Lower Body Plyometrics 101 – by Adam Bishop CSCS

A huge number of sports and activities require leg and hip strength for athletes to be successful. Collision sports such as rugby and American football involve explosive extension of the hip for running, jumping and changes of direction while static sports such as weightlifting and powerlifting are heavily dependant on leg and hip strength. Indeed any sport that involves running of any kind, especially sprinting and sports that involve rapid changes of direction, such as racket sports, rely on similar lower body strength.

Plyometrics training has been used to successfully increase athletes vertical jump heights, a test that requires a lot of leg and hip power production. As I’ve stated in previous articles, it is impossible to jump “non-explosively”. When performing plyometrics, an athlete uses gravity to store energy with the muscle structure of the body, which is then immediately followed by an equal and opposite reaction, using the elastic properties of the muscles to produce a kinetic energy system (1). Plyometric drills develop explosiveness, the ability to use strength as quickly and as forcefully as possible (2).

Ok that’s great but how do we apply it to sporting situations? Well firstly let’s take a look at a rugby union player preparing to perform a front on tackle on an attacker. Hip and knee flexion occurs as they sink into a low body position followed by rapid hip and knee extension as they drive up and into the midsection of the opposing player. The more force the tackler is able the produce, the greater the chance of them “winning the collision” and driving the opposing player backwards. The rate of force development (RFD) of the movement can be improved with similar the jumping movements of a plyometric program.

Next let’s take a look at a sprinter, or indeed any athlete where their sport requires them to run at maximum velocity. In order to run as fast as possible the sprinter needs to reduce ground contact time while also applying a large amount of force through the ankle joint in order to best provide forward propulsion. This is the basis that plyometric training techniques are based on; applying the greatest amount of force in the shortest period of time.

PLYOMETRIC EXERCISES

 Lower body plyometric exercises are based around jumping, hopping or skipping movements where an eccentric muscle action is rapidly followed by a concentric one. Different exercises have differing levels of intensity and therefore much thought must be taken when deciding which exercises to include in an athlete’s training program as well as the frequency and rest periods of the sessions.

To give a little bit of guidance for selecting the correct plyometric exercises for your training I have split a small number of techniques into low, medium and high intensity. All the exercises below are to be performed in series (each rep performed straight after each other no rest).

Low Intensity

  • 2 footed ankle hop
  • Squat jump
  • Double leg vertical jump

Medium Intensity

  • Box Jumps
  • Split squat jump
  • Barrier hops

High Intensity

  • Depth Jump
  • Single leg vertical jump
  • Pike Jump

All of the exercises above are aiming to utilise the stretch shortening cycle which combines mechanical and neurophyiological mechanisms to increase the amount of forced produced.

Jumping exercises involve a rapid eccentric muscle action which stimulates a stretch reflex and results in the storage of elastic energy within the series elastic component. This is followed by a rapid concentric muscle action which utilises this stored energy allowing for a greater force to be produced.

IMPLEMENTING PLYOMETRICS INTO A TRAINING PROGRAM

 Plyometrics should not be thought of as just warm up exercises, they are a session in their own right and the intensity dictates the frequency. The higher the intensity is, the lower the frequency should be to allow for optimum recovery.

As a general rule, sessions should be separated by 42-72 hours, this means athletes can perform between 2-4 sessions a week depending on training age and experience. In regards to rest periods between sets, a work to rest ratio of 1:5 – 1:10 should be used to optimise performance. Another consideration that should be taken when implementing a plyometric program is that of the athlete themselves. A heavier athlete should avoid single leg and high intensity exercises to begin with to avoid excessive stress being placed on the joints.

Studies have shown that combining a simple 2 day a week plyometric program with a 2 day a week squat program produces the greatest gains in hip and leg strength in regards to jumping ability(3). Adams et al found that vertical jump scores increased 3 times greater in athletes who partook in a 6 week squat and plyometric regime over those who performed a squat or plyometric only regime of similar volume.

