Archive for February, 2014

Dumbbell Lunge Press (aka Dumbbell Lunge and Press)

Also called a front lunge press, the dumbbell lunge press is basically a lunge combined with an overhead press. It can be performed with dumbbells in one or both hands and with a front or reverse lunge. This exercise is not only a great stability challenge and a full body strength exercise it is a great conditioning challenge and perfect for incorporating into conditioning days. Heavy weights are not required to make this exercise demanding.

The most common version of the exercise involves the following basic steps.

1. Stand with feet shoulder width apart and one or two dumbbells at your shoulders, in an overhead press or “racked” position (same position you would hold the dumbbells in for a dumbbell front squat).

2. Step forward into a front lunge while simultaneously pressing the dumbbell(s) overhead. Alternatively, use a reverse lunge and step back into a lunge position while pressing the dumbbell(s) overhead.

3. Return to the starting position using a proper lunge technique while simultaneously lowering the dumbbell(s) back to the starting position.

This basic version is good for conditioning or as a secondary exercise to bring additional challenge and stability requirements to a basic lunge.

When using only one dumbbell you have the option of having the dumbbell on the side of the working leg or non-working leg. Although either choice can be quite challenging choosing the non-working side presents an added stability challenge since the load is offset from the primary base of support (working leg). This can also be done using a lateral lunge.

Dumbbell Lunge Press Overhead Version

The overhead lunge dumbbell press is a modified version the dumbbell lunge press in which the dumbbell is held in the overhead press position while returning to the starting position. The difference between this exercise and the Overhead Lunge is that the dumbbell is pressed while lunging whereas in the overhead lunge the dumbbell(s) or barbell is held overhead in the same position as a bilateral overhead squat throughout.

Follow steps 1 and 2 above and then:

3. Return to the starting position while maintaining the dumbbell in the pressed overhead position. Take care to keep the dumbbell in the same position relative to the torso and head and return upright while trying to keep your torso stable (not leaning forward, back, or weaving).

4. Once standing in the upright (starting) position lower the dumbbell back to the shoulder.

You can also do the press part of the exercise from the bottom position instead of simultaneously while lunging, using a front or reverse lunge. The dumbbell(s) can then be held overhead while returning to the upright position, mimicking an overhead dumbbell lunge.

An expert in strength training, Eric Troy writes on all aspects of resistance training, physiology, kinesiology, sports psychology, nutrition and more.  View profile

Overhead Squat – The Ultimate Exercise

Many people out there often ask the question, “If you could do only one exercise, which one would you do?” Now, that question alone is simply ridiculous. The body has so many different muscle types, and is capable of so many different motions and ranges, it would be impossible to single out one exercise to train everything. Exercises themselves, even, are focused on specific gains, so the perfect single exercise for a power lifter would not be the same perfect exercise for a swimmer.

However, for arguments sake, and for the sake of singling out ONE OF the single best exercises for any goal, I would say it is undoubtedly the Overhead Squat.

Bodybuilders, strength trainers, football coaches, lacrosse players… the list goes on. Any of those would certainly include squats in any serious training program for an athlete competing at any level. Asking just about any personal trainer at a local gym, or a professional coach for any competitive sport what the best single exercise is will result in the same answer: squats.

So, if squats are such a great exercise, what makes the overhead squat (a specific variation of a standard, or “low bar” squat) the ULTIMATE exercise? The answer really lies in the mechanics of both exercises, and the factors that make the overhead squat better, overall, simply build on the foundation of the basic squat.

A typical squat is a great exercise because it is a complex exercise with a compound motion. That is, it utilizes multiple muscle groups and works on multiple pivot points. The typical squat primarily trains the quadriceps and gluteus maximus, but also heavily utilizes the rest of the leg muscles, and most of the core (abs, back, etc.) muscles. The entire body is involved in some way throughout the motion of a standard squat, which makes them great for just about any training purpose.

Now, take that same exercise, and add in extended necessary flexibility, extreme balance requirements, and place a much heavier load on the arm muscles. That is what you get with an overhead squat. To do an overhead squat with weights, you cannot simply be strong. They also require balance and flexibility most other exercises do not train.

The overhead squat also requires your upper and lower body to work as a single, connected unit. Think of just about any exercise. Chances are, it either focuses strictly on upper or lower body muscles. For athletes, it is not only important to train these halves of your body, but they must also be in tune with each other. Your body needs to work as a whole, rather than two separate parts that are independently strong.

Tying the two halves together is exactly what the overhead squat does, in addition to building muscle, strength, and size, which is why I would classify them as the single best exercise one could do. If you disagree, grab a 45-pound bar (with NO weights on it) and try a few. After you fall over a few times, and provide some entertainment for other gym patrons, perhaps you will see things my way.

M. Holland

Andis Clippers

L Equip Dehydrator

For some, deadlifting is synonymous with low-back pain. Is this fact or fiction?

In the ’70s, top powerlifters like John Kuc, John Cole, and Don Reinhoudt had outstanding deadlifts, with personal bests around 900 pounds. The deadlift was considered the king of compound exercises.

These days, many powerlifters choose to compete only in the bench press, and for those that compete in all three (bench press, squat, and deadlift), the deadlift takes the back seat because of assistance gear that can add hundreds of pounds to their bench and squat, but nothing to their deadlift.

Well, the fact is the deadlift is, hands down, one of toughest—and most rewarding—exercises you can do. It’s the ultimate full-body workout, training just about every muscle group in the body: leg muscles, glutes, the entire back, core, and arm muscles. Anything that’s involved in producing whole-body power is blasted by the deadlift, and it’s an integral part of any serious strength training program.

