responds well to those that keep showing up. This isn't motivation. You get decide what you are after. You may be unsure, but that's all right. The only way to know, make adjustments, and keep moving forward is to keep showing up. So, keep showing up.

Keep Showing Up

Training for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

At Lift Lab we have come to train quite a bit of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) competitors. BJJ is a niche sport much like Weightlifting. There are many thoughts out there on better and worse ways to train football players, basketball players, baseball players, etc. I thought I would give you some thoughts as to how we train athletes that come to us in a niche sport, like BJJ. When first assessing an athlete, no matter who they are, we need to find what they have and what they lack. The goal then is to keep them excelling at what they have, and then get them a bit better at what they don’t have. So, let’s take a look at what many BJJ athletes need when they come to us. Spinal Variability It’s usually good to look at things from a movement perspective first. If we can find where people are limited from a movement perspective, then we can start to identify how those limitations might be limiting their performance in their sport. To take an outside example, if we see that a pitcher has limited flexion at the shoulder, we can make an educated guess that their performance might be limited on the mound. So, let’s actually look at Jiu-Jitsu now. In BJJ, there is a lot of time spent moving on the ground. To be an efficient mover on the ground we need to have access to a wide array of movement from our spine. If we have a back that is stiff, we can predict that we might not be very good at making dynamic movements on the ground and off of our back. So, what can we do to assess and increase movement variability through the spine? An easy assessment to see how athletes move through their spine is a simple rocking exercise. We can also use this exercise as a training tool to improve movement variability and increase someone’s ability to flex at their spine. Other ways to do this are by different variations of “core” exercises where the athlete has to hold positions of the spine that they aren’t used to holding or have a hard time holding. Such exercises may include bear crawl holds, bear crawls, and deadbug variations. Strength If there’s one thing that strength and conditioning coaches agree on across the board in improving athletic performance, it is strength. If we had the chance to develop one quality with an athlete and nothing else, it would be to get them stronger. This holds true with BJJ as well. It is important to point out what we mean by strength though. There’s a difference between lifting weights to increase muscle and lifting weights to get stronger. Increasing muscle mass can help in getting someone stronger, but when we talk about strength, we talk about increasing someone’s ability to create more force. This is the quality we would want to develop if it’s the only one that we could. Increasing strength can help a BJJ athlete by making it more difficult for someone to take them down, make it easier to take someone else down, and simply establish more dominant control over someone if their skill in BJJ is on par with their opponent. Strength is super important, but I would have a hard time saying someone could out strength an opponent whose skill is more developed. In developing strength, the compound movements are your biggest bang for your buck. Deadlifts, bench presses, squats variations, and rows. Again, it is important to prescribe exercises based on what the athlete is going to excel at most. That’s where assessing an athlete always comes first. Conditioning This might seem obvious, but to compete at a high level in BJJ you need to have a gas tank. Anyone who has wrestled or has done BJJ definitely understands this. You don’t want to be the guy tanked 3 minutes in. From my own experience in wresting, being more exhausted than your opponent is a sure way to not only lose a match, but have an overwhelming sense of suffering during. Let’s get a bit more specific as to what conditioning may look like when training for BJJ. It is important to note that various forms of “cardio” are not all created equal. You could be a killer distance runner but get fatigued super quick when someone else is grabbing ahold of you the whole time. This is an important factor in many sports much like BJJ. It is always important to have a solid aerobic base, but it is equally if not more important that your muscles possess the ability to create high levels of force over a prolonged period of time. Much like a running back in football wants to be able to make cuts and sprint at the same speeds in the 4th quarter as the 1st quarter, in BJJ you want to be able to pull your opponent around and make transitions just as fast and forceful late in a match as the beginning. We like to develop this sort of specific capacity in the gym by doing various forms of high-intensity continuous training (HICT). The goal of this type of training is to increase the oxidative component of your more fast twitch muscle fibers (the ones responsible for higher rates of force production). We may have athletes doing step-ups with a weighted vest, sled pushes and pulls, sled rows, etc for 10-15 minutes. The key in this type of training is to take 3-5 second breaks between every short bursts of reps in order to keep the same intensity the entire time in order to develop the quality that you wish. Grip BJJ is one of those sports that grip gets all the hype. And, it should get at least some hype, because you are always gripping, pulling, and tugging on an opponent, more so when Gi’s are present. So, when training a BJJ athlete it shall be important to train grip. However, I want to make a specific point about training grip. It isn’t all about the forearms. When people think about grip training, they think about the wrists, hands and forearms. Now, those are specific areas that need to be strong, but it is important to note where a lot of pulling originates from, and that’s the back. Having a strong grip goes beyond just training the forearms. An athlete needs a strong upper back to actually be able to do something with their grip. If you can hold on to your opponent all day but can’t do anything to move them, that’s a problem. Having a strong back should increase your ability to actually do something with the grip you have on an opponent. A simple way we can help strengthen back and grip at the same time is to simply add fat grips to upper back exercises like rows, pull ups, etc. You can also use other tools like towels to increase the concentration on grip. The main focus is to still focus on the upper back strength but add a layer of training that makes the grip a bit more challenging. You can also increase grip strength by doing heavier deadlifts with double overhand grip or with fat bars. This way you’re sort of getting the entire body involved with a grip related activity. I understand there are many ways to train many athletes, and this is not meant to be a one-size fits all program. You may come across athletes that need more attention to detail in another area. There are always outliers, but we don’t create systems and programs around outliers. We can adapt to outliers, but our focus is on the athletes and people that we are mostly going to see.