FINAL THOUGHTS

 Ok so I know many of you will be thinking “well that’s great but I am a static athlete who doesn’t need to jump”. Think again.

Jumping movements produces the holy grail of strength training, triple extension of the hip, knee and ankle which is used in a huge number of sports.

An example of this is shown in the following video of a hero of mine Werner Gunthor the shot putt legend with a PB of 22.75m. Take a look at what this 2m tall (6ft 6) 130kg man could do when it came to jumping:

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Now tell me that plyometrics don’t make you powerful…

References

(1)     Verhoshansky, Y. 1968. Are depth jumps useful? Sov. Sports Rev. 3:75-76

(2)     Yessis, M and Hatfield, F. 1986. Plyometric training, achieving explosive power in sports. Canoga Park, CA: Fitness Systems.

(3)     Adams, K. O’shea, J.P. O’Shea, K.L. and Climstein, M. 1992. The effects of 6 weeks of squat, plyometric and squat-plyometric training on power production. Applied sports science research. 6:1 pp 36-41.

The Jungle Gym – Interview with Ben Coker & Jamie Bolton

EK: Boys, welcome back from the Jungle Gym. From the video footage you’ve already posted we can see it was quite an experience. To kick off our interview today can you tell us – what was the most challenging aspect for each of you whilst in the ‘Jungle Gym’?
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Jamie: Thanks it’s great to be back, the Jungle Gym was quite a trip to say the least! For me, the most challenging aspect was learning to forget the ‘norms’ of at home, and to have to really think outside the box. Of course, this led to its own problem and in trying to create more options very quickly I ended up with ‘paralysis by analysis’, i.e. too many options in exercise selection, from the tools I created.

So the old simple message of ‘keep it simple, stupid’, suddenly became my mantra for the trip. I honed in on the most effective movements, whatever they happened to be in each scenario, and then I hammered away at them. Why make it more complicated than it needs to be!

Ben: Food. From my experiences in the Jungle gym I found that my rough maintenance level is and or was about 3500 – 4000kcal! I say was because the heat out there will have increased my basal metabolic rate. Regardless I require a relatively large amount of kcal to keep my level of muscle mass. Give me a bar and I can keep my back growing or at the very least maintained by hitting various grip chins for volume. But without the level of nutrition…trust me its hard to keep hold of energy hungry muscle mass!

EK: Certainly, we all know how important nutrition is in this game. How was it that you actually managed to keep up some form of decent nutrition and some continuity whilst travelling?

Ben: For me I went straight to my old friend. Milk. For those of you who know me I put away milk by the litre, commonly consuming 4L of organic full fat a day. The same was true for travelling. I don’t care about what people say about dairy/ full fat milk being the devil and linked to all sorts from heart disease to diabetes…its bull. There is plenty of unbiased research out there backing me up, plus the fact I consumed 4L a day for pretty much a year and every time I get a check up I’m passed as very fit and healthy, but that’s not for today’s discussion!

No matter where you are, there is a good chance you can get milk. Its packed with vitamins & minerals and has a near perfect blend of macronutrients…and it’s cheap. So for me I sourced out milk and kept tanked up on it. Now despite what anchor man said, milk is actually  good choice at hydrating you too, and so I regularly sipped on milk as we were out and about. Feeding and coping with the heat. Win win.

Of course I didn’t just drink milk. I ate lots too. Again, for those of you who know me, I am easily pleased in the food department. ‘Boring’ foods suit me to the ground and whats even better is that they make me grow. Eggs like milk can be found in most places, are cheap and pack good macros, nutrients and kcal. Picking up eggs be they scrambled, fried or even in omelets was relatively easy and i relied on them whenever we had a chance. Oh I’m forgetting a tiny point – the cholesterol in eggs helps in your body’s testosterone production.

