Strong Science #5

No complaint about commercial gyms is as pervasive as gripes about the sub-par music selection. I can remember my early days cleaning up the weights at a local commercial gym, I was constantly hearing from members who couldn’t stand the generic, top-40 music that softly serenaded them while they trained. It was a co-ed facility called ‘Shapes’, so it’s not surprising that many of the bodybuilders that frequented the gym for the heavier selection of dumbbells were left disappointed with the rather tame music selections. I could sympathize with them; however, as an employee of the gym I could relate to the owners who had to keep a rather diverse selection of clientele happy at the same time. Is it better to play it safe and keep the older clientele happy or give in to the bar-benders?

So in memory of my early days in the fitness industry I have three short studies that might make you put a little more thought into your training music mixes than you were before.Continue Reading

Strong Science #4

After reading a recent study on some potent effects of emphasizing bar speed during the bench press (1), I thought I’d take a look at two classic studies looking at the importance of rapid contractions during training. The first of these studies (2) is definitely a classic that is often missed, but it’s such an interesting yet simple study design with some profound implications for the strength and conditioning world that I had to include it. At the end, I’ll tie them into my philosophy of bar speed during training, how this reconciles with what some of the strongest people around are doing, and after all that, I’d love to hear what you think and do in your own training in the comments section.Continue Reading

Strong Science #3

After showing the squat a little too much love in Strong Science #1¬†and #2, I’ll turn my attention to the deadlift. I’ve got two classic studies that I’ve mentioned briefly elsewhere (here and here), but I’ll talk about them again here because they don’t get anywhere near the attention they should.

But before I dive into the specifics, it’s worth noting the efforts the researchers of the first two studies (1,2) have made to create scientifically valid data that is applicable in the gym. In doing this kind of research, there’s usually a trade-off when it comes to methodology. Lab-based studies with the strictest controls performed to rigorous scientific standards lose both appeal and applicability to those interested in elevating their performance, as the conditions are considered too artificial or the participants are usually of too low an initial training status. On the other end, field studies often capitalize on more advanced lifters but these studies don’t always have access to the fancy equipment found in labs, so crude measures are observed compared with what is capable within the lab. In this case it’s not that one methodology is preferred over another but that both are a necessary evil to grasp the bigger picture. In reality, it’s up to us to interpret these various studies, reconcile them with our personal experiences in the gym, and to come up with the best conclusions we can with the given information.

The two studies we have here strike a good balance between the scientific and practical domains of performance. The first, a field study that’s a basic biomechanical analysis of deadlift technique capitalized on the 1989 Canadian Powerlifting Championship for footage. The second study takes similar competitive lifters and moves them into the lab for more ‘intensive’ investigation. In this case the lifters are doing what they do (the deadlift) and we get the benefit of actually being able to view their individual lumbar vertebrae at the same time. Definitely the best of both worlds.Continue Reading

Strong Science #2

Thinking back about ten years ago, after tearing both pecs, I began a love affair with lower body training. What’s a guy (or girl) to do if you can’t bench, other than launch an all-out assault on lower body training? At the time, that made the main object of my affection without a doubt the barbell squat. With Valentine’s Day close behind us, I’ll stoke the fire of what will likely be a life-long romance with the barbell squat by filling this Strong Science post with three recent studies on the squat.Continue Reading

Strong Science #1

After roughly 6-7 months of blogging, I’m still working to find my voice and a good way to deliver my content. So while I’ve been experimenting with different formats of posts, this also means that I need to experiment with different LENGTHS of posts. I’ve started to build up quite the collection of overly-referenced monster posts but I need to add more short, to-the-point posts that are easily scannable. After receiving feedback from some readers I’ve created the Strong Science series to address individual research studies in a short and sweet fashion. I’ll recap studies in a few quick sentences and relate it to the world of strength training as a whole, without being riddled with technical terms and jargon. If the study title interests you, take the time to read on for details; if it doesn’t , skip to the next one. As always, I love feedback on anything to do with the site, so if I’ve hit a format you think is working (or not), feel free to let me know in the comments or send me an email.

With that out of the way, I’ll start the Strong Science series off with a good mix of both recent and older studies looking at the sweeter side of things nutritionally, everyone’s favourite exercise (the squat) and round it out with a study on the effect of bar size on forearm activation.Continue Reading

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