This article is similar to the one on squats and back problems because the issues are similar. So here we go:

Backs are ruined by defective execution of deadlifts, and the deadlifts are blamed instead of the incompetent instruction. In correctly performed deadlifts, the spine keeps its natural curves just as when standing upright, and the pelvis and lower back are like one solid body, with movement occurring mainly in the hip joints (see instruction of the deadlift on the DVD Flexibility Express).

The chief mechanical cause of back injury while doing deadlifts is similar to that causing back injuries in weighted squats, namely flexing (bending forward) of the lifter’s lumbar spine. That flexing happens when the lifter either leans forward beyond the point up to which the pelvis can rotate forward (any further leaning beyond this point can be done only by flexing the spine), or when the lifter begins the lift by posterior rotation of the pelvis (tilting the pelvis backward). In either case, instead of moving the whole trunk as one solid object rotating at the hip joints, the lumbar flexion is combined with posterior tilting of the lifter’s pelvis, the same as in defective squats. Just like in squats, this error can be prevented by correct teaching of the deadlift–that is, beginning with forms in which it is easy to instill the habit of keeping the whole trunk solid. Here is a guide for teaching progression of deadlifts:

–The more elevated the weight, the less one has to lean forward to lift it and the easier it is to keep the trunk straight and solid.

–The lighter the weight, the easier it is to keep the trunk straight and solid.

–The wider the stance, the further one can lean forward without blocking the pelvis from rotating forward.

So here is such a progression:

sumo deadlift => powerlifting (conventional) deadlift => stiff-legged deadlift

Begin with the widest-stance form, the sumo deadlift, with a light weight, lifting it from the stands if needed. Practice forms of the deadlift in the above sequence, the first two forms each until you do it flawlessly, then move on to the stiff-legged deadlift and then to other forms, such as Romanian deadlift and straight-leg deadlift, if they suit your needs. As you get comfortable with each form, first lower the supports (the height you lift the weight from), and then add weight while keeping the natural spinal curves. In each form it is a good idea to add the glute squeeze at the top of the lift, as is done in the American deadlift, demonstrated by coach Bret Contreras in one of the videos embedded at the end of this article.

Each step of the progression is to be done until the habit of keeping the natural lumbar lordosis under the weight is firmly ingrained.

Note: Weights that can be placed between the feet, such as kettlebells or dumbbells, make it easier to keep the trunk straight during deadlifting than weights that must be moved in front of the shins, such as barbells.

Hunching the upper back (increasing thoracic kyphosis) at any point of the deadlift is not a good idea because doing so under load increases the lower back’s backward bend (lumbar lordosis)–and the safest alignment of the spine is when all its curves are just like they are when standing upright in good posture.

Demos of Deadlifts

http://youtu.be/toxt4l1DLp0
Sumo deadlift

http://youtu.be/f0bY-gp8uR8?t=1m25s
Powerlifting (conventional) deadlift

http://youtu.be/9CleNQoKSb0
Romanian deadlift, American deadlift, stiff-legged deadlift, and straight-leg deadlift

http://youtu.be/kX0bd5P7vhg
Stiff-legged deadlift and Romanian deadlift

http://youtu.be/9GYpNhZ-lH0
Perfect deadlift technique for powerlifting (over 30 minutes of thorough instruction on powerlifting deadlifts, both conventional and sumo)

There are many forms of deadlifts, just like there are many forms of squats, presses, push-ups, pull-ups, etc. Which forms you should do depend on peculiarities of your physique and demands of the activity you train for. My form of deadlift is described in my article “Advanced Strength Exercises for Lower Back–Your Best Insurance against Back Pain” and shown on Flexibility Express DVD.

Flexibility Express DVD by Thomas Kurz

Explosive Power and Jumping Ability for All Sports: Essential Strength and Jumping Ability Exercises for All Sports

Science of Sports Training, 2nd edition, by Thomas Kurz

The Unbreakable® Umbrella — A peculiar mix of genteel elegance and chilling weaponry...