Jamie: One thing in particular is trying to eat like the locals do. Why? Because they can’t afford any expensive, processed food. Instead they’re eating locally grown, natural produce; and what’s more, it’s going to be incredibly full of nutrients compared to anything at home.

It’s also worth adding that if you know you’re going to be really remote like I was in Uganda, and that meat may well be extra scarce / expensive, then it might be worth taking a whey protein supplement with you, like I did with MP’s Whey Impact Blend . If you can, even bump your protein up so it’s getting close to even just 0.75g/lb it’ll make a world of difference.

EK: Jamie, you were staying in an extremely rural location whilst in Africa. Can you briefly describe the location and shed some light on your methods of training whilst there?

Jamie: I was in a place called Kanungu, in rural south-west Uganda. We’re talking dirt roads, long-drop toilets, and power for a couple hours per day (if you’re lucky). Real basics. But incredibly refreshing in looking at what you really need to live with.

As far as training went, the TRX was a great tool to bring along with me, but knowing I was in the same location for 6 weeks, I didn’t stop there. I had a local carpenter knock up a log press and 2 farmers handles, at about £9 a log. And I made a ‘Jerry Bar’ out of four 20litre jerry cans, some wood and rope.

It's amazing what you can construct very quickly in the jungle gym

The biggest adjustment was to using fixed loading, be it bodyweight or the logs. In other words, no ramping up. This lack of loading was a problem, at first. Then I adapted and worked around it. Bodybuilding techniques like pre and post-exhaust made an appearance, and working in a circuit fashion worked very well too. Most of all, I really attacked my conditioning, the one thing that can always be improved.

EK: Give us an example of the most improvised bit of training equipment used in the ‘Jungle Gym’

Ben: Whilst in Cambodia we travelled to Sihanoukville and there we found a nice secluded beach. That being great in itself (as we could avoid the street sellers) we actually stumbled across a piece of drift wood in the form of a log/branch. Being the opportunists and training fanatics we instantly interpreted this object of a sled! Out came the TRX straps and so the training began. An improvised yet extremely easy way to get a workout done. Below is a compilation we made of various exercises we performed with this drift wood sled…

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EK: What factors in your improvised training do you feel were important in enabling you to keep your strength levels so high and even improve in some cases?

Jamie: For me, it was all about drilling my conditioning, when my conditioning steps up, good things really seem to happen. On top of that, I followed Ben’s advice and zoned in on accumulating some volume in my training to make up for the lack of loading, and this seemed to make a world of difference.

Ben: My goals were more geared to keeping good shape and muscle mass as opposed to my strength levels. I knew from experience that what strength I may lose, I would gain back quickly when I got regular access to a gym back home. That aside I did employ a few tactics into my training that I feel helped keep my strength levels so high.

Firstly, If I found a gym with adequate poundage, I made a point of making the first compound of either my upper push, upper pull or leg day, heavy. Make the most of the heavy weights if you find them and pile on the volume after.

Secondly, I lifted explosively on every rep. This is something I do regardless but I feel its effectiveness came to light whilst I was away. By trying to explode through the lift you serve to keep your CNS firing and not let it get sluggish and lazy. I even incorporated heavy rock shot puts In Sihanoukville as a method of keeping my pressing movement patterns firing.

EK: You mentioned making the most of any gyms you could whilst travelling. What type of access to gyms did you actually have?

Jamie: In Africa, none. It was all about what I was able to create from the local environment, or use my bodyweight to accomplish. Africa was hard work in that respect, but being pushed to think outside of the box, it really made me think about what was ‘necessary’ and what was more ‘nice to have’ but not ‘need to have’. It got better in Asia, just about.

Ben: In Thailand (bangkok) there were a few of the big ‘health spa’ gyms about so whenever we passed through Bangkok (twice minus the day we left) we hit one of them and made the most.

In Laos, Cambodia and the rest of Thailand we found a few gyms, all pretty spartan, some better than others though. It became all about going back to basics and trying to get the best out of the bad gyms and making the most of the gyms that were, well, actually gyms!

