Training Through Injury

If you do not follow my Instagram account (@joshuasettlage), you have not seen my stories of me training with the high school wrestlers from my alma mater, Roseville High School. Working with these wrestlers has reminded me of my own wrestling training during high school. In those memories are the bitter memories of injuries. In doing jiu jitsu competitively, injuries are present as well. All these inspired me to talk about something I often get asked about: training through injury/what to do if you are injured.

I feel like I should not even have to say this, but before you ask you coach to sit out of wrestling practice, tell him/her you can’t wrestle today, or decide to not show up to your jiu jitsu training, ask yourself if you are hurt or injured. These are both contact sports with extreme levels of physicality and demand on the body. If you want to be competitive, you have to train while you’re hurt. I find it appalling the absence of tenacity, grit and discipline in wrestlers and jiu jitsu players saying they want to be the best, but will use a jammed finger, or sore throat as a reason to skip out on training. I’m not sorry if that sounds harsh. If you find this offensive, it is most likely because no one told you to suck it up and get back to training. So I’m telling you now, if you want to be the best, suck it up and get back to training.

Now that is out of the way, I can move on to what this article is really about. Imagine you just tweaked your knee in training. You were defending a takedown, and your partner reached for your ankle pulling it towards him/her while your hips were unable to move. They pulled it a little too far and you feel and concerning pop in your knee. You shake it off and finish out practice. You go home, ice it, heat it, compress it, etc. in hopes of full recovery by the time you wake up. Next morning it is swollen and completely stiff to the point when you walk, you are swinging your leg out to the side instead of flexing at the knee. Now you have a legitimate injury. What do you do? KEEP TRAINING. Now I do not mean, keep training takedowns and put yourself in the same position that caused the injury, but DO WHAT YOU CAN. Your knee is jacked up? Good. Time to work on pull ups. Your elbow is tweaked from an armbar? Perfect. Now go hit 500 air squats for time. Pulled something in your shoulder? Awesome. Go lunge for 15 minutes straight.

There is always something you can do. Unless you are in the hospital, find a way to keep training. I had a hurt wrist for most of my junior and senior year of high school. Some weeks it only hurt to put direct pressure on it like in a handstand position, other times it would shoot pain through out my forearm when I turned over the ignition in the car. What did I do? I couldn’t lift (I know… it was a dark and sad time), I could only do limited bodyweight exercises and running drills/workouts. That is exactly what I did. Box jumps, pistol squats, air squats, sprint intervals, broad jumps, and long distance runs. I was able to build up my conditioning and sprint faster than ever. I was somewhat more explosive and had improved my squat mobility tenfold. At wrestling practice I could push a high pace in a match, much longer than I ever could before.

The bottom line is that there is always something you can do. Do not waste time, pouting about how you can’t train. You might not be able to do live rolling, or max out on squats for a few weeks, or do any barbell overhead work, but there is still something you can do to get better. Injuries are blessings and curses. As much as you hate not doing what you love, it might be the only time you dedicate time to work on another weakness in your game.

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Submission Pro Tour Open Peak Week

If you have not been following me on Instagram (@joshuasettlage), or been keeping up with my competitive endeavors, I am competing in the Submission Pro Tour Sacramento Fall Open. As of today I am currently sitting at 11 days out from the competition. In this event I will not be cutting any weight, and will be competing at 181lbs in the white belt division. With any competition, the preparation one makes can directly affect the results of the event or contest. I love training. I love rolling, wrestling, grappling, and lifting weights. I also love to program my own training and tailor it specifically to my needs. Going into this tournament, I knew I need to properly “peak” for this event and come in as fresh and strong as can be. At the GrapplingX tournament I competed in May of this year, I had a great prep, easy weight cut, but felt I came in slightly over trained/under recovered. I felt like I could not produce the force in takedowns, or have the capacity to endure grueling matches, even though I spent a lot of time improving my conditioning. Thankfully I only had three matches, with only one going the distance so my gas tank wasn’t fully tested. Going into this tournament, I want to ensure that I am fully recovered and able to perform my best. Here are some of the tactics I will be implementing to ensure proper recovery.

