Corrective Power Lifting
"Getting Jacked, Without Getting Jacked Up" by Elliott Hulse, CSCS
Mike Schwanke Photographed by SAS Digital Memories 2008
Like you, I love slapping more heavy plates onto a barbell, as I progressively get stronger. When it comes to adding size and strength to my frame, I throw all caution to the wind and pour every ounce of piss and vinegar into each set I perform. If the thought of injury crosses my mind, I dismiss it immediately. I don't want that shit in my mind any more than I want salad touching my plate at supper.
Like you, I would also like to continue to get stronger year after year and to compete at a high level of performance well into my Geriatric Years. There is nothing worse than a 'has-been' athlete; a washed up meat head that is no longer of any use to himself or anyone else. I'd imagine that the same feeling that possesses an old race horse on his way to the glue factory is similar to that experienced by a power lifter or strong man that can no longer perform a single push up due to over use injuries.
In the proceeding paragraphs you will discover a simple technique that I call Corrective Power lifting. It is not the typical physical therapy stuff that you'll read about on "PtonTheNet", I will not advise you to breathe through "pursed lips" or to "draw your belly button in". But I will challenge you to take a career-defining look at your physical structure and program design. If remaining strong and injury free is important to you (not to mention maximizing your performance), you WILL read and take heed.
#1. Assessment - "Show me what you're working with?"
I hate generalizations, but I've discovered that there are "generally" 3 areas of the body where most people have landmines (injury potential). Also, athletes with a landmine in one of these 3 areas generally have one in the other 2 as well. In fact, one usually causes the others to appear.
a. The Shoulders / Neck - The most common landmines in this region looks like this:
TIGHT - Cervical Extensors (back of the neck); sides of the neck; Upper Traps; Pec Minor
WEAK - Deep Cervical Flexors (front of the neck); Scapular Adductor Muscles; Rhomboids (upper - middle back)
b. The Hips - The most common landmines in this region looks like this:
TIGHT - Periformis (deep glute muscles); Posas (hip flexors) OR Upper Hamstrings; QLO (sides of the hips); IT bands (sides of the thighs)
WEAK - Glute Maximus (superficial butt muscles) "Big Ass = Strong and Fast"; Abdominals
c. The Ankles - The most common landmines in this region looks like this:
TIGHT - Soleus (Achilles tendon); Flexors of the foot
WEAK - Anterior Tibialis (shins); Extensors of the foot
"How do I know if I have a land mind in any of these areas?"
Simple, stretch the muscles under the tight category and if it feels tight… then guess what?
Also, there are common postural issues associated with each landmine. For example, someone with a shoulder landmine may have rounder shoulders and a forward head (head juts forward). So, if that's you… be afraid, very afraid!
"Damn Elliott, what the hell do I do now?"
Great question, this leads us to…
#2. Corrective Stretching & Strengthening
I know what you are thinking, but please understand… I hate physical therapy exercises too! Also, the name of this article is Corrective Power lifting not corrective therapy. Below I am going to give you some tools that will clean up your exercise form, relieve pain and get you jacked at the same time… so bear with me.
Shoulder Land Mine - The shoulder landmine is usually most evident during the squat. Guys with this issue cant seem to get their neck and shoulders comfortable with the bar on the back. They usually have a very rounded upper back and seem to be jamming the bar into their neck with the elbows pointed straight back. Here is what you will do to correct this issue:
a. Stretch - the sides of your neck by pulling your head to the side; stretch the back of your neck by pulling your head forward with your chin to your chest; stretch your pec minor in a door jam and stretch your lats by holding an upright and leaning your chest down.
b. Strengthen - your deep cervical flexors by keeping the tongue on the roof of your mouth when doing crunches (if you do crunches); your rear delts by doing rear DB flyes and Crows; your middle back by doing bend over rows, seated rows, face pulls and DB rows.
Hip Land Mine - This is usually associated with low back or hip pain. The problem with the hip land mine is that it comes in two forms. The first being associated with tight hip flexors and the second tight upper hamstrings, very rarely will someone have both… but it can happen. But since most athletes that I train have tight hip flexors I will describe this land mine and its corrective measures.
a. Stretch - your hip flexors buy getting on one knee and leaning your hips forward; stretch your piriformis or deep glutes by laying on your back and pulling your knee into your chest while pulling it towards the center line of your body; foam roll your IT bands.
b. Strengthen - your glutes by performing deep squats while shoving your ass out; your glutes by doing high box step ups; your glutes by doing glute-ham raises; your glutes by doing hip extensions.
Ankle Land Mine - This is usually associated with back pain and shoulder pain. Every thing moves from the ground up, so if your feet are screwed up so will everything above it. These guys love getting on their toes when they squat and will even place boards under their heels instead of stretching.
a. Stretch - your Achilles tendon by standing with one foot half way off of a block and the other on top of it. The knee of the foot that you are stretching should be slightly bent; your feet… I like to sit on the floor and just pull my toes towards me with my hands, you can also perform a standard calf stretch
b. Strengthen - your shins by sitting straight legged on the floor with your feet together, pull your toes towards your face and hold it there for timed sets. There are also devices that are designed to strengthen these muscles also.
Getting stronger year after year takes a combination of several modalities and patience. But this is only accomplished if you remain injury free. If you hate prehab but want to avoid rehab use my approach and perform Corrective Power lifting.
Elliott Hulse CSCS trains athletes and "Regular Joe's" to get stronger and faster so they can play harder.
Find out how at: http://www.StrengthCamp.com
Elliott Hulse's eBook - The Critical Gridiron Program