EK: How did you make the most of, lets say, one of the better gyms, in the instances you happened to stumble across one?

Jamie: In short, we nailed it. We both did some pretty sadistic levels of volume and pushed ourselves to the brink. But hey, we never knew when the next ‘good’ gym would turn up. You make the most of those days to put some extra work ‘in the bank’ to make up for when you can’t.

Ben: As Jamie said volume is crucial and I harked on to him a fair bit about it. When travelling around you don’t necessarily know the next time you going to have any opportunity to train. For me this lead to one sensible solution…beat the hell out of the muscles your training in each session. Forget stimulating and not annihilating…I obliterated the muscles and gave myself the luxury of needing a whole week to recover! It simply means you have to train less often.

Being relatively unaccustomed to volume training, Jamie actually put on body mass by adopting this principle into parts of his training. I think he secretly thanks me for it but he won’t admit it.

EK: Conversely, when posed with a ‘sub standard’ gym should we say, how did you make the most of what was their to ensure an adequate training effect?

Jamie: By not using any of it! Unless you’re giving me a rack, or even just a barbells and some plates, I may as well make the most of my bodyweight and the TRX instead. There’s no point in using something sub-standard when you’ve already got a very versatile piece of kit with you at all times – yourself.

Ben: In Hue we found a ‘gym’ that looked like something pre pumping iron. A barely functioning relic of the past. Despite visiting that place all I used in there was the pull down frame to perform 20 sets of 10 pull ups…I told you It’s all about the simple things that work and the volume! Here is a clip of that infamous place…

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EK: Jamie, you managed to actually put on muscle mass whilst away. Could you attribute this to any particular aspect of your training whilst away?

Jamie: Sure. For a start, I really had to dabble into high rep ranges. I can’t remember the last time I went above 8 reps before I left, apart from the odd widowmaker squat. Suddenly, 15 reps became low. That and keeping the diet in check and bam, I grew. Simple really!

EK: Ben, coming from a bodybuilding background and being a ‘big guy’, did your approach to training in the Jungle Gym differ from Jamie’s in anyway?

Ben: The biggest difference was in the food. I needed more. I train following a bodybuilders approach though and Jamie that of pure strength. Resultantly my volume was higher still than Jamie’s. Its the way I like to train and I am accustomed to it. Being at a relatively high level of development I find that I require that extra volume to keep such muscle mass and fullness. I also hit isolation or accessory movements a lot more after my main lifts. Again its a volume issue but also aesthetics. For example, with shoulders, I put a lot more side lateral, upright row and reverse fly movements into my workouts what ever way I could whereas Jamie was pretty much content on the main pressing and pulling movements. I went out my way to get extra work done and resultantly my workouts were longer.

EK: From your experience what pitfalls do you feel potentially await any future travellers?

Jamie: Expecting to do too much. I set out with this glorified idea of doing nearly daily bodyweight activity. Didn’t last for long. You have to remember that you’re away travelling and there to enjoy it. So it’s important to be minimalist in both your expectations and your approach. By the end I was training just 2 days per week. And I got on just fine.

Ben: I agree with Jamie and we spoke of this matter frequently when out there. Stressing out will only serve to reduce your Testosterone levels and ramp up your cortisol levels. The mechanics are to long winded to delve into here but essentially your body only has a finite ability to make testosterone or cortisol (via the conversion of cholesterol and in turn pregnenolone). As one goes up the other goes down. Keep the cortisol (stress) down by getting the weight of not leading the perfect training life off your back. Every little helps. Plus as Jamie said, you are here to life live and experience the world. After all what’s 6 weeks out of your whole life?

EK: In hindsight, could you have better prepared yourself for a length time away? Or put another way, are there any things a traveller could do in the build up to going away that would help them on the road?