SLEEP:

Sleep is something I am definitely aiming to increase as the contest grows closer. Going into the GrapplingX tournament, I woke up at 4:15am everyday until the Wednesday before where I caught some more Z’s. I love getting up early and training earlier in the morning rather than later, but I came to realize that if I want to perform my best, I need to reevaluate my sleeping habits. Starting three weeks out, I will go from waking up at 3:15-3:30am six days a week to train, to three days a week and the remaining days sleeping in as late as possible to accumulate a total of eight hours of sleep. This also leads into how I will change my weight training…

WEIGHT TRAINING:

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On the days where I will be waking up between 3:15-3:30am, I will conduct my regular weight training workouts, but with much less volume. Instead of working up to a maximum effort squat and then 3-5 drop sets at 75%, I will just perform the max effort squat, and move on to the accessory work. I also changed the volume on my accessory work. Instead of 10-15 sets of accessory work, it is now between 5-6. Keeping high intensity in my workouts allows me to stay sharp and keep my body loose, without the prolonged recovery time of the high volume training I was doing. The days where I get a full eight hours of sleep, I do not perform any weight training, and focus on pushing the pace at jiu jitsu and getting in extra live rounds. Over the course of the three weight training days, I want to hit the big three (squat, bench, & deadlift) for a heavy single. I will keep this up until two weeks out when I will only work up to 70% of my 1RM for deadlift, but keep squat and bench the same. The week of, it will be light sessions of active recovery work.

NUTRITION:

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My nutrition will remain the same until the contest. I found myself stalling in my body weight, and slightly gaining body fat. I adjusted my macros by slightly decreasing my carbohydrate intake. Since I do not have to cut any weight for this tournament, I can still bulk slowly and focus on building muscle. I am currently following a If It Fits Your Macros approach which works great, but I find a decrease in performance when I chose to get some of my macros from foods of lesser quality. So starting a month out, I will be getting all my macros from quality food sources, the best that I can find. I’ll adjust my macros day to day to see how I’m feeling. If I have a lot of live rounds and am completely spent at the end of training, I might add some carbs back in. That is the beauty of not having to cut weight. I get to eat till I’m satisfied and show up to compete with a full belly.

Those are the three things I will be tweaking with my current programming in preparation for this tournament. After this tournament, I will go back to the full Settlage Size & Strength program and will prepare to compete in Cory Gregory’s Turkey Classic online powerlifting meet. More on that later.

If you are looking for personalized strength and conditioning programming, a customized nutrition, or 1-on-1 training, email me at settlagesac@gmail.com. For more content on training, jiu jitsu, and my personal life, follow me on Instagram, @joshuasettlage.

Barbell Training for Sport

Let me just start off by quoting one of the most influential lifters and self made, self proclaimed, meat head millionaires I’ve ever met: Mark Bell. Bell famously signs off his podcast (Mark Bell’s Powercast) with, “Strength is never a weakness.” This could not be more true. Though yes it is a clever play on words, the underlying principle should be considered when training for sport. Strength is a critical component to EVERY sport. I literally mean EVERY sport. Do not get that confused with most important. In a sport like track, speed is universally most important, but strength is a valuable component in even speed oriented sports. You do not need to be the strongest man in the world, or sport a 500lb deadlift, but when two evenly skilled athletes enter in competition, the one who is stronger is most likely to come out on top. Strength is directly correlated to one’s ability to produce force. For example, in the sport of sprinting, a stronger athlete can produce more force with each foot strike, producing a greater stride length. Greater stride length leads to greater distances traveled with each step with less energy used.