Training for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Dealing With Injuries in the Gym

If you’ve been training long enough you have probably encountered some sort of injury or nagging pain somewhere throughout the body. This pain could just be an annoyance or something that is debilitating. When most people encounter this situation, they are very unsure of what to do. Do I go see a doctor, do I just lift through the pain, do I take time off, etc? I think the best way to navigate this situation is simple. You just need a professional with the right experience to help navigate. When dealing with an injury I think most people fear that it could get way worse down the line. Our initial reaction to pain is, “oh shit, what did I just do?” From a purely physiological perspective this is sort of what your body is trying to do. Pain is a defense mechanism. The specific area might not even be injured, but something novel might have occurred in which your brain responds with a pain signal to make sure we keep that area safe. This is easy to see when someone first begins their strength training journey. When they first start lifting, they might not only feel sore all the time, but their joints might ache, and they usually have a hard time hitting significant range of motion in many exercises. This is mostly due to their body not experiencing that before and being a bit hesitant in allowing it to achieve those things. After some practice and consistent stimulus, the body adapts, and those things become easier and more comfortable to perform. So, how do we navigate in the gym if we are experiencing pain or we have injured a certain area? I think the best piece of advice is to simply avoid any more pain. We still don’t have a full scientific understanding of pain, but the pain is telling our bodies something, so it is appropriate to try to stay away from it as much as possible. This usually eases a client from a mental perspective and also gives the body some time to deal with the pain or injury inflicted area. As strength and conditioning professionals, I think it is very appropriate to acknowledge that most of the time we might not know what is causing the issue. Unless something happens acutely or we can make a well-educated guess, a lot of the times we simply don’t know. There are many variables at play, and we only see clients for a few hours a few times a week. In my opinion, it can be rather stupid to decide what caused the issue if 96% of that person’s life is NOT spent with you. I do think it is appropriate to give the client some exercises to perform that you might think will help based on your level of experience and education. This might mean picking different variations of squats, presses, deadlifts, etc. Or, limiting range of motion to where there is no pain, or the pain is greatly diminished. You might be surprised that choosing a swiss bar over a straight bar helps a person’s elbow or shoulder on the bench press. Or, putting the feet up on the bench for a bench press helps reduce lower back discomfort. Or, elevating the heels on a squat helps someone orient their pelvis in a way where their lower back or hips don’t hurt. There are many options out there, but it is important to always intervene and reevaluate to see if what you are doing is making progress. On the flipside of staying away from pain, it is important to know that sometimes that might not be possible. If you are trying to stay away from any discomfort whatsoever than you might not actually be giving the body enough stress for the problematic area to adapt. In a good article, “Squatting with Patellar Tendinopathy,” Jason Eure says, “to force positive adaptations, we must find the sweet spot within the envelope of function where the total stress is enough to disrupt tissue homeostasis and create an impetus for change without diminishing structural integrity.” He also goes on to mention that he keeps clients at about a 3-4 out of 10 on a pain scale to ensure this is happening. All injuries and pain have their context so this might not be the optimal thing to do based on the situation, but I think it is a fairly good principle to follow in most. I think this can be good advice to let people know it is okay to work through mild amounts of pain, and it isn’t going to cause any harm, but probably some good. An additional article could be written on identifying the potential causes of pain and what can be done to help, but that is not within the scope of this article. Dealing with injuries and pain in a training context can be mentally overwhelming. I have had the experience of training through pain and injury and it isn’t fun at all. I was constantly wondering when it was going to be better and if I was doing the right thing to help it. The unsettling answer is that it is hard to know if you are doing the right things. That is why I think the best principle to follow is to pick exercises that greatly reduce the pain associated to a given area, and never go above a 4/10 on the pain scale. The human body can be complicated and sometimes we have to admit we don’t know. However, most of us want to continue to train. We love it and that is why we hate injuries. They limit our training freedom. If you are someone who wants to continue to train around an injury it is important to pick things where that pain is greatly reduced. Most of the times this simple guideline does the trick.