Jamie: I’m not sure I could have prepared any better, as part of the experience is that it’s a vast unknown quantity. The one thing I’d say that is important though, is to start thinking about it in advance and how you’ll approach it. In other words, if you’ve got minimal training time, what are your real bang for buck, go-to exercises. And what do you do if the equipment isn’t there. What’s your back up plan? With that in mind, it might be worth investing some time into reading up on advanced bodyweight movements, as you might need them a lot.

Ben: One tactic that I use often before going away is purposefully ‘overreaching’ as its technically known. I up my training volume and intensity the couple of weeks prior to going away, reaching a point of mild over training. This means that when I go away, I can actually not train for a week to two weeks and still be supercompensating (diet dependant). In the case here that equates to a third of my time away!

I would also like to address the issue of flexibility and being able to let the mind broaden to different training practices, as when your on the road you ARE going to have to do things that aren’t in your normal training. If you are not mentally prepared this can be stressful. Knowing you will have to adapt and then thinking about how you can do that before hand lessens the blow when your presented with less than ideal conditions. It also means that you can get training done instead of being left scratching your head or worse, giving up and not training!

EK: As a final take home for our readers, If you could ‘coin’ the principles of how to train whilst on the road or away from mainstream training, how would you do so in as few words as possible?

Jamie: Think outside the box, use the local environment to your advantage, and most of all – enjoy it!

Ben: In true Coker style…Basics. Volume. Milk.

Shotgun Movements – by Jamie Bolton

It’s 2012. The apocalyptic events predicted by religion and popular media are running riot. The 12 Horsemen, Solar storms, magnetic pole reversals, you name it. It’s happening.What’s worse, a crazed gunman has roamed into the Elite Kinetics Performance Facility and is now holding a shotgun to my temple.

The world may be ending, but worse yet is the EK team held hostage....

“Tell me the secrets. Give me the answers. What movements should I be doing?”

To top it off, it appears he’s got a limited brainspan and can only remember five, yes five, movements in total.

“I want to build a lean, muscular physique, but I won’t use more than five movements.”

I’m usually loathe to pick favourites as everything has its time and its place in a program. Well maybe except bosu-ball dumbbell presses amongst other retarded movements, but you get the picture.

These have no place in any program

But this guy does have a shotgun to my head, so I’m inclined to do what he asks!In the all encompassing field that is strength training, I try to pick movements that are just that. With these 5 movements I am trying to address all the key qualities this guy needs to be developing in order to meet his goals:
1. Strength
2. Power
3. Hypertrophy
4. Conditioning

Finally, we need to address all the key movement patterns and structures in the body, otherwise we are going to end up with some seriously unbalanced development over time. I don’t want our armed friend here to come back and complain!

So this is what I’d prescribe:

1. Complexes

A complex is a series of exercises performed with a barbell back to back without letting go of the bar. I’m slightly cheating here as it is technically more than one exercise, but since it’s continuous, I’m counting them as one! There are many ways of setting these up, but my favorite is the JB Complex.

You can set these up in as many ways you can imagine really. I wrote more here recently on the beauty of complexes if you want to see a bigger list of their benefits.

2. Trap Bar Deadlifts

Possibly the uncrowned king of the lower body exercises.  It gives the benefits of both the squat and conventional deadlift without the drawbacks of both. The squat is a great lower body movement, but since the bar is placed across the upper back, upper body involvement is well, limited. In contrast, the conventional deadlift gets far more upper body involvement, but the weight distribution often leads to temptation for form to weaken and lower backs to round.

From a cost-benefit perspective, we get the best of both worlds using the trap bar deadlift. We get the desirable upper body involvement of the deadlift, but the weight distribution of the squat with the movement firmly through the heels.

3. Power Clean & Press

The Power Clean & Press is a great movement for developing total body explosiveness. It’s impossible to do one slowly. To top it off, it engages and taxes almost every muscle in the body. As a result, this movement will help add slabs of muscle all over your frame. And the increases you’ll see in power and neuro-muscular coordination will make you a faster athlete too. What more could you want?

