Are you Vitamin D deficient?
In the US, Vitamin D was added to milk starting in the 20s in an effort to eradicate rickets, which was rampant in US children at the time. Rickets causes a weakening of the bones, and is caused by a deficiency of Vitamin D.
Flash forward from the 20s…to…the 20s…
- Milk has been vilified in recent years, eliminating a major source of vitamin D.
- We’ve all been on house arrest for fear of catching Covid-19, dying, and going to hell. While locked down, we are not getting exposure to direct sunlight, which the body can use to create its own vitamin D.
Why should you worry? Vitamin D…D is…below average, even vitamin C-minus is a better than a D, right?
Vitamin D is responsible for a number of quite important bodily functions.
- Your body needs it to absorb calcium and build strong bones.
- It helps regulate the immune and neuromuscular systems.
- It plays major roles in the life cycle of human cells.
Some scientists also believe Vitamin D plays a role in treating or preventing autism, autoimmune disease, cancer, chronic pain, depression, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, flu, neuromuscular diseases, and osteoporosis, although currently we have no definitive evidence.
Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to maladies including breast cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer, heart disease, depression, weight gain, among others. Studies have shown that people with higher levels of vitamin D have a lower risk of disease.
If you don’t want to die a horrible death and go to hell, here are some ways you can get vitamin D:
- Direct sunlight (only people in the southern US can reasonably expect to get enough sunlight year round for sufficient vitamin D production).
- Egg yolk
- Milk (fortified)
- Cereal (fortified)
- Yogurt (fortified)
- Orange juice (fortified)
How much vitamin D do you need?
Recommended Dietary Allowance:
- 0-12 months: 400IU (10mcg)
- 1 year-adult: 600IU (15mcg)
- Over 70 years: 800 IU (20mcg)
If you can’t tell your boss you need a vitamin D break beside your pool after lunch, you might want to pick up a supplement.
There are a couple technique tips I coach on the DB press that don’t show up in your typical technique description:
- Keep your shoulder blades pinched tightly together, just like you would for your bench press. Don’t push your shoulders up off the bench when you lock your elbows out.
- Angle the dumbbells in slightly – don’t press them up straight like you would a bar; bringing your elbows in a bit to take some strain off your shoulders.
- Don’t bring the dumbbells together at the top, push them straight up, then bring them back down. This will keep more tension on your pecs and anterior delts throughout the set.
- Bring the dumbbells down with good control, then blast them off the chest with every bit of power you can muster. Visualize driving up hard from the back of your upper arms/triceps. This builds explosive strength and can build greater strength and muscle mass using a lower weight (if you don’t have good control of the dumbbells, and good speed off the chest, they’re likely too heavy).
Have fun ya’all!
Hammer your glutes!
Squat Thrusters, AKA ‘Butt Stuff’
I’ve been wanting to play with these for a bit, and Becky messaged me saying she wanted to do some butt stuff.
What exactly are we doing here?
- The second eccentric descent at the bottom end of the ROM increases the time under tension at the portion of the ROM that works the glutes the hardest. You typically get heavy glute activation at the point in the lift from just above to just below parallel. For this lift, squat to about 2” below parallel, come up to 2” above parallel, then go back to 2” below parallel before coming all the way back up.
[We need to do a bit of work on these in practice, as Becky is coming up a bit above the target range in the ROM, getting out of the heavy glute training zone, and into the quad zone midway in the ROM]
- Reduce the assistance from the stretch reflex. On the first rebound, you’ll have more assistance from the stretch reflex, triggering the glutes and hamstrings to contract as they near a full stretch. With the second stretch coming from a partial ROM, the contraction should provide less rebound, forcing you to work harder for the lift.
- Now this is kind of my hypothesis, and the stretch reflex will not dissipate as much as with a pause squat. However the dynamic motion within that range above and below parallel, coupled with a decrease in stretch reflex should result in some smoked glutes with the right set and rep scheme.
- Again, we need to shorten the ROM with which Becky comes up after the first rebound to increase this effect.
Have fun ya’all!
