Stu McGill gems: deep squats, box squats, muscle activation, training the core, Movement screens, Yoga, and lifting shoes
These clinical pearls are from Dr. Stu McGill's new book,"The Gift of Injury" as he recounts severely injured Powerlifter Brian Carroll's long but successful road back from an 1100 lb squat and 800-pound deadlift that actually split his sacrum and blew out a litany of discs.
I would recommend it as a "must" for all Coaches and dedicated Lifters' library:
Yours truly is "enjoying" my 50's with the wear and tear of 30+ years of joy and pain in the gym. We "seasoned" Coaches meander through gleaning the info that comes from deep legitimacy to bro-science to discerning the info of gurus that prove their methods with the genetically gifted few and cherry-picked success stories. . .and filter it as best we can- like a consumer advocate- before we pass it on to our charges.
I've always appreciated Dr. Stu McGill's work, along with the sage lectures or writings of Dr. Ken Kinakin, Charles Stayley, Paul Carter and Christian Thibadeau to name a few.
All have weathered the storms of reaching in the gym, the inevitable hurdles of aging along the way and they resonate with common sense tempered with a philosophical thoughtfulness pursuing gym longevity.
So without further ado, this is but the tip of the iceberg from Stu and Brian's 150+ pages of wisdom. Buy multiple highlighters if you're like me- it ends up more a coloring book of knowledge gems I promise.
On "Ass to the Grass" full squats and the "buttwink": "I have seen internet forums argue that the 'buttwink' is OK. It is important to note that this information is not coming from the scientists educated in the biological processes. . . Some Coaches may be successful with themselves, or one or two athletes. . . Spine bending when under substantial load (is) usually temporary (leading to enhanced athleticism).
They are not aware of the stresses and adaptation processes. Tragically, many eventually ruin their backs. These poor souls call me wanting to know why they are disabled after following a guru promoting the buttwink, who is a good marketer and (dismissed) our work. Ignorance, impatience and poorly placed trust led to their grief"
Here is a great video by Tom Purvis explaining simply proportions of your body and choice of squat stance:
On the box squat: "Some of the best athletes are simply not created to squat deep without going into severe flexion/ buttwink, valgus and a host of other issues. Many athletes we work with (are) not trying to compete in powerlifting. You MUST treat these (individuals) especially differently... ..squat to a box set above parallel...Remember, "availability supersedes ability". Some athletes will be better off not back squatting at all and doing a version of a front squat or other variation...Choose the best form for the goal and injury resilience"
On limits to Muscle Activation: "Ultimate strength comes from training the entire body and integrating movements, rather than exercises that isolate one muscle group. Stabilizing some joints allows more force to concentrate around other joints effectively strengthening them".
On training the core - some gurus will tell you adequate stimulus comes from simply training the basic pulls and pushes:
"There are those people who state they do not need dedicated core training because they lift and squat. Yet, when I assess their strength ability, I often find they are unable to translate their strength in sports performance. Pointing out their weak links brings them to understand the realization that training the core is non-negotiable... ...All of the pulls, lifts, and presses never trained the core for movements in three dimensions... ...Clearly, the core is the home base for all strength and speed."
On using the General Movement screen with strength athletes: "What you do not need is excessive mobility: stretched hamstrings, loose ankles (or) a deeper than legal squat.."
"General movement screens are not appropriate for strength performance. There is no such thing as an ideal assessment for everyone...These type of diagnostics can actually lead an athlete down the wrong path...
Let's take, for example, the commonly used assessment of the deep squat to determine mobility. Failing to reach full depth is blamed on stiffer ankles (and) corrective exercises are suggested... The deep squat is actually more influenced by the shape of the hip socket and length of the thigh relative to the lower leg and torso, two genetic aspects over which the athlete has no control...
The solution here is to modify the squat-style rather than employ a corrective exercise that may ruin the performance for a specific sport."
On Yoga or excessive stretching for the strength athlete: "Everything is a tradeoff. Realize you cannot have it all. Powerlifting requires that you enhance the body's natural ability to bear load- this requires stiffness. That means as a strength athlete, not only will you be poorer at Yoga and other flexibility based activities, but that doing Yoga will increase your risk of injury. Yoga softens the connective collagen around the joint to allow pliability and mobility, the exact opposite of what is required for strength. The truth is that any elite athlete must forgo competence in one, or more areas of overall athleticism to optimize the specific skill set required by their own sport. The largest sacrifice made by a powerlifter on the road to greatness is flexibility."
"Your warmup, contrary to belief, is not designed to condition you and it's not to make you 'supple' and loose- looseness is the enemy of power."
On the use of lifting shoes: "Having shorter legs and more mobile hips allows the lifter to use stiff lifting shoes with an elevated heel. Limited hip mobility and longer legs usually favor footwear that lowers the heel to the ground as far as possible (barefoot or slippers)... ...Start with shoes with a low heel such as classic converse shoes. Bind them tightly and lift. Then loosen the shoe and compare the performance and comfort. Repeat with various heel lifts... ..athletes that have neural acuity favor a tightly bound foot, while others enhance performance with non-restrictive footwear allowing foot athleticism to add control to the lift..."
Now with all the above modifications- what do I use prophylactically to remain as resilient in the face of hoisting black iron as I sport grey hair? ( a quick nod to Brooks Kubik and his wisdom: )
Collagenik - 6 caps PWO (supports joint health from various approaches- intelligent mix) Syner-C - 4 caps at bedtime to support collagen production and drop cortisol. Added bromelain echoes the effects of wobenzyme for removing scar tissue E-nos - 6 caps Pre-workout to enhance blood supply (think joints not just muscle) Omega Pure - 3 caps at 3 meals/day. While Omega 3's can be pivotal to almost every searchable condition at pubmed, it is a powerful mitigator of inflammation especially prevalent during strength phases.
A great book, great info, and great supplements. All brought to you by great people. Isn't that great? ...
Who loves ya ? "Coach Mike"

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