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Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Post rehab at last!

Finally I'm ready to return to training that's not pure rehab. Unfortunately, I've run into a few issues. I've had to deal with - The main issue is training enthusiasm, it's hard to keep the weight on the bar down! At the moment my strength is still well above my stability in both the shoulder & the back, so although the prime movers can lift the load, I'm basically begging for a injury if I let things loose & heave up the old iron. So (for a change) I've decided to play it a little bit smarter & focus on the issues at hand.
As I said my stability was an issue so I've decided I can limit the amount lifted & still work up into quite challenging training by adding instability to my training for a cycle, I've also decided that in my core work I will return to adding flexion moves into my training (crunches, sit-ups etc). I haven't done them for ages due mainly to reading the work of Stuart McGill & others who put forward valid arguments against them....but despite the logic it seems in practice (for me at least) that a wider, less tight gut & it coincided with my only back injury ever, after going the best part of a year without any flexion for the core area, so they are back in the mix. This doesn't mean the planks, roll-outs, bird dogs etc are gone, they just share the spot-light & I'll be monitoring flexion reps, so intensity over repetitions will be the key, keep those reps low & the intensity high.
So, on with the show...

The Shrug bar

This is my shrug bar (trap bar, parallel grip deadlift bar or whatever else you'd like to call it). It's got 2 sets of grips, so you have a normal 1" grip or you can turn it over & it has a 2" grip handles if you prefer. I also have some bits you can add on & make it 7 foot, so it fits nicely into a power rack.
This is the first type of deadlift I'm doing. As you don't need to do that 'bar wiggle' to get the bar around your knees like you need to with a straight bar & the weight is more centred it makes for an easier lift. I've also been doing upright shrugs with it as well on a rack.

I've found some unusual ways to use the shrug bar as well. One I'm going to be using for a while will be the unstable shoulder press.

My training area is kind of small, so these pictures can be a little hard to make out, but in a nut shell the shrug bar has the talons added (that extend it to 7 feet), then it's put on the safety squat rack, then you add some weights to the bar, but the weights are hung from resistance bands

The band is double knotted - yes I was starting off with 1Kg on the bar, embarrassing, but add a little every week & starting extra light are the best idea when coming back from an injury.

I find using the 2" grip handles of the shrug bar are good for this one as it sits comfortably in the hand & makes the height perfect for me.

Other stuff

You have to watch your shoulder rotation while you get back that strength/stability you need, so I tend to use a safety squat bar for anything that involves the bar on the back. For a cycle or 2 this will be my main bar for any work where the you put stuff on your back

This is my safety squat bar, some bits that aren't obvious are where you add the weights is set slightly forward, so as you add weight the bar 'locks' onto your shoulders. You do not even need to hold the bar for it to stay on your back!

Note, in the picture above how the 'prongs' that go over the shoulder naturally dip downwards. The more weight you add the tighter the bar 'grips' the shoulder. For anyone with shoulder issues these bars are a god-send!

On the picture above you can clearly see that when the weights hang straight down the prongs are dipped.

This bar is great for anything where you need a bar on your back. One think to bear in mind. As the weight is slightly forward of a normal back squat position, if you squat it actually feels more like a front squat (or maybe mid-way between a front & back squat feeling?). For stuff like calf raises you can hold the uprights for extra safety if necessary, for split squats you can grab a side rail or the upright if balance goes. You can also do a modified form of eccentric training by going down using only legs, but using legs & an arm pull to aid the standing portion of the lift.

As well as relying heavily on those two bars I'll be experimenting with other ways to lighten the load & focus on the stabilisers rather than the prime movers for a cycle or two, so unstable push-ups (on low gymnastic rings, stability ball or other unstable surface), sand bag work (so shoulder & squat, shoulder & press, maybe even curl the thing, who knows?), I'll be testing out some thick bar work to see if I can develop the same intensity as a heavier weight on a normal bar (I have got the hand size of a young girl, so we'll see how that one goes!). As I recover maybe even unstable bench press (adding weights similar to how I loaded the shrug bar above, so hanging from elastic resistance bands - or I have some ultra-hardcore looking chains I could hang from those). I've also been doing a load of shrug variation to improve scapulae function, so traditional upright shrug, bent over (Kelso) shrug, chin bar shrug (various grips), push-up shrug (shrugging in the push-up position - the chin & push-up style can be done with a weight vest for a fun variation or a dip belt for the chin versions add resistance as necessary) & I'm trying out some other stuff for this week before I settle on a cycle to really dig in & get some rewards from a strong stabilising system, then begin the real work of getting my strongest ever for 2012!

I don't think you need to do this to get well. Doing l-flyes, some band/strand style pulls & some other classic rehab stuff will work the shoulders, planks, bird dogs, moving up to Turkish get-ups will certainly help rebuild the back. I'm basically adding this in for variety & to keep things interesting. Having to juggle light shrug bar where the weight is bouncing around on bands is somewhat challenging when you have a shoulder stability issue on the mend, whereas pushing up a light shrug bar can be a real de-motivator. So this is a fun exercise, I'm going to enjoy. I just thought you'd be interested in some of the less usual ways I'm approaching the recovery from my setbacks I've had this year.
Any questions, ideas or anything else then post below

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Vegan Strength Nutrition

OK, just in case you've missed them (as I'm asked quite a lot) on the VBB website there are several guides. I'm including some here. Bear in mind that this is a starting place, from there you monitor your results, as obviously you metabolism, your activity levels, your exact goals etc will all play a part in your overall results. So these are not exact formulas you have to follow to the letter, they are guidelines, or to be more accurate guesses based on scientific research, some variation is to be expected, so monitor to make sure you are heading towards your goals.
Anyway I'll put up the eating program below, this won't get you into contest shape if you're a bodybuilder, nor get you to the powerlifting finals as those require a more personalised approach, but they will get you going towards your goals of more muscle mass or less fat.

Vegan Strength Nutrition 2
You can download your own copy to keep or print out here