Why specifically barbells? Sure dumbbells, kettle bells, sandbags and body weight exercises are also great tools to build strength, but barbells are most commonly recognized as the superior training tool in building the greatest amount of strength. One of the greatest resources for learning about barbell training, Mark Rippetoe’s “Starting Strength: Basic Barbell Training”, explains this concept best. Rippetoe states, “Properly performed, full range-of-motion barbell exercises are essentially the functional expression of human and muscular anatomy under load… Barbells allow weight to be moved in exactly the way the body was designed to move it…” (Rippetoe, M., 2013). Using a machine only allows the body to move the way the machine allows you too. If you are looking to strengthen your lower body, you can squat, or you can use the leg press machine. The leg press machine is a great piece of equipment, although it does have it’s flaws. You do not have to balance the weight and recruit all the stabilizing muscles of your trunk, the leg press machine has a backrest which allows you to produce force against a fixed object, thus removing the need for back strength.

Here are three basic barbell exercises that anyone can add to their current sport training. Keep in mind I am not a doctor, nor do I intend to play one on the internet. Be safe, not foolish.

The Squat:

The king of all exercises is the squat, and I believe every athlete from every athletic discipline can benefit from squatting. Correct and technically sound squatting helps strengthen the entire body (a stronger body is a body that is less susceptible to injury and able to produce more force). One of the biggest benefits of the squat is that it is the only exercise to directly train hip drive. Hip drive is the active recruitment of the muscles that create the posterior chain. The posterior chain includes all the muscles running from your mid back, hamstrings and everything in between. The posterior chain is the core of all athletic movements. The posterior chain contributes greatly to jumping, pushing, picking things up, pulling, stabilization, and balance. Employing squatting into an athlete’s strength and conditioning program can assist in the jumping ability of a basketball or volleyball player, develop the power and strength in the legs and hips of a football player, and produce greater leg drive and force in a wrestler. The squat is also a great exercise to strengthen movements that involve hinging at the hips. The hip hinge position is seen in many sports (traditional wrestling stance, football starting line position, starting position of a vertical jump, etc.).

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A big misconception about squatting is the belief that squatting is bad for your knees. Let me clarify that bad squatting is bad for your knees (Ex: Squatting with your knees caving in is bad for your knees). Squatting with proper technique is actually one of the best exercises for your knees. Rippetoe goes on to state, “The squat, when performed correctly, not only is the safest leg exercise for the knees, but also produces more stable knees than any other leg exercise does.” (Rippetoe, M., 2013). In a study conducted by Tony Ciccone, Kyle Davis, Dr. Jimmy Bagley, & Dr. Andy Galpin from Cal State Fullerton on deep squatting and knee health, they found that deep squats do not place greater amounts of stress on the ACL and the PCL than shallow squats. However, their research went on to conclude that deep squats, “… result in greater activation of lower-body musculature compared to shallow squats.” (Bagely, J., Ciccone, T., Davis, K., & Galpin, A., 2015). That being said, DO NOT avoid deep squats. A REAL squat is when you lower the hips to at least parallel with the knees, preferably below. Any squat with hips higher than the knees is a partial squat, and not a REAL squat.

The Deadlift:

If the squat is the best exercise to develop hip drive, the deadlift is the best exercise to develop back strength. Similar to the squat, the deadlift develops stability in the posterior chain, and allows for the lumbar spine to remain rigid in order to transfer power into the trunk. The deadlift is one of the greatest tests of strength. You can either lift it or you can’t. The deadlift requires the athlete learns how to brace the spine properly which transfers over into all athletic movement. Learning to properly brace the spine is crucial to avoiding potential injury and producing power in a more efficient manner. Not everyone needs to do heavy deadlifts. For a marathon runner or a swimmer, heavy deadlifts might not be necessary. Although, lighter deadlifts with an emphasis on proper bracing and hamstring recruitment can greatly assist in injury prevention.20170829_200924962_iOS.jpg

The deadlift is another great exercise that focuses on strengthening the hip hinge position. It develop one’s ability to lift objects of the ground from a hip hinge position, and extend the torso with proper bracing of the spine. Look at the back control position in jiu jitsu shown below. When the athlete in front is bending forward to defend different submission attempts, the athlete in back must use their posterior chain to extend their opponent’s body to create openings for submission attempts, forcing the hips open and forcing their body into a weaker position. The deadlift can directly strengthen one’s ability to extend the body and open the hips.