Dealing With Injuries in the Gym

Principles of Weightlifting

The sport of Weightlifting, like most sports can be made very simple by narrowing the focus to a few things. You may call these things rules or principles, but they are the things that make the complex seem understandable. Often times when we find that things are complex it is because we don’t understand them enough to know the root principles. Principles help us describe complex phenomena in a digestible way. The sport of Weightlifting can look very complex and scary from an outsider who has never practiced in the sport. Even for people just beginning it can seem like there is so much going on and that you have no idea what you are doing. Throwing things overhead in a fast manner seems like something very hard to do. I often hear people when watching someone Olympic lift say, “there’s no way I can ever do that.” But, often times they can. Olympic lifting seems complex, so let’s make it simple. Principles of Weightlifting 1.) Maintaining Balance One of the most crucial pieces of Olympic lifting is balance. What I mean by that is that it is crucial to maintain the balance between your center of mass and the center of mass of the barbell. You want these two things to be aligned with each other as much as possible. An example of maintain this relationship would be if you stood straight up and held a bar in your hands. Your center of mass and the barbell’s center of mass would be well balanced between each other. If you raised the bar straight out in front of you and held it there, that would drastically change this relationship. You would probably feel within seconds how hard it is to keep the bar way out in front of you. That is what we don’t want in Weightlifting. So, when snatching or clean and jerking, it is crucial to keep proper balance and weight distribution with the bar throughout the entire lift. To create this, it is important to keep the shoulders over the bar and feel the weight on your full foot throughout the entire lift. We often see the loss of this balance when a lifter is passing their knee with the barbell or when there are finishing the extensions of the legs. Often times, in these positions we see the weight of the bar move out away from the center of mass of the lifter and their shoulders/chest move back behind the bar. To dive deeper into this discussion would require and additional article, but this is a real-life example. 2.) Timing This may seem vague so let me explain. We covered proper balance and weight distribution, because in my opinion it is the most crucial aspect of Weightlifting. If you screw up that your chances of a successful lift go way down. Timing is very important after proper weight distribution is established and the legs have finished extending. If you have maintained proper balance through this point you have accomplished the hardest part of the lift and have a decreased your chance of missing the lift. Once the legs have finished extending to propel the bar upward it is important that we received the bar at its highest point. This is where timing is important. How high the bar is projected upwards is going to depend on the weight on the bar and how hard we extend the legs. For a successful lift it doesn’t matter entirely. What matters is that we received the bar on our shoulders (clean) or overhead (snatch/jerk) when the bar reaches its highest point right before it starts moving back down to Earth. With a maximum amount of weight on the bar this will require the lifter to receive it lower in a squat, and a bit higher with lighter amount of weigh on the bar. Receiving the bar at its highest point allows the lifter to get their weight under the bar with tension in the legs and upper back. This lets the lifter stand up with the weight successfully, assuming they have the strength necessary. If a lifter doesn’t receive the bar at its highest point they will either not receive it with tension in their legs making the bar crash and making it harder to stand up, or they will not have their mass centered under the bar because they did not receive the bar in time, which will be evident by the bar dropping to the ground right in front of them. I thought for a long time about what would be a third principle, but that would be missing my own point with this article. This article was written to simplify the sport of Weightlifting down to as few components as possible. Trying to add an additional principle just for the sake of giving more information would not make it more digestible but would complicate it even further. There are of course, more things that go into the sport of Weightlifting. Prerequisite strength and power, keeping tension in the upper back through the lift, fully finishing the extension of the legs, smart programming, etc. However, these are not principles of the lifts. If you screw up your weight distribution with the bar and/or the timing with your receiving of the bar, I guarantee you nothing else matters. And, in doing so you probably messed up those additional things in the process. Once you learn more about a subject you realize it isn’t as complicated as you once thought. The same goes for Weightlifting. At Lift Lab we have worked with tons of newbie lifters and have a great process to get them out of this newbie stage. We don’t complicate the sport. We know the principles and master the basics. I truly believe anyone can become a Weightlifter if they believe it as well and give us the opportunity.

