Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Generally Powerful Person - Ideas for GPP Training

By Andrew McGunagle

Things seem go wrong when we get too far away from being good humans. Issues often arise when we narrow our focus and overspecialize too early, neglect broad swaths of movement and physical development for too long, and get too serious too soon about doing just a few things well at the expense of everything else.

I’m all for efficiency in the gym and I tend towards a minimalistic approach when it comes to training. However, I’ll admit I’ve valued those ideals too highly in the past, and I’m certainly not the only one. On the sliding scale of Too Little to Too Much, I’m headed back towards the middle, and I’d recommend many of you consider following suit.

I’ve done entire training cycles where I only train a few lifts. While these programs did yield excellent increases in strength in specific lifts, my body felt terrible. I felt stiff and fragile, and my pre-training warm-ups seemed to last an eternity.
I spent more time doing drills to improve my mobility than anyone I’d ever encountered, but I still moved terribly because I rarely and barely explored my movement capacity. My limited mobility reinforced my decision to train only a handful of movements I felt I could do well, which only served to magnify my problems.
If you’re far from your physical potential, then be weary of reinforcing “gaps” in your movement capacity, movement skills, muscular development, and strength performance. The lifter who can move the best, has a good build, and isn’t disconcertingly weak in any basic human movements will have the most potential for improvement.
The problem, however, is often logistical. If it’s beneficial to be pretty good at a number of things, which things should you do if you’re time crunched? The general development toolbox is teeming with options, but doing everything isn’t realistic. Ain’t nobody got time for dat!

Over the past few years I’ve been working on whittling my training arsenal down to what I believe are the most accessible and most effective exercises for general development. This repertoire of movements will cover most all of the bases if your aim general development. Note that the categories proposed are not exclusive – many of these movements can fit into a number of categories, depending on how you incorporate them.

General Warm-up
-Roll the quads and upper back
-Adductor rocking & neck nods
-Segmental rolling (lower, upper)

General Movement Skills
-Turkish get-up (bodyweight, then weighted)
-KB goblet squat (“prying” holds and reps)

General Strength 
-Hardstyle KB swing 
-KB standing 1-arm overhead press/Push-up
-KB 1-arm row/Chin-up/Pull-up

General Conditioning / Work Capacity
-Suitcase carry/Waiters walk
-Crawls (forwards, backwards, sideways, axial)
-Play (frisbee, pool games, tag, etc.)

General Movement Capacity
-Couch stretch
-Banded lat stretch
-Shoulder extension bridge stretch
-KB arm bar

General Lifestyle Habits
-Commit to one book and read a bit before bed each night.
-Commit to just one simple nutrition habit (writing down a grocery list, drinking more water, etc.).
-Commit to scheduling at least one fun get-together with friends every week where you laugh a lot.

This list is far from exhaustive, but it’s sufficient and doable. Grab a few kettlebells and a friend, train outside in the sun, and dedicate a little time to getting better at all of these movements. Focus on your weak links and strive to fill in your “gaps” rather than doing extra work building your strengths. You’ll be surprised by how much easier your more specific training will be when you transition back to a more specialized program.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Overhead Work for Powerlifters – Is it Necessary?

By Andrew McGunagle

How important is overhead work if you’re a powerlifter? You’ll never need to hoist weights over your head in competition, so is it useful to dedicate lots of training time to overhead pressing variations? Here’s my take on the topic…

Durability, sustainability, resilience – these terms should frame more strength training discussions. If you’ve got big lifting goals you’re far from, then you must understand your pursuit is going to take years. Not weeks, not months, but years.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – impressive lasting specific adaptations rely on the bedrock of general development. Appreciable movement capacity, diverse movement skills, and impressive muscular development will make it much easier to get strong. Specialize too significantly too soon, and you’ll make it difficult to realize your true potential.

If you’re skinny and weak by competitive powerlifting standards, then should you really be paring your sessions down to the three competition lifts and a handful of fairly specific assistance exercises? Is it wise to lose the capacity to put your arms overhead without compensation if you’re not competing at an elite level?

Answer those questions as if you’re a coach, then compare your answers to what you actually do as a lifter. If the two don’t line up, it may be time to make adjustments to your training.

Keep in mind that, if you’re a powerlifter, you don’t necessarily need to press a barbell overhead to get the benefits of overhead work. Press dumbbells or kettlebells. Do one arm at a time.

Are these variations as good as the standard barbell overhead press? It’s easy to argue the barbell is king, but you can still get the same shoulder, triceps, and upper back development from other variations. If unilateral variations are friendlier to your bench-weary shoulders, there’s your answer right there.

Get stronger overhead in the 5-12 rep range and pair this with a smart nutrition plan that enables you to put on size, and your bigger shoulders should translate to a bigger bench. Overhead work will eventually stall and reach a point of diminishing returns. That’s fine. As long as you’ve filled in this “gap” in your strength and physique, you’ll be a better lifter than you would’ve been if you had just benched.

Thanks for reading!