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Fitness Theory and Practice. CrossFit's rationale & foundations. Who is fit? What is fitness?

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Old 06-01-2011, 09:46 AM   #11
Ian Nigh
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Re: Squatting Variations

I agree that sandbags and odd object have their place and are useful to develop what John Welbourne calls "field strength", or basically the ability to apply your strength to real world tasks. But the fact remains that after a certain point, there is just no better way to increase limit strength that heavy squats and deads, which is why even top strongmen use these exercises extensively.

But dont worry, you are not the first person to get shot down when trying to argue otherwise.
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Old 06-01-2011, 09:52 AM   #12
Rebecca Roth
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Re: Squatting Variations

I think one question will really sum up the doubts we are having about the training methodologies you espouse. By training this way for a "few weeks" as you say, is the expected result that my max effort back squat weight will increase? Or will I simply improve at moving an unstable object?

While I will certainly agree that training with sandbags, stones, and any other odd object is exceptional (and functional) training, especially for frontal loading, however they are not superb as a replacement for max strength building lifts, of which the back squat tends to give the best return on effort. I would argue there is a certain skilled movement aspect to using odd object lifts, such that within a few weeks your lift numbers would be increasing simply due to practice of the skill, regardless of whether your strength increases at all.

Edit: Heh looks like Ian beat me to it.
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Old 06-01-2011, 10:37 AM   #13
Dan Graziano
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Re: Squatting Variations

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Originally Posted by Ian Nigh View Post
I agree that sandbags and odd object have their place and are useful to develop what John Welbourne calls "field strength", or basically the ability to apply your strength to real world tasks. But the fact remains that after a certain point, there is just no better way to increase limit strength that heavy squats and deads, which is why even top strongmen use these exercises extensively.

But dont worry, you are not the first person to get shot down when trying to argue otherwise.
No worries I'm not shot down at all. I have helped educated trainers, coaches and fitness enthusiasts by the 100's in the last 6 months of doing workshop events. People who read into if I want to change standards (which I'm not) and look past the science and keep doing NON-constantly varied and NON-functional movements will continue to see slower progress and less athletic ability while others who take this info for what its worth and ask question about programming and how it fits into their personal goals get better and become more functional.

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Originally Posted by Rebecca Roth View Post
I think one question will really sum up the doubts we are having about the training methodologies you espouse. By training this way for a "few weeks" as you say, is the expected result that my max effort back squat weight will increase? Or will I simply improve at moving an unstable object?

I said few weeks because it works that fast. There are a lot more variations and steps to get to more advanced levels of instability both from load, location of load and uni-laterally. These are things that are taught at sandbag workshops. I am just giving you very organic examples for you to try now and if you like it then you may want to learn more and get a lot out of a workshop, if not no big deal, its not for everyone. There is a methodology to progressing such as bilateral stance, staggered stance, split stance, stable unilateral, unstable unilateral, unstable unilateral with motion through the transverse plane or rotation. So it s a program you advance yourself on depending on how quickly or slow your body can work in these planes of motion and instability.

To answer your second question, the ultimate goal of this training is to establish strength throughout all planes of motion which in turn will help significantly increase your back squat. Simple science, if I can train to be explosive with one leg at a time and then right into a stable bilateral movement my muscles will be used to more stress from the CNS response of the unilateral work thus making and bilateral work seem very easy and squat numbers go up.


While I will certainly agree that training with sandbags, stones, and any other odd object is exceptional (and functional) training, especially for frontal loading, however they are not superb as a replacement for max strength building lifts, of which the back squat tends to give the best return on effort. I would argue there is a certain skilled movement aspect to using odd object lifts, such that within a few weeks your lift numbers would be increasing simply due to practice of the skill, regardless of whether your strength increases at all.

No one said replace anything, its an added implement to work into your current programming. You cannot adapt to the sandbag work because every bag is different in how it is filled and how your body moves each day. Again programming bags, bells and suspension training into your WODs can be taught through the videos I post and even more specifically at a live workshop where you can see and feel hands on what it is like.

