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Tales from the Texan!

Cardio confusion! Aerobic work

Travis Burkybile


Cardio. Does it have to always be “Hardio”? For some people it is what they live for. For others it is a dirty word and they get irritated just thinking about it. What’s the answer? Here are the facts. In this post we are going to focus on the aerobic energy system.

You need a base level of aerobic fitness. You don’t have to train for hours per week to do this. You should do it first before starting other forms of conditioning and revisit it periodically.

It doesn’t always have to end like this.  

It doesn’t always have to end like this.  

Your aerobic base is restorative to the balance of your nervous system. Very intense intervals, heavy weight training, and any chronic stress activates the sympathetic nervous system, and deplete brain signaling neurotransmitters. Too much of this type of work will leave you unable to recover feeling tired, irritable, sore, and unable to rest. Doing a little aerobic work will provide balance.

You perform better with higher intensity training when you have a decent aerobic base. Your body develops more capillaries (yes you can grow new tiny blood vessels) This is how nutrients get the so called last mile to the target tissue. Without aerobic capacity, you will fail to maximize your potential in other areas of conditioning. One of the best all time sprint coaches referred to capillary density as beneficial by “Heating the neuron” allowing explosive athletes to conduct signals faster. Not just for endurance folks. Just differing in how much and what modes are prescribed.

Your heart doesn’t care what kind of movement you choose. No really. It isn’t only cardio if you are on a fancy elliptical machine. You can use medicine balls, barbells, circuits, biking, whatever you want. You can go faster or slower to bring the heart rate to the desired range. You can use low impact choices instead of pavement pounding your joints to dust. You think running is a good choice for a +300lb offensive lineman? Nope. How about alternating a 50% of a max back squat with 50% bench press for 20 minutes? Strength aerobics! The better you move the more options you have available!

Do your cardio!

Seven deadly lifts!

Travis Burkybile

Behind the neck shoulder presses!

This will be the first in a series of, oh say seven posts. Clever I know. If you have suggestions put them in the comments! I have picked seven so far, but I might rethink or add one with a little prodding.

If you train consistently, you have done some form of shoulder press, otherwise hereafter known as overhead (OHP) press. Maybe you have cranky shoulders that won’t let you train this movement. Maybe you swore them off as “injurious” years ago. Let’s set the record straight.

Most coaches will advocate for some form of OHP in their programs. That is about all they can agree on. The most common theme that will unite the all knowing fitness professional? DO NOT BEHIND THE NECK PRESS! EVER! FOR FEAR OF DEATH, GRINDING YOUR SHOULDER TO DUST, OR OTHER HORRIFIC END.

It seriously makes every worst exercise list I have ever seen. I think not. Why so much fear and loathing for what I think is a very beneficial movement? WAIT WHAT???? I like behind the neck presses? Heresy! Strip that man’s coaching credentials! Allow me to explain.

Most coaches will argue that the average trainee lacks the necessary shoulder internal and external rotation, and the barbell locks the scapula into a “bad” position. Here is the problem- most clients or self guided trainees are not qualified to do many of the lifts/exercises they do in the first place, nor are those exercises always best suited for their goals. Those exercises so carefully, ahem, “programmed”

Examples include; past knee surgery post menopausal women doing 100+ “plyo jumps for fat loss”, 20 something young male deadlifting with a spine resembling a threatened feline, or anyone of any skill level, high rep Olympic weightlifting. Yeah, I went there. If injury risk for an individual was truly well evaluated, most trainees would lose a big chunk of the most frequent exercises in their program.

So before there is a riot, let me acknowledge that there are very few people who initially are qualified to perform a behind the neck barbell press. Some people might never be a good fit because of past injury or other issues. The lift isn’t the problem. Here’s why.

Let’s check equipment used for OHP’s

  • Dumbbells
  • Barbells
  • Kettlebells
  • Machines
  • all others - not really optimal

Most trainees perform any variation, with any equipment of an OHP poorly. They will:

  • Only perform the top 1/2 or so- which is very tricep dominant, doesn’t put the deltoid (shoulder) muscles under stretch/tension and is therefore ineffective. Ever see a dude with good arms and no shoulders? Only all the time. Maybe this has something to do with it?
  • Place their arms so wide and abducted they end up in the exact same position as a BTN press! Elbows behind and not under the weight, wrists lazy, and driving the head of the humerus into the acromion. This is exactly what they were supposed to avoid by not pressing behind the neck!
  • Use these poor techniques with barbells or dumbbells. For goodness sake, anyone ever turn a palm in for a neutral grip? Anyone?
Bad pressing position- this poor guy is in for it

Bad pressing position- this poor guy is in for it

By these requirements, most trainees should not be doing any bilateral or even single arm OHP. If the behind the neck presses were the problem, why is shoulder impingement and shoulder injury from weight training increasing as use of the exercise decreases? Maybe too much sitting, lack of hanging traction, and overuse of other movement patterns is a better place to start looking for culprits. (I’m looking at you bench press.) I have worked with hundreds, approaching thousands of beat up cranky shoulders. Here is what I see needs to change.