Oddly enough, it’s also one of the most neglected compound exercises by both guys and gals; the unfortunate victim of the long-standing myth that it’s “bad for your back.”

At first, it would seem to make sense that lifting hundreds of pounds off the ground—putting all that pressure on your back, particularly your low-back and erector spinae muscles (also known as the spinal erectors)—would be a recipe for spinal disaster.

Anecdotal evidence is ambivalent: we all know or have heard of someone that “messed up their back deadlifting,” yet also know that many serious strength trainers, bodybuilders, and powerlifters swear by it.

So, is the deadlift bad for your back when performed properly?

Let’s turn to a series of scientific studies to learn more about this oft-feared, oft-revered lift.

The Science of Deadlifting

Let’s start with a study conducted by the University of Valencia to determine the most effective way to train the paraspinal muscles, which run down both sides of your spine and play a major role in the prevention of back injuries.

Researchers had 25 people with no low-back pain perform two types of exercise for their backs: body weight exercises like lumbar extensions, forward flexions, single-leg deadlifts, and bridges; and two weighted exercises, deadlifts and lunges, using 70% of their one-rep max weight. Muscle activity was measured using electromyography, a technique of evaluating and recording electrical activity produced by muscles (the more and harder a muscle contracts, the more electrical activity takes place inside it).

The result: deadlifts most activated the paraspinal muscles. And it wasn’t even close. The deadlift’s average electromyographic muscle activity was 88% and peaked at 113%, whereas the back extension produced an average activity of 58% and peak of 55%, and the lunge an average of 46% and peak of 61%. The rest of the exercises’ average activities rang in between 29-42% (the supine bridge on a BOSU ball was the least effective, in case you were wondering).

Thus, researchers concluded, the deadlift is an incredibly effective way to strengthen the paraspinal muscles.

Another study conducted by the University of Waterloo set out to determine how much low-back flexion deadlifting caused, and thus how much strain it put on the vertebrae and lumbar ligament (as there were many claims that the lift put these things under tremendous strain, which could lead to injury).

Researchers used real-time x-ray imaging (called fluoroscopy) to watch the spines of elite powerlifters while they fully flexed their spines with no weights, and while they deadlifted over 400 pounds. With the exception of one trial of one subject, all men completed their deadlifts within the normal range of motion they displayed during full flexion. Ligament lengths were unaffected, indicating that they don’t help support the load, but instead limit range of motion.

So, as we can see, a proper deadlift effectively strengthens your entire back, including your erector spinae muscles, and doesn’t force anything unnatural in terms of range of motion. And in case you’re wondering, the major “no-no” in deadlifting is rounding your back, as this shifts much of the stress away from the erector spinae muscles to the vertebrae and ligaments…and this is what’s bad for your back.

Two Useful Variations of the Deadlift:

Sumo and Hex

While you can’t go wrong doing a full-range conventional deadlift, there are two useful variations that you should know about.

The sumo deadlift uses a wide stance (1.5-2 times the width of your shoulders) to shorten the range of motion and shearing force on the lower back. It also can feel more comfortable in the hips than a conventional deadlift, depending on your biomechanics (if you walk with your toes pointed out, the sumo may be better for you).

The downside of the sumo deadlift is the reduced range of motion, which results in less work done, which means less muscle development. Nevertheless, give this variation a try if you lack the flexibility to do a conventional deadlift, if it just feels very uncomfortable (certain people’s bodies are better suited to the sumo deadlift), or if it’s causing low-back pain.

The hex bar—or trap bar—deadlift is a great way to learn to deadlift, because it doesn’t require as much hip and ankle mobility to get to the bar, and it puts less shearing stress on the spine. It also allows you to lift more weight than the conventional deadlift, which may make it a more effective exercise for developing overall lower body power. That said, the conventional deadlift is more effective in strengthening the erector spinae muscles and hip muscles, because the hex-bar deadlift is more like a squat due to the increased load it places on the quadriceps.

So there you have it: deadlifting isn’t “bad for your back,” and to the contrary, is actually a great way to protect yourself against back injury and low-back pain. I think it should be included in all workout routines, and feel free to try all three variations to see which you like best.

And while someone who already has low-back pain or a disc injury will need to do a rehabilitation program of some kind before they can perform conventional deadlifts, this will often include sumo and/or hex deadlifts to gradually strengthen the erector spinae muscles and restore structural balance.

Oh and before I sign off, a caveat and comment:

Some people advocate deadlifting on unstable surfaces like the BOSU ball. Don’t bother with this—it decreases the effectiveness of the exercise.

Some people don’t deadlift because they believe regular squatting makes it unnecessary. They’re wrong. Research has shown that these two lifts train very different sets of muscles.

So, do you deadlift? What’s your favorite style? Have anything else to add? I’d love to hear from you at my site, www.muscleforlife.com!

Hi,

I’m Mike and I believe that every person can achieve the body of his or her dreams, and I work hard to give everyone that chance by providing workable, proven advice grounded in science, not a desire to sell phony magazines, workout products, or supplements.

Through my work, I’ve helped thousands of people achieve their health and fitness goals, and I share everything I know in my books.

So if you’re looking to get in shape and look great, then I think I can help you. I hope you enjoy my articles and I’d love to hear from you at my site, www.muscleforlife.com

Sincerely,

Mike

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