Edit: Heh looks like Ian beat me to it.
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Old 06-01-2011, 11:07 AM   #14
Ian Nigh
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Re: Squatting Variations

Dan,
It looks to me like you came on these boards only to promote your blog and your workshops, and what you are actually doing is digging yourself deeper into a hole with every post on every thread you chime in on...
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Old 06-01-2011, 11:18 AM   #15
Dan Graziano
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Re: Squatting Variations

I'm sorry you feel that way, I am a CF Coach and I am trying to get good information out there to people who want to do CONSTANTLY VARIED exercises. If you can only see what you just posted then you are very blind to the good information I am posting on here. My suggestion is to not look at it if you think those are my motives.

I am sorry you cannot fixate on anything besides that. I may be relocating back to McLean, Va and thought I might have an opportunity to meet with you to workout as well as with Chris Mason, who lives near my dad's weekend home in Charlottesville. I hope that you can re read the material and help yourself as well as your athletes, and you can at least respect what I am trying to put out here. I would like nothing more than to WOD with some of you when I return home next, but as of now it sounds as if you don't want to expand your knowledge or minds any further than standard programming.
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Old 06-01-2011, 06:52 PM   #16
Chris Mason
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Re: Squatting Variations

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I am happy to clarify my points as I know it may seem different for some people and you bring up several issues, so let me address those.

Do I sell the equipment: Let me ask you a question first, if my concepts and ideas were valid and rationale would it matter? The fact of the matter is that I do not make nor sell the equipment I am endorsing. I started attending some of Josh Henkin's workshops and found the information very relatable to myself and my clients. So much so that I have help instruct courses because I think this can be a very valuable tool for coaches, trainers, and fitness enthusiasts. Whether or not you buy product is irrelevant to me as the concepts are very important and the only way we create further innovations is to question if we are doing things optimally.

Back Squat for performance?: I wasn't really sure if you were trying to state that the back squat is necessary for performance or not. There are studies that state that EMG activity for front to back squats are rather similar and there are studies like this one "An electromyographical comparison of trunk muscle activity during isometric trunk and dynamic strengthening exercises" that states

"The ES (erector spinae) activity was significantly (p < 0.01) greater during the FS (1.010 0.308 root mean square value [RMS (V)]) and SM (0.951 0.217 RMS[V]) and compared to all other exercises, although there was no significant difference (p > 0.05) between the FS and the SM exercise. The FS may be a useful alternative to isometric exercises when strengthening the ES, because it results in slightly higher muscle activity levels when using only a light to moderate load. Because of the dynamic nature of the FS, this may also be more beneficial in transferring to activities of daily living and sporting environments." This is also using the back squat in the study.

You have people like Dr. Stuart McGill who states in his book "Ultimate Back Fitness and Performance" , "The traditional squat exercise with a barbell on the shoulders produces non-functional activation patterns of hip extension and spine stabilization for many athletes. Gluteus medius activation is too low and gluteus maximus activation is relatively low until quite deep in the squat position." He goes on to say, "..one-legged squat activates the gluteus medius immediately to assist in the frontal plane hip drive necessary for leaping, running, etc. together with sooner integration of gluteus maximus higher in the squat motion.

Purpose of the sandbag and other alternative tools: You will see my point wasn't to replace what we are use to doing, but make for a more well-rounded program. The bear hug squat was an example of teaching proper body alignment and movement patterns to those learning squatting exercises. The more upright posture and load being displaced through the body, the sandbag is used as a teaching tool just as much as it is for load. Load is not load, so yes, even someone strong could benefit from doing this exercise with a highly loaded bag, even being a strength athlete myself I have found doing this with a 160-180 pound bag to be very stimulating.