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The Overhead Press:

The overhead press is one of the greatest upper body barbell exercises one can add to their strength and conditioning program (in this article I am referring to the standing overhead press). The overhead press not only develops the shoulders and all the secondary muscles involved in overhead extension, but teaches an athlete how to brace their spine in a new overhead range of motion. The overhead press is not just an upper body exercise. According to Rippetoe, “… except for powerlifting and swimming, all sports that require the use of upper-body strength transmit that force along a kinetic chain that starts at the ground.” This route that force travels through the body is called the kinetic chain. This chain begins at the feet (base) and ends at the bar (the load being moved) in the hands of the athlete. It goes without saying that some people consider this exercise as dangerous. Let me again state that bad pressing is dangerous. Pressing with poor technique can lead to shoulder impingement. Shoulder impingement refers to the pinching of the tendons between the head of the humerus (upper arm) and the scapula (shoulder blade). When pressing overhead, the athlete should focus on shrugging their shoulders at the lock out point of the lift. This causes the scapula to be positioned in a manner where the arms are strongly supported and impingement is not present.

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Please excuse the poor picture quality. This is a shot of me doing a behind the neck press. Different range of motion than a regular press, makes this a great variation of an overhead press.

In closing, barbell training can greatly enhance someone’s athletic ability and drastically increase performance in their sport. Barbell training is arguably the best way to build strength. By incorporating the squat, the deadlift, and overhead press, an athlete can get stronger, have the ability to produce more force, and become a more complete athlete. There are several ways to program barbell training for sport. This is all dependent on the athlete, the sport, training experience, etc. which I will cover in a future article. Below are some links to some of the best instructional videos on how to squat, deadlift, and press. Give them a watch and try them out.

If you enjoyed this article, share it with a friend. One of my biggest passions is spreading the gospel about the barbell. Barbell training has changed my life and I believe it can change yours too.

For more information of barbell training for sport, questions about current training programs, or inquiries about 1-on-1 training sessions, DM me on Instagram (@joshuasettlage) or email me at settlagesac@gmail.com.

The Squat:

The Deadlift:

The Overhead Press:

 

Ab Training 101: Training for Aesthetics

As mentioned in the first article of this series, the “abs” are some of the most coveted muscles to have and a popular characteristic of what would be considered a fit physique. Again, here’s a big secret for everyone. You ALL have abs. If you didn’t, you probably wouldn’t be able to stand let alone sit up straight without falling backwards. If you did not read the first article on ab training which goes into great detail on the muscles of the abdomen and their functions, I suggest you go back and check it out here.

Now on to how to train your abdominals in regards to bodybuilding, body composition, etc. Let me start off by saying a common phrase I first heard from IFBB Pro Men’s Physique competitor, Steve Cook. According to Steve, “Abs are made in the kitchen.” I have always told my clients this phrase any time they ask about abs. If your diet does not reflect one of a healthy lifestyle, no amount of crunches or hanging legs raises is going to help you see your abdominals. In order to have a visible rectus abdominus, you need to have a low percentage of body fat. If you have diet consisting of foods that lead to an increased amount of body fat, it’s no wonder you can not see your abs. It’s simple, you cannot out train a bad diet.

Let’s assume you are eating clean to begin with and you have established a relatively low level of body fat and are wanting to further develop your abdomen through specific training. There is a lot of information out there about all these different ab machines, exercises, training techniques, and most of it is hoopla. Not that those trainers on the internet do not know what they are talking about (some of them certainly don’t), beginning to train the abdomen is much simpler than it’s made out to be.

If you are just starting to train the abdominals directly, a good place to start would be to throw about 3-5 sets of ab specific training at the end of your workouts, 3-5 times a week. A simple ab finisher could look like this…

3-5 Rounds:

25 Crunches

10 Hanging Leg/Knee Raises (or 25 Reverse Crunches)

This basic workout inspired by Arnold’s own beginning ab workouts, trains both the upper abs that insert into the rib cage, and the lower abs that insert into the pubic bone. Many people often only do crunches for endless amounts of reps. Essentially half of the rectus abdominus is being left untrained! A basic ab finisher should train both the upper and lower end of the abdominals.