Principles of Weightlifting

3 Tips to Crush Your New Year's Resolutions

There are very strong opinions for and against New Year’s resolutions. Some people hate the entire enterprise while others make resolutions every year, whether they succeed in achieving them or not. One thing is certain is that there is a very genuine attitude towards New Year’s resolutions. People are VERY excited to make a change. I think it’s a rude thing to do for people to shoot down people’s hopes at achieving their resolutions even if the overwhelming consensus is that most people don’t achieve the resolutions they set at the beginning of the year. I think people are very enthusiastic about wanting to make a change and crush their goals, but do not have the right system or approach to be successful in their endeavors. Here are three tips that, in my opinion, will have a HUGE impact on whether or not you succeed in achieving your New Year’s resolutions. 1.) Start Small The biggest reason people fail in achieving any type of goal is because they simply start too big. People get outcome focused and not approach focused. Meaning, they focus on the goal and not the path that is going to help them achieve that goal. If you haven’t gone to the gym in the past 10 years, it makes no sense to hold yourself accountable to all of the sudden going to the gym every day. Instead, try to go the gym once a week to start out. Or, just drive to the gym without making yourself even go in. Or, if you struggle making time for the gym, set your alarm an hour earlier and just wake up. Even if you don’t do anything when you wake up, at least you are starting to create a habit that will lead you in the direction of going to the gym. It is important to not get lost in the overall goal and get more focused on creating habits that will add to future success. 2.) Don’t Miss Twice Okay, so I have sort of stole these first two from James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, so go by his book if you want a deeper dive into habit formation. We are all human, which means we are inevitably going to screw up at some point in the process. The best thing to do when you miss a workout or fail to eat the right thing is to get right back on the path. Give yourself some grace and don’t let yourself fail at the next opportunity. Not letting yourself miss twice is a way of giving yourself some empathy for missing while also holding yourself accountable to get back on track at the next opportunity. 3.) Track Your Progress, or Un-progress You will simply fail at what you don’t write down. Your brain is processing too much at any given time for a person to be able to track and keep everything sorted out in their own head. Tracking everything and writing everything down is a way to keep your goals in front of you. If you don’t do this, it is easy to get off track and unmotivated. Keeping a journal, a daily log, etc. will help you stay focused and committed to your goals. It is important to do this even if you are feeling a bit defeated. You may find that simply journaling and writing things out when you are failing will give you the motivation you need to get back on track. A lot of times are own minds are what get in the way of achieving our goals. Writing things out will help us declutter our minds and get us focused on what’s most important. New Year’s resolutions can be hard to achieve because we like to pick big goals that we haven’t really spent the last portion of our life working towards. We want to make a change in that direction, but we haven’t yet built up good systems and habits to get us there. As the new year approaches set some reasonable goals, but don’t necessarily hold yourself accountable to the goal. Hold yourself accountable to the small, daily, actionable steps that are going to start creating the life you want to live.