4. Pull Ups

A full, properly-executed set of pull ups is one of the best movements you’ll see in slapping on precious width and thickness to the back of a body.

The Latissimus Dorsi attach all the way along the spine. In other words, its one HUGE core muscle. And is key in pulling strength, overall trunk stability in pressing, posture and general longevity. Not that the Pull up solely relies on the Lats, the rest of the upper back comes in to play too. Real bang for your buck. Forget the lat pulldowns.

It’s also a 2-for-1 exercise in as much as varying the grip width, and  whether using a pronated or supinated grip, changes the emphasis on varying parts of the back. But thats an article for another day.

Form is crucial, each rep from a dead hang please. No pathetic half reps allowed.

5. Farmers Walks

Great overall body strength & conditioning movement. To reiterate what Ben Coker said here, they’re a great way to build the back, traps, legs, core and grip.

When you include farmers walks in a program, everything else can’t seem to help but go the right way. They’re an awesome, primal movement pattern that needs to be hit. Leave them out at your peril!Programming

Our crazed gunman then returns and demands:

“How do I put all of this together?”

Like this:
A. Complexes 3×8
B. Trap Deads 3-5rm max
C. Power Clean & Press 5×5
D. Pull ups 3x max reps
E. Farmers Walks 4x50m

Complexes are a great way to warm up the entire body for the rest of the session. 3 sets of 8 does nicely here.  With Trap Bar Deadlifts, we want to work up over as many sets as needed to a strong 3-5 rep max. Everytime we get 5 reps, we add weight the next session.

Similarly with the power clean and press, we aim for 5×5, adding weight from set to set until we can’t get 5 reps, plus these should feel light after the heavy deadlift. With Pull ups, we want to cause as much fatigue as possible to maximally stimulate the upper back, so we go to positive failure on each set. Finally, we hit 4 lengths of 50m with the farmers walk to fry what’s left of our shotgun pal.

Try the above for a great total body workout if you are short on time or just want to get back to basics. Perform twice per week and hit some basic conditioning like hill sprints 2 or 3 times per week on top and suddenly you’ve got a pretty decent program.

Wrap Up 

The reality is obviously that we don’t have to limit ourselves like this. But sometimes adding exercises doesn’t necessarily mean added results.As Albert Einstein said, “Everything should be made as simple as possible but no simpler.”

It’s always a useful exercise to go through your training and work out what exercises are really adding value to your program, and what is just there for the sake of it. Getting back to the basic, shotgun movements can be a great way to keep your training simpler and more effective. Sometimes less is more.

The Jungle Gym

This is a secret announcement.
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We are undertaking an experiment. A covert operation.The mission – to prove you CAN train ANYWHERE.
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This summer, we will bravely be going where no strength trainee has gone before; Into the heart of Africa and the depths of East Asia. Our journey will take us across savannahs, through impenetrable forests and across remote islands… into the wild.
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Our hypothesis?
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That you don’t need to be in a ‘gym’ to grow. That progress doesn’t have to be environment-specific. That with clever thinking, innovation and adaptation of standard protocols, you can make anywhere your place to train. Your place to progress. In fact, that by getting out of your ‘comfort’ zone and being forced to think differently about training, you might just reignite that growth engine anew.
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As devoted strength disciples, it is our intention at a minimum to maintain our position in terms of strength and physique, if not to come back stronger. Clearly strength is specific, so we might see a short term loss in specific lifts that can’t be directly recreated. But it will come back. Fast. But the muscle itself? That’s not going anywhere.
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How?
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Through clever use and manipulation of bodyweight via the TRX Suspension Trainer, and whatever else we can get our hands on – trees, sandbags, logs, water containers, and all manner of other creations.

We’ll be recording our techniques to show you how you too can create your own ‘Jungle Gym’ wherever you are. Whatever the tools at your disposal.