Once you have trained your abs consistently for about 4-8 weeks, it is time to introduce new movements that also train the oblique muscles as well as an increase in ab training volume. The ab twist/seated twist/broomstick twist is a great exercise I picked up when researching training techniques from three-time Mr. Olympia, Frank Zane. As mentioned in the previous article, Frank Zane had absolutely amazing abs. It is noted he would do 1,000 reps of ab exercises when training for the Mr. Olympia competition! The ab twist as I call them is not an exercise designed to build up the obliques like a weighted crunch would for the upper abdominals, but more so to tone and tighten the obliques to add to the small waist illusion. Frank Zane trained his obliques so hard with twisting exercises that his obliques nearly “disappeared”. Training and developing well constructed and developed abdominals requires hitting all sides of the abdomen with different stimulus and ranges of motion.

frank-zane-posing.jpg The next progression for ab training would be up your minimum for ab finishers to five days a week like they did in the 70’s. Often times, Arnold, Franco Columbu, Frank Zane, Ken Waller, and the gang would perform ab exercises at the beginning of their workout as a warm up (more on that later) as well as at night five days a week. An intermediate level ab routine could look like this…

Monday, Wednesday, & Friday:

3-5 Rounds:

25 Weighted Crunches

10 Hanging Leg Raises

Tuesday, Thurs, & Saturday*

*If you regularly train on Saturday

3-5 Rounds:

25 Reverse Crunches

25 Ab Twists (Each Side)

After another 4-8 weeks of consistent ab training in this fashion, it is time to introduce a new stimulus. More volume. The abdominal muscles respond incredibly well to volume when prescribed correctly. I mentioned before how people will attempt to create better abs by doing hundreds upon hundreds of crunches and not see any results. If that is the only ab exercises they are doing, the muscles of the abdomen will adapt and not be changed or affected by the repetitive stimulus they are given.

During the Golden Era of bodybuilding, many famous bodybuilders would use ab training as a warm up. This technique is still used today, but is rarely seen. I personally read about Arnold warming up every workout with 500 reps of Roman Chair Sit Ups, as well as specific ab training at night, but never gave it much thought until recently. During the last training cycle before the 2017 GrapplingX Brazilian Jiu Jitsu NorCal Championships, I began doing some simple ab work during my warm ups and before my heavy squats. After two weeks I saw an incredible difference. My abs were thicker, my waist was slightly smaller, and my lower abs were more defined than they were during the 2016 Tahoe Show! These “warm up” abs were also paired with my nightly ab routine that I do 4-5 times a week. Keeping the awesome results I saw in mind, I am continuing to train my abs during the warm up of my workout even during this bulking phase I am currently in. The goal is to develop them so much that even when I am at the peak of my bulk with some expected bodyfat gain, they are still relatively visible. When it’s time for the cut back down, they should in turn look better than ever.

Once you have gone through the first two sample ab workouts listed above, and you’re looking for something new, or want found that your ab training is growing stale, I highly suggest you take note of the bodybuilders of the Golden Era and do ab training both as part of your warm up and at the end of your workout or a night. It is a great way to increase the volume of your ab training as well as hit all parts of the abdomen without keeping you in the gym forever. 15 minutes in the morning, and 15-20 minutes at night has been my recent formula when training my abdominals for aesthetics. When I was training for the 2016 Tahoe Show, I would perform about 100-300 reps of weighted crunches and about 50 ab wheels every night before bed. Cory Gregory is most famously noted for his #Squateveryday, or #Squatlife training methods, although he also does weighted crunches and ab wheels almost every night before bed. His abs are self labeled, “bricks” that are similar to Zane’s ab development.

Taking from Arnold, Zane, and Cory Gregory, this is my current ab routine that has helped me develop my abs during my preparation for the 2017 GrapplingX BJJ tournament (I know you don’t need perfectly sculpted abs for jiu jitsu, but I still enjoy training to maintain my physique as well as train specifically for sport). The results of this ab training yielded results for my abdominal area even better than those at the 2016 Tahoe Show!