Advertisements

Backs are ruined by defective execution of squats, and the squats are blamed instead of the incompetent instruction. The chief mechanical cause of back injury while doing weighted squats is posterior tilting of the lifter’s pelvis, called “butt wink,” which during the squat causes reflexive flexing (bending forward) of the lifter’s lumbar spine. Those two moves together, posterior pelvic tilt and lumbar flexion, stretch the spinal erectors (muscles straightening the spine) while they are working to keep the trunk from collapsing under the weight of the barbell. Additionally, the resulting spinal alignment puts a strong squeeze on the intervertebral discs, making them susceptible to injury.

The butt wink, or posterior tilt, of the pelvis happens when one leans forward under the weight. The more one leans, the more difficult it is to prevent the butt wink, and vice versa–the less one leans forward, the easier it is to prevent it. Butt wink and the damage it may cause to the spine can be prevented by correct teaching of the squat–that is, beginning with forms in which the wink is easy to control (for an example, see instruction for the wall squat on the DVD Flexibility Express). The more one abducts and rotates the thighs externally, the deeper one’s pelvis can sink below the knees without tilting, and so the closer to vertical one can keep the trunk. To put it simply: The wider the squat, the less one leans forward. Here is a guide for teaching progression of squats:

–The lighter the weight, the less the trunk leans forward.

–The wider the stance, the less the trunk leans forward.

–When holding the weight in front of the trunk (goblet squat, front squat), the trunk leans forward less than when the weight is behind the trunk (back squat).

So here is such a progression:

goblet squat => front squat => back squat

Begin with a wide stance (like the five-step horse-riding stance) and a light weight. Practice the three forms of the squat in the above sequence, within the same workout if possible to better transfer the sense of proper position of the pelvis and spine from easier forms to more difficult forms. If you can’t do all forms well enough, then stick with the form you can do until you are ready for the next one. When comfortable, add weight. As weight increases, eventually you will have to narrow the stance while maintaining the natural lumbar lordosis–not tilting the pelvis–and keeping the trunk’s forward lean to a minimum.

Each step of the progression is to be done until the habit of keeping the natural lumbar lordosis under the weight is firmly ingrained.

If your ankle dorsiflexion is poor, you can begin the above sequence with heels on supports and then gradually lower the supports.

To learn more about squats read “Martial Arts and the Squat” at stadion.com.

Flexibility Express DVD by Thomas Kurz

Explosive Power and Jumping Ability for All Sports: Essential Strength and Jumping Ability Exercises for All Sports

Science of Sports Training, 2nd edition, by Thomas Kurz

The Unbreakable® Umbrella — A peculiar mix of genteel elegance and chilling weaponry...


Question: What do you think about the idea of doing a three-day juice diet for health, cleanse, and weight loss? The diet would be purchased from a company that specializes in juice cleanses.

Answer: Cleanse and detox programs are sold to the naive in the health-and-fitness crowd. Limiting one’s intake of food and drinking juices for a few days can’t rid one of environmental toxins accumulated in one’s tissues. Real detoxification therapy is done under medical supervision and may involve carefully monitored heat treatment with administration of supplements–not to be done by the inexpert. And treating heavy metal toxicity by chelation therapy is an even more serious matter.

Just for your information, here is my layman’s guide to fasting, cleansing, and detoxing:

Long Fasts

During a fast, after using up one’s store of glycogen within the first 2 or 3 days, one feeds on one’s own tissues, beginning with those least critical for survival. So, the nervous, circulatory, and respiratory systems are spared; what is consumed are mainly fat stores and, to a lesser (but not small) degree, protein from muscles and other organs. Ketosis (result of metabolizing fats without adequate carbohydrates) begins between the 3rd and 4th day of the fast and reaches its peak usually between the 7th and 10th day. At that time one can experience headaches, nausea, and other unpleasant symptoms. After the 8th or 10th day of the fast, one usually feels better for about 10 days, after which organs may become damaged, and so medical supervision is needed for fasts this long.

Usually within the second or third week of fasting, one’s breath and sweat have a foul smell. This is a sign of toxins released from metabolized tissues–no foul smell, no release of toxins. The foul smell may persist into the 6th week of the fast. So for a thorough true cleanse, fast up to six weeks.