Of course there is an end point of loading with this movement, but we can focus on other variables such as speed, ROM, and changing the body position, or the position of the load. These are often variables we miss in our programming and can be applied to training tools other than sandbags and I think would lead to more interesting evolution of movements and programming.
I call b.s. on the greater activation of the erector spinae with the front vs. back squat. Perhaps so with 130 lbs beginners who don't know how to do either. Slap 700 lbs on someone's back and let's compare that back use to a 500 lbs front squat. Most people will use their back a sort of lever arm when back squatting maximal loads. Try that with a front squat and you will be promptly dumping the weight.

I also call b.s. on the McGill claim about non functional activation patterns of the hip. I have seen people increase their jumping and sprinting ability using the the back squat and with no front squatting. Seems kind of functional to me...

What Stuart doesn't quite get is that even if he is right, it doesn't matter. Your neural firing patterns for a back squat are not what translate to athletic activities. It is in the increased force production capacity of the involved musculature.
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Old 06-01-2011, 07:38 PM   #17
Damon Stewart
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Re: Squatting Variations

I'm too lazy to grab the full study so I'll just link to an abstract which clearly concludes that "instability training" makes people weaker.

http://umbergerperformance.com/?p=916 (W/F/S).
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Old 06-01-2011, 11:24 PM   #18
Dan Graziano
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Re: Squatting Variations

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I call b.s. on the greater activation of the erector spinae with the front vs. back squat. Perhaps so with 130 lbs beginners who don't know how to do either. Slap 700 lbs on someone's back and let's compare that back use to a 500 lbs front squat. Most people will use their back a sort of lever arm when back squatting maximal loads. Try that with a front squat and you will be promptly dumping the weight.

I also call b.s. on the McGill claim about non functional activation patterns of the hip. I have seen people increase their jumping and sprinting ability using the the back squat and with no front squatting. Seems kind of functional to me...

What Stuart doesn't quite get is that even if he is right, it doesn't matter. Your neural firing patterns for a back squat are not what translate to athletic activities. It is in the increased force production capacity of the involved musculature.

So basically what you are saying is, science is wrong and that despite being one of the most influential researchers of spinal biomechanics, ever, his study is BS. You are not being very logical here or back up anything that would put my writing in the classification of inaccurate. With this topic I cannot continue to carry on a conversation with someone who cannot bring fact to the table and only hypothetical situations. If you think its wrong then do not try it, but don't bash if you won't even try it.
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Old 06-01-2011, 11:28 PM   #19
Dan Graziano
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Re: Squatting Variations

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I'm too lazy to grab the full study so I'll just link to an abstract which clearly concludes that "instability training" makes people weaker.

http://umbergerperformance.com/?p=916 (W/F/S).
Damon, did you even read my article?

This page you sent is about unstable surfaces like BOSU balls. This was first about the lack of functionality in the back squat compared to the front squat comparing everyday life. Besides a gym you have never loaded anything on your back and squatted. Next was the progressions from bilateral movement to unilateral movement and then how rotation through the transverse plane is important as well.

This week when you HS kid comes in to squat 450lbs be sure to change that nice stable barbell with (9) 50lb bags of sand since 450lbs is 450lbs no matter where you load it or what you do with the weight, then let me know how that goes
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Old 06-01-2011, 11:36 PM   #20
Katherine Derbyshire
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Re: Squatting Variations

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This was first about the lack of functionality in the back squat compared to the front squat comparing everyday life. Besides a gym you have never loaded anything on your back and squatted.
Sure I have. It's quite a common movement in aikido hip throws, and I presume in the similar movements that appear in judo and jujutsu. (It is true, however, that those movements don't generally require a full below-parallel squat.)

I've also seen movers and porters back squat heavy loads: bend the knees enough to get the hands under whatever it is and stand up, taking the load on the back. Hikers do the same thing to stand up with a heavy pack. Besides the biomechanical advantage, carrying something on your back instead of in front lets you see where you're going.

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