AM Ab Training: 6 times a week before each workout mixed in with the warm up.

3 Rounds:

15 Back Ext

5 Bodyweight GHR

10 Hanging Straight Leg Raises

25 Ab Twists (each side)

PM Ab Training: 4-6 times a week either right when I get home from Jiu Jitsu, or before I go to bed.

3-5 Rounds*:

30 Weighted Crunches w/ a 25lb plate

10 Ab Wheels

*Sometimes I will throw in an additional ab exercises to changed things up a bit. For example, reverse crunches following the ab wheels for 30 reps.

Stayed tuned for the next and final article in this series, Ab Training 101: Training for Performance. To have abdominals that look great is one thing, but having an abdomen that is both strong, stable, and sturdy is another. This upcoming article will focus on how the abdominals brace the spine and different methods of training to strengthen the midsection.

Ab Training 101: Part 1

The “abs” are often one of the most desired muscle groups to “have” when people begin to think about summer or fat loss. I will let you all in on a little secret and inform you that you ALL have abs. Everyone was born with the rectus abdominus muscle group, although some may have theirs more pronounced and revealing than others. That’s okay! Not everyone needs a six pack! Depending on what type of athlete you are and what your current goals are and what your body type is, chasing a six pack may not be the best thing for you at this stage in your fitness/athletic career. When people think of “abs”/core they traditionally think of a 6/8-pack, although the core includes many other muscles deep under one’s rectus abdominus as well as the lateral and posterior sides of the body (the back). Given that this blog caters also towards the sport of bodybuilding and people who want to change their physique along with athletes looking to enhance performance, I will address both groups. Part one of this series will be a short introduction to the abdominal muscles, their functions, locations, and different ranges of motion. The second article will address how to train your abdominal muscles for aesthetics, a.k.a, how to get a six pack. The third and final article will primarily focus on training the abs and midsection for performance in sport.

 

What Muscles Make Up the “Abs”/Core?

The main muscles of the abdomen include the rectus abdominus, the external obliques, and the intercostals. They are located on the frontal plane of the torso and run from the bottom of the chest and mid rib cage, down to the pelvis. These are the superficial muscles of the abdomen that you can see when someone is in incredible shape at a very low percentage of body fat. Some of the internal muscles of the midsection include, the transverse abdominus, the internal obliques, diaphragm, and the spinal erectors. These muscles in conjunction with one another help brace the spine, flex the torso in global flexion (bending over or “crunching”) and extend the torso in global extension (bending backwards or arching the back).

Rectus Abdominus (Image 1.A):

The rectus abdominis originates at the base of pelvis in the pubis, and inserts into the cartilage of the fifth, sixth, and seventh ribs. It’s main function is to contract and flex the spinal column, drawing it toward the pelvis. The rectus abdominus muscle is what people often call a “6-pack” or “8-pack” if their are in very good condition and have a low percentage of body fat.

External Obliques (Image 1.B):

The external obliques (obliquus externus abdominis) are located on either side of the torso originating at the lower ribs and inserting at the side of the pelvis. Their main function is to assist the rectus abdominus in flexing to spinal column forward as well as rotate the spinal column in a neutral, flexed, and/or extended position.

Intercostals (Image 1.C):

The intercostals are two thin planes are muscle and tendon that populate the space between the ribs. Their main function is to lift the ribs as well as contract and draw them together.

Transverse Abdominus (Image 1.D):

The transverse abdominus is located deep underneath the obliques and wraps entirely the spine. It’s main function is to properly brace and protect the spine in both a neutral, flexed, and/or extended position both unloaded (bodyweight movements) and loaded (weighted movements).

Internal Obliques (Image 1.E):

The internal obliques are located underneath the external obliques on either side. It’s main function is to support the abdominal wall, helps create pressure in the torso during forced respiration, and also assist other muscles of the midsection in rotation of the spine.