Short Cleanse Programs

If you eat foods that abuse your digestive system, then a couple or few days of fasting will make you feel better–it will be a respite from the abuse. Feeling better after such a brief fast is due chiefly to not eating bad stuff rather than to fancy cleansing programs with their juices and supplements. In other words, if you feel better when you don’t eat your usual foods, then you should not be eating them–duh! On the other hand, if you can’t change your eating habits, then those short rest periods for your body do make sense, but the cleansing bull–not so much.

If you eat optimally you don’t need cleansing programs.

Optimal Nutrition by Dr. Jan Kwasniewski

Flexibility Express DVD by Thomas Kurz

The Unbreakable® Umbrella — A peculiar mix of genteel elegance and chilling weaponry...


Article titled “Bench Press: What It Does and Doesn’t Do” is posted at www.stadion.com/bench-press-what-it-does-and-doesnt-do/

Here is an excerpt from the article:

“People often ask me how to arrange their training programs, or simply in what order to do exercises for best results. As they ask these questions they list the exercises they do. As soon as they tell me the bench press is a regular part of their training, even though they are not powerlifters, I know further conversation with them is a waste of time because they don’t think straight–their bench presses are proof of it….” Read more at www.stadion.com/bench-press-what-it-does-and-doesnt-do/

Explosive Power and Jumping Ability for All Sports: Essential Strength and Jumping Ability Exercises for All Sports

Science of Sports Training, 2nd edition, by Thomas Kurz

Flexibility Express DVD by Thomas Kurz

The Unbreakable® Umbrella — A peculiar mix of genteel elegance and chilling weaponry...


In the YouTube video below, Coach Tumminello talks about the use of the term functional in sports and fitness training and gives a useful definition of the term.

What is Functional Training? The Real Definition

My definition is similar to that of Coach Tumminello but briefer and wider. I define functional exercises as those that improve your overall functioning. In other words, to borrow an expression from physical education, functional exercises “have a positive transfer” to all (yes, all) your activities.

That same definition applies to functional training. (Sports training consists of exercises, means of recovery, and means of rebuilding—that is, nutrition.) But keep in mind that nonfunctional training—such that impairs your function—may be made up of exercises that by themselves could be functional. It is a matter of dosage of all the elements of training.

Science of Sports Training, 2nd edition, by Thomas Kurz

Flexibility Express DVD by Thomas Kurz

The Unbreakable® Umbrella — A peculiar mix of genteel elegance and chilling weaponry...


Today a post from Stadion’s Discussion Forum with questions on overtraining and recovery from injuries, followed by my answers. First the whole post:

I am a taekwondo’er, been away for some months (bad ankle sprain that had me undergo surgery, which has taken months to recover) . . . anyways enough of my sorry story, lol. I am looking to get back into training. I have been given an all clear for weight training, swimming, cycling, and light running. I have been told to be cautious of any activity that would put a strain on the ankle joint (jumping, sprinting, etc). This post I guess is more of “prevention is better than cure.”

Given that I have been off training for almost 4 months, my fitness is zilch and I need to work on rebuilding. This includes my flexibility (whatever basic levels I had), strength, and endurance/stamina. I also have an aggressive deadline of mid-March (TKD commitments!), and my biggest worry is I might end up overtraining. Given that I need to improve every aspect of physical fitness, I have been unable to find a particular type of exercise I can perform that will help me get there. The questions I therefore have are:

1. Flexibility Express—recently received as an Xmas present—can I follow it solely to achieve my goals?

2. Are there any other exercises that would complement the above that I can do without killing myself?

3. Is there a program anyone might be willing to share that I can use to aid in my goals?

The kind of training I have in mind will involve training twice a day, 6 days a week. Deep down inside I know this is not the most sensible approach.

An unrelated (or perhaps not) question!

I seem to take very long to recover from injuries. My ankle for instance has taken a year and a surgery and is still not there. I had an adductor injury (practicing kicks) that took almost 16 weeks. Is this my genes or am I doing something wrong here? Apologies for the very open-ended question.

Any advice, suggestions, comments will be greatly appreciated. I haven’t had anyone (in my network) provide advice that would help, and I come here feeling I might finally be able to get some help.

