Tag Archives: squat

Build Stronger Legs with the Romanian Deadlift

7 Aug

If you’re like some of the exercisers I see at local gyms and recreation facilities, your leg workout consist primarily of the leg extension (bad exercise) and leg press (better).  If you’re doing squats… good for you.  That’s a step in the right direction.

If you want to strengthen your legs the smart way, work the oft-neglected muscles of the posterior chain (glutes, hamstrings) by adding the Romanian deadlift (RDL, a.k.a., straight-leg deadlift) to your workout.

A study at the University of Memphis suggests that the straight-leg deadlift is more effective than the leg curl machine (another bad exercise).  “The exercise activated the most muscle in the lowering phase,” according to lead researcher Brian Schilling.

Try these variations:

Do 3 sets of 10 repetitions, allowing 4 seconds to lower the weight.  Push your hips back to start the lowering motion, and drive hips forward to resume standing position.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Squat Smarter with the Goblet Squat

22 Feb

goblet-squat-2[1]The Barbell Back Squat is a very good exercise, but it’s not necessarily for everyone.  Proper form and technique are important for any structural exercise (one in which you directly load the spine), and the barbell back squat requires knowledgeable coaching to ensure safe execution.

For an effective, safe alternative to the barbell back squat, try the Goblet Squat.  I like this exercise, especially for novices and youngsters, once we have mastered and move beyond body-weight squats.

To perform the goblet squat exercise, hold a dumbbell (or kettlebell) “goblet-style” (pictured), vertically and at chest level, with the heels of both hands cupping the dumbbell’s upper head, as if it’s a large goblet.  This provides counter-balance, helping you avoid the upper-body forward lean that can be a problem with the barbell back squat, enables better form and technique, and makes the exercise easier to perform.

Start with at least a 25-pound dumbbell (although you can go even lighter), performing the exercise as you would any other squat-type exercise, and challenge yourself by increasing weight and/or repetitions as you are able.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Add Squats to Run Faster

11 Nov

squats-strength-training[1]At my facility, we encourage squats— and squat-type exercises — to improve sprint performance.  Research has also shown that squats can improve vertical jump and agility performance in athletes who perform the exercise regularly (athletes who swim, throw, and swing can also benefit from squats, which covers just about everyone).  Squats are a great choice to build the strength and power necessary to generate force against the ground, which is integral to speed, agility, and jump performance.

Recently, the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research further corroborated the relationship between squats and sprint speed.  In their study, researchers found that athletes who did squats increased their sprint speed by 10% compared with those who did not do the exercise.

In addition to the Barbell Back Squat (pictured), try these squat variations:

  • Dumbbell Goblet Squat
  • Split Squat
  • Sumo Squat
  • Front Squat
  • Single-Leg Squat

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Injury-Proof Your Legs With Stronger Hips

8 Jul

sandbag-lunge-exercise-14102011[1]Athletes spend a lot of time on their feet.  As a result of impact, fatigue, and overuse, the incidence of leg injury increases.

Research shows that hip muscle weakness increases the risk of injuries like chronic knee pain, shin splints, Achilles tendonitis, and pain in the sole of the foot.  Since the muscles of the hip are important for stabilizing the leg during running, jumping, and other lower-extremity movement, weakness of these muscles can lead to less control of the legs and an increase in the risk of injury.

Hip muscle training can not only build up protection from future injuries, it can also help to alleviate pain from various running-related injuries, according to various studies.  Try hip-strengthening exercises like squats, deadlifts, lunges (pictured, with sandbag), and glute bridges.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Squat vs. Leg Press: Impact on Strength and Speed

25 May

squats-strength-training[1]mKv16aCWBRPf7Ne2uLJQUaA[1]Many sports require athletes to execute powerful movements – those that require strength and speed.

Speed-strength performance can be defined as the execution of a movement that requires the development of large forces and high movement speeds.

Obviously, strength training has a positive impact on strength and speed.  Recently, a study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research took a look at two exercises – the back squat and leg press – and compared their relative effects on sprint and jump performance.

“Both exercises train nearly the same muscles of the lower extremities, but in some aspects, they are different.  The leg press has less requirements concerning balancing the weight, and therefore, less muscle activity contributes toward stabilization compared with the squat.” (Wirth, K, et.al.)

“Despite the maximal force production through many of the same muscles, squat and leg-press exercises are distinctly different and produce different specific neuromuscular adaptations because of diverse movement patterns.”

“Compared with the squat,… the hip extensors are not trained within the extension range” of the leg press exercise.

In this study, the authors found that the back squat exercise improved sprint and jump performance more effectively than the leg press, because of the better transfer effects.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Improve Your Speed and Agility with Jump Training

20 Apr

Lead%20Photo-1[1]Research has shown a definitive correlation between jumping ability and running performance, including speed and agility.  Generally, there is a stronger correlation based on the sprint distance.  The contribution of muscle power may be most important in shorter distance sprints (for example, 60, 100, and 200 meters), although middle- and long-distance running performance is positively impacted, as well.  Development of muscle power — via jump training — should be considered as  a component for training for most sports, including both sprinters and middle- and long-distance runners.