Diaphragm (Image 1.F):

The diaphragm is located underneath the ribs and is a large sheet of muscle that assist in respiration as well as separates the thoracic cavity from the abdominal cavity.

Spinal Erectors (Image 1.G):

The spinal erectors are located on the posterior (back side) of the torso and run from the lumbar region of the back through the thoracic region and into the cervical region. Their main function is to assist in global extension of the spinal column, as well as bracing the spine.

 

Why Do We Need to Train All Sides of Our Midsection?

The body does not just function in any one plane of movement. When it comes to abdominal training, often times people will only train the front of their midsection, leaving the sides, and back completely untouched. Sure, the sides and lower posterior muscles of the midsection get stimulus from exercises like squats, deadlifts, lunges, and overhead work while standing by assisting with balance and bracing during the exercise. Although, if someone is training only their rectus abdominus in hopes for a six pack, they can often create imbalances that could lead to injury. The same idea applies to sport as well. Depending on the sport, the front of the abdominal region may experience a lot of load and stimulus from being in global flexion, while the muscles of the lower back are not being stimulated to achieve eliminate muscular imbalances.

In sport, our bodies are moving in many directions. Very rarely do athletes move in a completely linear plane. In a sport like wrestling or jiujitsu, the body is often twisting, arching, and bending in many positions while under load from their opponent. When an athlete like a wrestler or a jiujitsu athlete has a strong rectus abdominus from the endless amount of crunches they do at the end of their workout, they can perform well in movements involving global flexion. Any time they need to move into global extension, such as lifting their opponent off their feet from a takedown, their spinal erectors, and transverse abdominus often have a hard time bracing the spine properly. This leaves the athlete very susceptible to injury. Take a sport like powerlifting for example, where the spine needs to be maximally braced by the muscles surrounding it to be protected and produce the maximum amount of force in a lift. In an exercise like the deadlift, if the spine is not braced the athlete risks slipping a disk in the vertebrae, and leaking force production and strength through poor technique. 

image

In a sport like bodybuilding, having well trained abs is a must. The quality of a bodybuilding competitors abdominal region is a reflection of how well they dieted and conditioned during prep, as well as how well they were able to train their abs to take a particular shape and look on stage. Not just the “8 pack”, but all sides of the abdominals. According to Arnold Schwarzenegger in his book, The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding, he refers to the abs at the, “…visual center of the body.” (Schwarzenegger & Dobbins, 1998). When viewing the human physique, they are naturally drawn to the abdominal area of the body. The shoulders and feet act as the points in an “X” shape across the body with the abs lying in the intersection. Well trained and displayed abs in bodybuilding are signs or being in well conditioned as well as having dense and strong physique. The muscles in the sides and lower back of the midsection must also be trained to achieve a balanced look between the anterior and posterior sides of the body.

image Frank Zane trained the obliques with the use of exercises like the abs twist to make his external obliques almost, “disappear”. They were specifically trained and developed to be tight and lean, making his waist appearing very small compared to his wide lats and large shoulders, thus adding to the illusion of the “X” frame.

    The muscles of the midsection include more than what we can see from someone’s six pack and their purpose is more than just for doing crunches. The abdominal region is composed of many other muscles that for aesthetic purposes must be trained individually, as well as trained as a whole for improving athletic performance. In the next article, we will focus on how to train and develop one’s abdominal area for the sport of bodybuilding and/or physical appearance.

 

Muscles of the Abdomen:

 

Abs-Rectus-abdominis-muscle(Image 1.A)

external-obliques.jpg(Image 1.B)

intercostals(Image 1.C)

 

Transversus_abdominis(Image 1.D)

internal-obliques(Image 1.E)

diaphragm (Image 1.F)

Spinal Erectors.png(Image 1.G)

My Three Favorite Back Exercises for Grapplers

The following are my three personal favorite exercises to strengthen and develop the back for grappling athletes. Let me make clear that these exercises are my favorite. This does not mean they are the only exercises I do for back. I utilize many different exercises for back (a full list of exercises will be at the end of the article), but of all of them, these are my favorites and why.