Modeled By: @beck.dao
Lumbar flexion is a rounding of the lower back when you lift. Flexion of the spine puts it in a vulnerable position with a much higher risk of serious back injury. Often this occurs during a heavy or near max load in a big lift.
What if you experience it even during your lift setup, even while not under a load?
This isn’t uncommon with newer lifters. As you set up for the deadlift, bending to reach for the bar your lower back rounds. Often this is because your hips are rotated to the anterior – the upper portion of the hip shifts backwards creating a rounded lower back.
It can be difficult to consciously rotate your hips to the anterior – shift the upper portion of your hips forward. Here is a tip I’ve used successfully to address this issue during setup, until the lifting pattern is internalized and becomes automatic:
- Instead of simply bending over to grab the bar, treat this first setup step like a Romanian Deadlift: push your hips back and arch your lower back slightly, bringing your chest down as your hips push backwards. Allow your knees to flex as needed to reach the bar.
In addition to this setup tip, there are a couple other things you may need to work on:
- Hip Mobility: If your hamstrings are tight, you will have limited mobility for hip flexion (can you bend over and reach your toes without bending your knees?). Work on your hamstring flexibility.
- Strengthen and Activate your Spinal Erectors: High volume/low weight Romanian Deadlifts, emphasizing flattening or slightly arching your lower back can help internalize the hip pattern for these movements.
If you have issues with your lower back rounding, make sure you have your hips set right for the lift.
To unrack the bar, you get the most power and stability if your feet are directly under your hips (not too wide) and centered under the bar (bar over shoelaces).
- If your feet are too far forward (as in the first video example) you won’t be under the bar when you unrack. Since it will force your lower back to work much harder to unrack, the weight will ‘feel’ much heavier than it has to.
- Second example, the lifter’s feet are centered under the bar. It is ‘over the shoe laces’, and the bar pops straight up.
- If you are too far forward, it will be off balance and the weight will pull you backwards awkwardly once it comes out of the rack.
So Stick Man has been working with me on the BFS Book of Techniques
We were talking about unracking the bar…
I’ve found that the sweet spot to unrack powerfully is with the knees in front of the bar and the hips behind the bar in relative balance. If your knees are under or behind the bar it pushes your hips back, eliminates any help from the quads, and turns the unrack into a heavy good morning.
With your hips too far forward, directly under the bar you have less stability.
By tightening your upper back, and breathing and bracing you turn your entire back into a rigid lever which effectively transfers power from your quads and glutes directly to the bar.
A common mistake to avoid is flexing the lumbar to push your hips forward. The entire back should rotate like a lever.
For a full review of squat technique, check out my squat article in the BFS Book of Techniques.
Knee valgus is a common squat issue, particularly with new lifters. The knees tend to cave in as the lifter ascends. I’ve talked about this a lot, and the catastrophic effect it has on your squat form. I’ve been working with lifters on technique and strengthening approaches to help correct the issue.
When it comes to hip extension, the glutes and hamstrings are the monster movers. We don’t think about the adductors (muscles that adduct the hips – pulls knees in). The adductors’ primary purpose is hip adduction, but they are also extensors, and get involved in driving your hips forward as you rise from the ashes known as your squat. When you think about it this way, it makes sense that when the adductors are engaged in the squat that they have a tendency to pull the knees in.
How do you address this issue?
Balance. Balance the engagement of the adductors with engagement of the gluteus medius. The gluteus medius is also a hip extensor. Additionally it helps externally rotate and abduct the hips (knees out).
I’ve been working with a lot of abduction in mobility and warmups for squats, but being a powerlifter, I thought ‘why not find a way to put a heavy load on the abduction movement?’
Cue the hip thruster (and my lifters’ middle fingers). The hip thruster is like a leg press for the ass. You can load it up with weight and still have relatively low impact on the rest of the body. Now shift to a wider stance. This shifts the emphasis from the gluteus maximus to the gluteus medius – the target muscle group to correct knee valgus.
My rules for hip thrusters:
- Proper execution of a set ends with you rolling into the fetal position with baseball sized cramps in your glutes; with the wide stance the baseballs should be in your gluteus medius.
- Hip thrusters are a high volume, high weight lift; I’ve found sets of 10-15 reps with weights similar to your deadlift working weights to be very effective.