Running velocity, including the ability to accelerate, decelerate, and change direction quickly, has been shown to be a function of force and power production.  The high-power output associated with jumping activities has led researchers to determine that jumping tests could be used as a  predictor of running performance.

Force and power are obvious components of running ability.  Maximal squat strength has been significantly correlated to sprint performance.  So, how do you incorporate strength and power training — including jump training — into your strength and conditioning regimen in a relevant way?

Strength Training

Before you start jump training, including plyometrics, you’ve got to be strong.  In order to be safe and effective, high-intensity power training requires adequate strength.  Bilateral, lower-body strength exercises like the squat, deadlift, and Romanian deadlift will help you build a strong foundation.  Unilateral exercises like the stepup and Bulgarian split squat are more functional, requiring strength and stability

Jump Training

Plyometrics are the most effective way to build lower-extremity power.  These exercises, done correctly, are designed to help you generate the greatest possible force in the shortest amount of time.  Jumping rope and jumping jacks are basic plyometric exercises, and a good place to start.  Once proficient at these exercises, you can progress to multiple, continuous box and hurdle jumps.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Contributing Factors to Change-of-Direction Ability

23 Nov

marshall_faulk[1]Regardless of the sport you play, strength and speed are “difference makers.”  And, although linear sprint speed is important, most athletes will need to change direction while moving at high-speed.

This is another area where strength training becomes important to the athlete’s development.

According to a study from the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, “Change-of-direction ability… would be best improved through increases in an athlete’s strength and power while maintaining lean muscle mass.” (Delaney, et. al.)

Since change-of-direction ability is heavily dependent on relative strength and power, the development of these attributes through the core, hips, and lower extremities has a positive effect on change-of-direction (COD) performance.  Research shows a high correlation between 1-repetition maximum/body mass and COD in exercises like squats and deadlifts.

In addition to the squat and deadlift exercises, the leg press and split squat are also beneficial to the development of hip and leg drive.

Single-leg exercises, like the single-leg squat, step-up, and Bulgarian split squat, add an element of balance and stability to your lower-extremity strength development.

Plyometric exercises, like box jumps and depth jumps, can help you build explosive power, improving the amount of force you are able to generate against the ground.

Since long-term (>2 years) strength training improves COD performance, it is recommended as early as childhood and adolescence.  Consult with a knowledgeable, experienced strength and conditioning professional for guidance regarding an age-appropriate, well-designed, and well-supervised program.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Build Stronger Legs with the Romanian Deadlift

21 Mar

Romanian-Deadlift[1]If you’re like some of the exercisers I see at local gyms and recreation facilities, your leg workout consist primarily of the leg extension (bad exercise) and leg press (better).  If you’re doing squats… good for you.  That’s a step in the right direction.

If you want to strengthen your legs the smart way, work the oft-neglected muscles of the posterior chain (glutes, hamstrings) by adding the Romanian deadlift (RDL, a.k.a., straight-leg deadlift) to your workout.

A study at the University of Memphis suggests that the straight-leg deadlift is more effective than the leg curl machine (another bad exercise).  “The exercise activated the most muscle in the lowering phase,” according to lead researcher Brian Schilling.

Try these variations:

Do 3 sets of 10 repetitions, allowing 4 seconds to lower the weight.  Push your hips back to start the lowering motion, and drive hips forward to resume standing position.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Squat Smarter with the Goblet Squat

1 Nov

goblet-squat-2[1]The Barbell Back Squat is a very good exercise, but it’s not necessarily for everyone.  Proper form and technique are important for any structural exercise (one in which you directly load the spine), and the barbell back squat requires knowledgeable coaching to ensure safe execution.

For an effective, safe alternative to the barbell back squat, try the Goblet Squat.  I like this exercise, especially for novices and youngsters, once we have mastered and move beyond body-weight squats.

To perform the goblet squat exercise, hold a dumbbell (or kettlebell) “goblet-style” (pictured), vertically and at chest level, with the heels of both hands cupping the dumbbell’s upper head, as if it’s a large goblet.  This provides counter-balance, helping you avoid the upper-body forward lean that can be a problem with the barbell back squat, enables better form and technique, and makes the exercise easier to perform.

Start with at least a 25-pound dumbbell (although you can go even lighter), performing the exercise as you would any other squat-type exercise, and challenge yourself by increasing weight and/or repetitions as you are able.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Add Squats to Run Faster

14 Aug

squats-strength-training[1]At my facility, we encourage squats — and squat-type exercises — to improve sprint performance.  Research has also shown that squats can improve vertical jump and agility performance in athletes who perform the exercise regularly (athletes who swim, throw, and swing can also benefit from squats, which covers just about everyone).  Squats are a great choice to build the strength and power necessary to generate force against the ground, which is integral to speed, agility, and jump performance.

Recently, the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research further corroborated the relationship between squats and sprint speed.  In their study, researchers found that athletes who did squats increased their sprint speed by 10% compared with those who did not do the exercise.

In addition to the Barbell Back Squat (pictured), try these squat variations:

  • Dumbbell Goblet Squat
  • Split Squat
  • Sumo Squat
  • Front Squat
  • Single-Leg Squat

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

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