Remember, we didn’t always have ‘gyms’ at our disposal. Ever seen an ancient Greek statue? Or indeed recreations of history – TV series like spartacus, movies like Gladiator & the 300. Those guys looked and were STRONG.

As much as we’ll be forced to be creative, we won’t forget to take our chances when something good is on offer. In a place with a half decent facility? We’ll be making the most of it, whatever that might mean. Even a ‘useless’ facility can be put through its paces with some quick thinking & innovation.

Is this optimal? Screw optimal. Take what you have and push it to its’ limits. Think outside the damn box. Use what you’ve got in every way possible. The trouble these days is too much choice, and not enough action. We won’t have many choices. But we will have plenty of action.

Just before you worry that the steady stream of articles from Elite Kinetics will dry up over the summer then, not to fear. We’ve been prepared and have a vault full of pieces to keep you entertained regardless.

Without further ado, we’ll sign off. Into the wild. To the true Jungle Gym…

Until next time. Train Hard. Train Smart. Be Strong.

Are Your Hip Adductors Sub Standard? – by Ben Coker

So you’ve been hammering away at your legs – busting your ass of to try and get them stronger and bigger. Frustratingly you just don’t feel any stronger in the ‘hole’, those squats just won’t fly up and the tape measures still shows the same inches around. What’s going wrong? It’s a safe bet that your hip adductors could be  substandard.

The adductors as a group constitute a large muscle mass in which all of the muscle originate on the pubic bone and insert running down the medial femur. There role is to provide hip adduction – bringing the thigh across the body (towards the midline) and also to maintain pelvic position during gait.

The potential strength development of the movement adduction is significant since the agonist (hip adductors) are very large when combined as a group. Yet in many movements and sports activities the adductors are not the main agonists and consequently are minimally loaded or strengthened through activity. This highlights the potential for underdeveloped adductors in athletes and gives rise to the benefits of specific resistance training for the adductors.

In specific activities like squatting the adductors they play an important role. Mark Rippetoe explains wonderfully:

“At the bottom of the squat, where the hamstrings and adductors are fully stretched, there is as much pull on the knee from the posterior as form the anterior…the adductors have stretched too, and if the knees stay parallel to the feet, as they should, the adductors will get tight and pull on the femurs. This  “knee out” position anchors the femur so that adductor contractions and hamstring contractions produce hip extension, which is apparent when sore adductors show up the day after a heavy squat workout”

“If the knees are shoved out to the sides at the bottom of the squat, the adductors are tightened. If this is done correctly, there is a slight “bounce” or muscular rebound off the hamstrings and adductors at the bottom of the squat, which initiates the upward drive out of the hole”.

This highlights the importance of the adductors in strengthening the squat. Clearly therefore additional resistance training for the adductors will help improve your squat – namely out of the ‘hole’.

Rippetoe also adds that hip extension in this manor is accomplished “much more efficiently and much more safely for the knee when it occurs from this correct position- the position that cannot be achieved unless the squat is deep”.

This is a clear message to me that if you want to improve your max. squat, adductor size/strength and knee health you have to squat deep. There is also the conclusion that by developing our adductors we can actually improve our squat strength out of the hole.

It also goes without saying that developing a large muscle group in the legs, which the adductors are, is like tapping into a goldmine in regards to hypertrophy of the legs. Building up your adductors will do wonders for aesthetics  resulting in significant hypertrophy and ‘fullness’ of the leg.

Compare these two examples:

Yes the legs on the left are bigger overall but regardless of quadriceps development look at the difference in the inner thigh mass...the adductors make a big difference!

Interestingly by building the adductors in both strength and size, we improve our depth in squatting which not only makes us better at squatting but also saves our knees AND actually serves to further develop such properties of adductors! Squatting deep is a winning cycle.