  1. Improve extension and rotation of the spine. Overwhelmingly, people always complaining about their shoulders suck in this area, and likely aren’t doing anything about it other than fixating on the shoulder motion. This is dead end. There are tons of great YouTube videos on T spine mobility. Try a few and get to work. Check your straight arm raise before and after. Go on, I'll wait. See?
  2. Make sure trainees can brace and “lock down” the rib cage using the abs to anchor and stabilize the spine. This eliminates most of the leaning back you see when the lift is performed standing or seated, and often causes low back pain.
  3. Improve the soft tissue quality in the hands/wrists/forearms. This problem will often refer up the arm causing a “shoulder” problem.
  4. Improve the centration (ability to keep the ball in the ideal position in the socket during motion) of the shoulder joint by opening up the lats, chest, and rotator cuff. It is last on the list for a reason………

Find a good coach and bodyworker who can help you identify which of these areas you can improve. You will benefit on all overhead pressing, even if you never behind the neck press.

So there you have it. Part 1 of the Seven deadly lifts series. 1 down 6 to go!

Stay strong,

The Flexin Texan

New Years Fitness Resolutions - How to keep them!

Travis Burkybile

Hello fitness friends,

The new year is in full swing. We are a couple of weeks deep now. How are your fitness goals coming along? Wonderfully? Okay? Miserably? How do you know? To ask a "Bro" question- "Do you even track?"

One of the most common problems I have seen over the years coaching people is a lack of tracking. I will give you some background. I have been training individuals and small groups for about a decade now. One of the most common phrases I hear from clients regarding making change is, "I know what to do, I just need to do it." It is absolutely true for a good number of people that need to buckle down and set a goal that means something to them, something they really can throw themselves into with full confidence. I am willing to bet these folks fail to grasp exactly how complex things can be dealing with the human body, however just being consistent on basics can carry you a long way. What they think they need to do, and actually are doing, can be very different things though.

Let's take the calendar year for example. Today is Monday January 18th, 2016. Or, put another way, 5% of the way through the entire year. By the end of January, we will be through 8% of the year. Does it seem different to think about it in those terms? February still seems very early in the year, until you think about the fact that a couple weeks in you are 10% of the way to 2017. So why is that important to tracking?

Say you make the decision to have better habits to drop holiday weight gain. You are going to do it all. Eat right, hit the gym, adopt one of those abandoned pets from the commercials with the sad Sarah Mclachlan music. The works. You are killing it on every front. Your check in day arrives. Progress! Not as much as you hoped though. What gives? You are living in the gym, and even cavemen think your Paleo game is intense. You cook on a rock. You haven't eaten anything that casts a shadow in weeks. How do we figure out what the next step is? Let the tracking begin!

I learn more and more over the years to simplify things but also to make my systems flexible. One thing I took from my Precision Nutrition training that is a game changer is the compliance chart. It can be modified for a beginner to an advanced client, with a range of different goals. Let's say as a coach I gave you this goal; eat every meal with a serving of animal based protein the size of your palm, and an equal or larger serving of non starchy veggies. I won't go into great detail, but this would help stabilize blood sugar, increase vitamins/minerals and fiber, reduce overeating empty calorie choices and be an appropriate starting point for many people. Not rocket science I know, bear with me. Let's say this person isn't completely new to health and fitness, so we are aiming for 4 meals a day of this strategy.

4 meals a day x 7 days per week = 28 total meals per week.

I think that's right, please double check my work. Now, let's assume standard grading scales- 90% or more A, 80% or more B and so on. If I have my client report back that they only ate 3 meals a day all week, that would give them 21/28. Or a 75% C grade. Maybe the goal was too lofty? Maybe not, the important thing is to review and adjust. The person might feel like they really did a great job, prepared all their meals, avoided extra sugars, but the numbers don't lie. C results. If you are starting from a failing grade that will work. Depending on how fast you want to progress these goals will need to be reviewed and adjusted to ensure consistency and progress.

On a further note, let's go back to the calendar for a minute. Of course there will be some deviations to indulge. We got to live right? It still has to be accounted for though. So January through December, let's add it up. My birthday is in January, thats one day to indulge. Then you have February and of course, Mardi Gras. March is St Patricks Day. May is memorial day. The 4th of July, Labor Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years. That's 10. I am going to throw in 2 weeks vacation, because that is all about going off script right? Another 14 days. Let's add some birthdays for friends and loved ones. 7 or so? Then maybe a few nights where you just need some me time. How about 10 on the low end? This brings us to 34 days of whatever we want we feel like cramming down. This is a very conservative number only taking 1 day per holiday period, that also doesn't count weddings, work functions, and any other number of things that may interrupt your plan.

So, 34 days "off" / 365 days in a year = 7% deviation from plan and a score of 93%

93% sneaking in for the A. Not bad. Remember however, this is assuming you get everything else right on. Anything outside the times we designated, or a heavier number of days "off script" and you are already looking at a B grade, regardless of what habits you have adopted. The compliance chart will really open your eyes on how you are doing with consistency on a day to day basis. Self reporting and trying to remember what we ate or didn't eat in the past day, let alone a weeks time is criminally inaccurate. Many studies you see in the news use this as a method of tracking, which should automatically call accuracy into question from what I see when I have clients use tracking sheets vs going by memory. You must write it down when it happens! Otherwise it drifts away to be forgotten and sabotages your progress leading to more frustration.

Use paper and pen, apps on your phone, whatever works. If you don't have something already don't worry, I have your back. I have an easy tracking sheet you can print, or use digitally if you want. You can make the behavior anything you want, have one for nutrition and one for exercise, use it anyway you like! Email me and I will send it to you on the house.

Do you even track?

Do you even track?

Keep tracking and nailing it this year!

The Texan