Pull Ups:

Franco Pull Up

The pull up is the king and staple of old school body weight wrestling training. Not only does is help establish grip strength (which is a crucial component of wrestling and jiujitsu), it requires you to be strong with your own bodyweight. This is very important when you are competing with other athletes who are competing at the same weight as you. The exercise is simple. Hang on the bar with both arms lock out, then pull yourself up until your chin rises above the bar. Then lower yourself ALL the way down. There’s one correct pull up. Pull ups help develop the lats which make up the major vertical pulling muscles in your back. I know what you’re thinking, “When am I ever going to do a pull up in competition?” How about a snap down in wrestling? Since last i checked there was no “snap down” machine at the gym, pull ups are the next best developer of the muscles used to pull things down, and or close into your body. You can add these at the end of your workout, or if you have a pull up bar set up in your home, every time you walk by you can bust out 5-10 pull ups.

Sample Pull Up Finisher:

5 sets of sub max reps (if you can do 10 max, only do 7-8)

Deadlifts:

franco deadlift

If the squat is the greatest strength building exercise, deadlifts come in a close second. Deadlifts assist in strengthening your posterior chain (the chain of muscles running from the base of your neck, down to the bottom of your hamstrings). A strong posterior chain, traditionally means a safe back. When you’re in your wrestling stance, or in constant flexion having someone in your guard, or being in someone’s guard, having a strong posterior chain will protect your back. Deadlifts are also a great measure of strength. For grappling athletes, if you can deadlift 2x your bodyweight, and your opponent can only deadlift 1.5x his bodyweight, you are superiorly stronger. With all the lifting, throwing, and tossing in wrestling, the deadlift will help you handle your opponents with ease all while still being able to protect your spine. Take folkstyle wrestling for example. Say you start on top in referee’s position and your opponent is quick to stand up. If you want to pick him up and return him back to the mat, you need to lift him off balance and off the ground. The deadlift in all variations is just that movement. The practice of picking up objects (barbells, DB’s KB’s, atlas stones, sandbags, etc.) off the ground.

Sample Deadlift Workout:

One of the easiest ways to incorporate deadlifts into your strength training is a simple, 5×5 set up. Starting at one day a week, do five sets of five reps for deadlift and try to make each rep with perfect form, slowly adding weight each week. This works with both sumo and conventional stance.

Bent Over Barbell Rows:

Franco Bent Over Row

I should preface this by saying, any horizontal rowing motion is a fantastic exercise for the back in regards to grappling. Although, if I had to choose one, it would be the bent over row. The bent over row not only focuses on strengthening the muscles of your back responsible for pulling things to you in a horizontal plane, but also requires you to stay tight and in good position. This activates the muscles of the lower back isometrically (staying in a static position), and works the rowing muscles of the upper back, both eccentrically (lowering of the weight) and concentrically (actually lifting of the weight). Bent over Rows can be used with barbells, dumbbells, kettle bells, sand bags, etc. You can ever do them on a elevated surface to let the weights down even lower to get a stretch in the muscles during the eccentric portion of the lift. Not only is this exercise for back development, but also helps eliminate imbalances in the back. I see a lot of people do a lot of vertical pulling (pull ups, lat pull downs, etc.), and not enough horizontal pulling exercises. Imbalances in the body lead to injury and time away from rolling.

Sample Bent Over Row Workout:
Superset:

Any Chest Exercise: 4×6-8

Bent Over DB Row: 4×6-8

This can be thrown in at the beginning of a chest and back workout.

You can also apply the 5×5 method to the bent over Row to focus more on developing strength in the mid and upper back.

Current List of Back Exercises I’m Using Right Now:

Pull Ups (Use many different grips)

Deadlifts (Conventional and Sumo stance)

Goodmornings

Bent Over Rows (DB, KB, and Barbell Variations)

Banded Reverse Hypers

GHR (Weighted and Bodyweight)

45 Degree Back Extensions (Weighted and Bodyweight)

Seated Rows

1 Arm DB Rows

RDLs (DB’s, KB’s & Barbell Variations)