3 Tips to Crush Your New Year's Resolutions

Why You Should Hire a Coach

I was having a conversation with a client this morning and she asked, “do you get a lot more clients now that it’s the start of the new year?” I told her that we might get a few more, but probably not as many as you think. There is a specific reason for this, which brought me the idea to write this article. The reason why I don’t think we see a huge up tic in clientele at the start of the year when everyone and their mother made the resolution to exercise more, is because we aren’t the type of gym people first seek out. If you haven’t prioritized exercise the last ten years of your life, then you probably aren’t going to seek out a gym that gives off the perception that everyone in there looks like they’ve been doing it their entire life. At Lift Lab, this isn’t actually the case. We work with plenty of people that are starting for the first time, but the point is our gym is a path of more resistance. People who are starting for the first time mostly seek out the path of least resistance. People looking to exercise for the first time are more likely to choose a Planet Fitness, LA Fitness, etc. because it is cheaper, they are surrounded by a less intimidating environment, and it is probably closer to where they live. If you are looking to get serious about your health and fitness, then I want to tell you why this is a terrible decision and why you should hire a coach. Accountability There is no easier way to stay accountable to your goals than to have someone else be there with you. If someone else not only knows your goals but is actively working towards them with you, you will be much more accountable to them. It becomes much harder to miss a training session when your coach is expecting you there at 6am. It becomes much harder to not work hard when there is a coach standing next to you pushing you during your training session. You might not go for that pizza at dinner if you know you have to weigh-in the following morning. It is hard to be accountable to yourself to get after your health and fitness goals if you are the only one that knows about them and are the only one involved in the process. Expertise It really blows my mind when people choose to go to a Planet Fitness style gym and work out on their own. Most people have no idea what they are doing when it comes to training. They don’t know how many times a week they should work out, they don’t know what type of exercises they should be doing in the gym, they don’t know type of training stimulus is going to elicit specific adaptations, and they don’t know how to increase or decrease their work load when they hit a plateau or when they aren’t making progress because they are doing too much and their body can’t recover enough to adapt. It is crucial to hire a coach you can trust so you can just completely eliminate this part from your mind. You aren’t an expert in strength and conditioning, and no one is expecting you to be. Leave your training in the hands of someone who has spent their career studying it and who is passionate about it. You don’t cut your own hair and you don’t represent yourself in court if you get in legal trouble. You hire experts. You should do the same when it comes to your health. Environment If you want to succeed in your health and fitness goals, then find an environment where other people are succeeding. Most people succeeding in this area of their life have a coach. Most coaches coach at gyms where there are massive amounts of people putting in the work and crushing it. That isn’t to say that everyone there is an elite athlete, and no one makes mistakes. You might actually be surprised that most people in these types of environments, the kind that we have created at Lift Lab, are more like you than you initially would expect. We are all trying to figure out how to succeed and be the healthiest versions of ourselves as possible. Sometimes we fall down, but we have many like-minded people there to pick us up. No one is perfect, but being surrounded by people who are motivated, on the same journey as you, and have experienced success is the best place for you to achieve your goals. No one can do it alone in any endeavor. Why do people think they can when it comes to health and fitness? I honestly hope this article is hard to read. That it is sort of a reality check for some. To me, it seems that health and fitness goals are some of the hardest goals for people to achieve. As a country and culture, we know we have unhealthy habits. The food industry literally studies how to best entice people to pick the soda pop over the water. To pick the candy over the fruit. It can be hard to get on the right track when it comes to your health. Just like it is with any other goal. However, most other goals we choose to have other people help us along the way. For your health you should do the same and hire someone to be your coach. When you see your progress, you will be happy that you did. If you would be interested in sitting down with one of our coaches at Lift Lab to chat about your goals, why you haven’t succeeded in the past, and what we might be able to offer to help, go ahead and fill out the following link: https://app.acuityscheduling.com/schedule.php?owner=17015134&location=500%20N%20Meridian%20St.%20Suite%2010A. We want you to succeed.