My answers to each question:

Question:
Given that I need to improve every aspect of physical fitness, I have been unable to find a particular type of exercise I can perform that will help me get there. The questions I therefore have are:

1. Can I follow [Flexibility Express] solely to achieve my goals?

Answer:
No. Flexibility Express is for developing strength and flexibility, but not for endurance.

Question:
2. Are there any other exercises that would complement the above that I can do without killing myself?

Answer:
Yes. Those mentioned by you already:
Swimming (for endurance, mainly breath control and lung capacity)
Running (for endurance, with a greater effect on the muscular endurance of legs than swimming)
Cycling (allows much greater intensity of effort than running without overstressing your ankle)

Question:
3. Is there a program anyone might be willing to share that I can use to aid in my goals?

Answer:
Other people’s programs may or may not fit you, so if they share theirs with you, you will have to customize those programs (see my answer below on avoiding overtraining).

Question:
My biggest worry is I might end up overtraining.

Answer:
To avoid overtraining, monitor yourself for early signs of excessive fatigue, such as poor sleep (waking up at night, waking up tired), lack of enthusiasm for exercising, being irritable, and excessive reaction to sudden stimuli (being jumpy). For more of those signs, see Science of Sports Training.

Question:
I seem to take very long to recover from injuries. My ankle for instance has taken a year and a surgery and is still not there. I had an adductor injury (practicing kicks) that took almost 16 weeks. Is this my genes or am I doing something wrong here?

Answer:
Long recovery may be caused by any or all of the following:

Rehab—poor choice of rehab exercises, excessive intensity of those exercises, wrong frequency of doing the exercises. This may result in disrupting the healing of tissues and preventing their maturation, plus inflammation.

Training—excessive intensity and volume of exercises (too intense and/or too much), so you end up with too much inflammation and excess acidity in your body.

Nutrition—wrong foods that do not supply enough macronutrients (fat, protein, carbs) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) to rebuild your damaged tissues and/or that are pro-inflammatory and acidifying. From my own experience, I learned that getting rid of pro-inflammatory foods has a better effect than increasing the intake of anti-inflammatory foods or supplements. For example, my shoulder was chronically inflamed for a long time—even though I ate many good things (such as avocados, olives, wild salmon) and took turmeric supplements—until I completely eliminated any grains (other than rice) from my diet. I used to have one or two slices of bread per day (and very little other grain products), and my shoulder was getting worse rather than better. Then my rehab specialist suggested I stop eating the bread and any grains, and the shoulder got better within days.

Science of Sports Training, 2nd edition, by Thomas Kurz

Flexibility Express DVD by Thomas Kurz

The Unbreakable® Umbrella — A peculiar mix of genteel elegance and chilling weaponry...


A recent exchange on training for strength and flexibility between Mr. E and me:

Mr. E.:
I have been using your video Flexibility Express, and I definitely see major improvement, though not as quickly as you indicate I should. One question regarding the squats into splits routine: How frequently should I be performing that series of exercises? More than once per week?

Thomas Kurz:
You do your whole-body strength workout just once a week? And you see major improvement? I am amazed!

But seriously, information on the number of workouts in a week is in these posts:

Flexibility Express and Workout Schedule and Overtraining

Silly Questions, or How Often Should I Exercise

Mr. E.:
Thank you. I train 4 days per week, 3 days upper body (more traditional format [than the Flexibility Express]), and I only do legs and squats into splits once per week. I do, however, follow your dynamic stretching routine for front, side, and rear kicks twice per day, once in the morning and once at night. I was just wondering if I should do the squats into splits more often, as that seems to be the catalyst to lengthening my muscles. Thanks again.

Thomas Kurz:
You want to do splits and you say that doing the squats-to-splits routine “seems to be the catalyst to lengthening [your] muscles” and then you are wondering if you should do it more often? Don’t be wondering–just do it.

By the way, if you want to get seriously big shoulders, chest, and arms, don’t skimp on squats and deadlifts. Those “lower-body lifts” have great hormonal effects on the whole body and so add considerable muscle mass to the upper body too.

More info on the Flexibility Express program is at
www.stadion.com/flexibility-express/

Flexibility Express DVD by Thomas Kurz

The Unbreakable® Umbrella — A peculiar mix of genteel elegance and chilling weaponry...