- Make sure you’re getting full hip extension.
- Instead setting the bar in the crease of your hips grinding on your hip bones, set your hands on the bar and push it down slightly to rest on the meat of your quad…it’s much less painful.
I’ve touched lately on the benefits the Bulgarian Split Squat (BSS) can bring to your training. One big drawback of the BSS can be balance – some people just have an exceptionally difficult time maintaining their balance well enough to get good, full ROM reps with the BSS through an entire set.
I happened to catch a guy doing split squats on the Smith Press, and a solution clicked right away. Not only is this an actual productive use for the Smith Press, but it can help lifters who shy away from BSS because they cannot maintain their balance. No more excuses!
- Set the bench a full step back behind the press, so you can get a full rep and a deep stretch in the hips and quads at the bottom.
- Drop into the squat until your rear knee points straight downward or lightly touches the floor.
- Even with the smith press’ stability, keep your core tight for stability.
Your long term goal should still be to move to unassisted split squats, but even the most novice lifter should be able to do Smith Press Split Squats.
I was chatting with a fellow lifter this week about common pain lifters encounter. Back pain is one most lifters (and every couch potato) experiences at some point. Barring an actual injury, there are a couple go-tos I use to alleviate lower back pain:
- Foam rolling the glutes, paying particular attention to the gluteus medius: Tight glutes have a tendency to yank on the hip creating tension that causes lower back pain; loosening them up can give a bit of temporary relief.
- Chiropractic treatment: It’s not uncommon for the hips to shift out of alignment giving the abuse we subject our bodies to under the bar. This forces the musculature to tighten up as it tries to stabilize hips resulting in lower back pain.
I mentioned to my buddy that I typically just use these measures as needed, when the pain flares up, but that I hadn’t really used them since…I changed my warmup protocols.
Proper warmups and prehab measures can, prevent pain?
Two protocols in particular have made a significant impact on pain and preparedness for me:
- Banded Side Walks: I’ve added this to the warmup protocol for any lower body training session. Strengthening the gluteus medius has made a tremendous impact in my stability and has improved hip/knee/foot alignment while squatting.
- Bulgarian Split Squats: I do a handful of short sets, usually 3×5, bodyweight split squats. At the bottom of the squat I pause and stretch, pushing the rear leg as deep into the movement as possible, feeling a stretch in the quad around the knee and in the glutes. This movement helps build hip mobility and it also stretches the quads which drastically reduces knee pain.
The increases in mobility and stability created by adding these two lifts to my warmups have profoundly decreased lower back and hip pain, and increased lifting readiness.
The low bar squat has been synonymous with the powerlifting squat for decades. Why? Because (for most individuals) it allows you to move more weight. Why?
- It creates a shorter lever out of the back
- It brings the hips closer to the line of force
- It shifts some of the workload from the quads to the glutes and hamstrings
All of these things translate to a more efficient and powerful squat.
Now that you know the ‘whys’, let’s talk about the hows:
- Bar Position: Generally speaking, a high bar squat places the bar on top of the traps, a low bar squat places the bar on the rear delts. There are lifters who elect to go as low on the back as they can support the weight. My preference is to lock the bar into the groove between the base of the upper traps and the top of the rear delts. This position helps you keep the bar in place limiting its ability to slide down your back.
- Bar Path: As with any squat, the bar path should follow a straight line up and down over your center of gravity (keep it over your shoe laces). With the bar lower on the back, you will have a flatter back angle, so pay attention to make sure you are still hitting depth.
- Keeping the bar in place: The bar may have a tendency to slide, even when nestled between the delts and traps. To help keep it in place: try to pick a straight bar with good knurling in the center (which will scrape the skin off your back), chalk up your t-shirt where the bar will rest, and wear a snug cotton t-shirt that will stay put on your back and give the bar something to grip.
The low bar position can have a tendency to torque on your wrists and elbows. You may need to adjust your grip out a bit wider to alleviate some of the tension, but make sure you still keep your upper back taught.
You can find a more detailed walk through of the low bar squat in my Brute Force Strength Book of Techniques: BFS BoT – Low Bar Squats