Why You Should Hire a Coach

Setting Yourself Up for Success

It is still January, so we are still sticking with the goal theme. We want you to succeed and not fall off the wagon this year so let’s talk about how we can ALL set ourselves up for more success. Whether you have health related goals or business-related goals or relationship related goals everyone should be able to come away with a bit of useful advice after reading this article. As humans, we are slaves to our environments. We will continue to do what our environment sets us up to do. If you are trying to cut alcohol out of your life this year it is going to be almost impossible to do if you continue to hang around people that abuse alcohol. If you want to start exercising more consistently it’s going to be hard to do if you most of your friends and family don’t value exercise. You don’t always have to completely cut people out of your live to create an environment that sets you up for success. Sometimes it might just take an honest conversation about what you want in your life so they can expect limited time from you in the future. However, this isn’t an article about relationships. If our environment isn’t setting us up for success it isn’t only the people that are around that’s to blame. Below are three tips of advice that we can use to start creating an environment that sets us up for success. Make Your Bad Habits Hard Try to identify your main struggles that are holding you back from your goals. Once you identify these behaviors try to make them very hard to continue to do. If you really struggle eating out because you are working all the time, leave your credit/debit card at home. If you tend to binge watch T.V. and that’s why you don’t have time to exercise, then move your T.V. to a different room or move the furniture around so as it isn’t as comfortable to lay down and binge. Or, make someone cancel your Netflix subscription. We can all do something that is going to make our bad habits harder to accomplish. It is best if we do this when we have motivation, so we are more inclined to do it. Start Your Day with a Bang For me, if I journal first thing in the morning my day is likely to be much greater. Journaling is the lead domino for my day, which makes other productive things easier. If I journal first thing, that leads me to read and write, and then meditate. Suddenly the first two hours of my day have been super productive, and I feel good about myself. If your day will get off to a great start by simply waking up to your first alarm, make that easier. Put your phone in another room so you have to get out of bed to turn the alarm off. If you want to exercise first thing in the morning lay out your gym clothes the night before. If you struggle to eat a healthy breakfast first thing in the morning lay out all the food and kitchen equipment to be ready to go first thing in the morning. If you can get your day started on the right track you are more likely to continuously be productive throughout the rest of the day, and if you’re not, well at least you can take credit for a great start. Find a coach/mentor This one probably supersedes all other advice. Reach out to one person, whether that is a coach, mentor or simply somebody that embodies the qualities you wish to have in your life. You don’t have to hang out with them every day but having someone in your circle who is doing better than you in a specific area is going to dramatically improve your results in that area. Most people running successful businesses are hanging out with people that own more successful businesses. The top athletes in the world are training around other top athletes. Parents are always worried about their kids hanging around the wrong kids because they don’t want them to become those kids. The reverse is true. If we want to become better, we need to hang around people that are achieving more than we are. The lack of our success isn’t our own fault. We are operating within the confines of our environment. The first step is simply to become aware. Aware of what our environment is making it easy for us to do. Once we can identify what is holding us back, we can begin to take steps to make a change in that area. If we currently operate in an environment that makes it hard to succeed just imagine what we can be capable of once we reverse this.

Setting Yourself Up for Success

The Best Weightlifting Exercise for Beginners

When beginner athletes start the sport of Olympic Weightlifting it can seem as if a lot is being thrown at them. The snatch and clean and jerk are difficult in and of themselves, but without having done them before, and trying to work on the technique, it can seem like there is so much to think about. At Lift Lab, we like to make a beginner lifter’s start in the sport very streamlined and easy. We don’t get complicated and we don’t get fancy. We master the basics. An example of this is we like to really establish a good position from the floor to the knee. Our thought is if we can get a lifter to master this very fast, they will be well on their way to more successful lifts. We do this by incorporating what we call a 1/3 deadlift into a beginner’s program. We do this with intermediate and advanced lifters as well because everyone can always get better at the fundamentals. However, beginners will see this pretty much every day of their first program. We incorporate the 1/3 deadlift in the form of a snatch deadlift and a clean deadlift. Below is a video on all the “how-to’s” for the 1/3 deadlift. We believe this is the most important exercise for beginner’s because it is probably the hardest position for them to achieve. Not only can it be a hard position to achieve but is usually a position that is very glossed over. People like to talk about the extension of the legs and hips all day, but if you aren’t in a good position at the knee before that it isn’t going to matter. To really set someone up for a successful lift they need to master the position from the floor to the knee. Once that is established, we can focus more on other things. The 1/3 deadlift is a perfect exercise for beginners because it isn’t very demanding on current physical skill or ability. You can never have snatch or cleaned in your life and can come in and execute a solid 1/3 deadlift. This can give the lifter a better understanding of the basics of the snatch and clean and can give them some more confidence with the lift. Again, if the start of the lift is executed properly the rest of the lift will be made easier. If interested in a Weightlifting consultation or assessment hit the link below and let us help you out! https://app.acuityscheduling.com/schedule.php?owner=17015134&location=500%20N%20Meridian%20St.%20Suite%2010A

The Best Weightlifting Exercise for Beginners