Its also worth noting by having a more developed set of adductors they will enable you to squat heavier weights and this extra weight will stimulate your quads to grow and strengthen even more! Your adductors could be limiting the size and strength of your quads by dictating how much weight your can put through them!

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So what exercises develop the adductors?


1) Squats

Unless you’ve been asleep this should be apparent by now! As Rippetoe highlighted, squatting deep will call upon the adductors to help in balancing the anterior posterior forces on the knee and in hip extension out of the hole. This stimulation will cause them to grow in strength and size. Let us not forget that powerlifting stance squating both free and box variations (wider stance) put extra stress on the adductors and inner thigh musculature as the adductors are stretched more and the leg action is more of adduction in the up phase in this stance.

BUT the key here is to actually squat deep!

People out there will be undoubtedly reading this and agreeing, ‘oh yes, deep squats – people need to do them’, but don’t realise that they still don’t do them themselves!

Be honest to yourself and ask for an external opinion from someone who can squat to depth themselves. Get them to evaluate your form and ensure you are hitting depth. Only then will you be stimulating the most growth out of your adductors by squatting. If not you could just compound the imbalance.

Extra emphasis can be placed upon the adductors by using a second pause at the bottom of a deep squat.

2) Sumo Deadlift

These work the glutes, hamstrings and adductors more as opposed to conventional deadlifts. The low back sheer force is drastically reduced in sumo deadlifts making the movement heavily hip reliant. The sumo stance puts the legs more in a position of abduction meaning that the adductors are recruited more in the lift as they in effect try to pull the legs back into adduction. 

3) ‘Frog stance’ leg press

This modification leg press is an exercise I have had great results with in both adductor size and strength (giving rise to a larger squat max and a more stable ‘hole’). Just like powerlifting stance squats and sumo deadlifts the adductors are stretched more in this position and the up phase involves more adduction of the hip.

Simply place your feet higher and wider than normal with toes pointed out slightly and get real low in the bottom position – no partials here! This loads the posterior chain and inner thigh more than in a conventional leg press.

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These can be implemented at the end of a workout when fatigue dictates lighter weights to be lifted if you are wary of the ‘alien’ positioning. This is key for avoiding injury especially as in this new position you will be weak and you joints exposed when you first attempt the lift.

Controll the eccentric with the posterior chain and adductors. You should feel them being loaded as the foot plate gets lower.

The motion really stretches out the adductors putting them under more eccentric stress and due to the position of the legs, the press portion of the movement is more in line with the anatomical movement of adduction (the prime movement pattern of the adductors).

4) Walking lunges with hold

Single leg work I feel is important both for performance and hypertrophy and walking lunges are my favourite. The adductors (along with the abductors) play a role in leg and pelvis stabilisation and this is heightened during single leg work.

To target my entire leg not only the adductors in the best way I used a wide ‘step’ and sink straight down into the hole, keeping the torso upright.

Again I pause at the bottom when the adductors are loaded and then squeeze straight up. I try to minimise the push off of the back leg and turn the movement more into a single leg squat.

5) Isolation exercises

As a final brief note, lets not forget those ‘sissy machines’ that isolate the adductors; cables, seated and standing pad machine variations. These can be used to top of a gruelling leg session and NO it doesn’t mean you are a girl because you are doing them!!

Everything has its worth if used in the right context!

This article goes a long way in highlighting the way the body works in unison and the importance therefore of not neglect body parts to achieve improved strength and aesthetics. If you are struggling with strength out of the hole in your squats and or your upper leg strength and size has stagnated, try adding in some of the above exercise to your programme and see the difference.

I did and I enjoyed the results.

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References

Rippetoe M.  Strong Enough: Thoughts from thirty years of barbell training.  Pp. 66-69. The Aasgarard Company, Wichita Falls TX. 2007

Trap Bar Deadlifts: The Best of Two Kings – by Ben Coker

Often around the gym you will hear guys sneering at someone who is performing a trap bar deadlift.

‘Its not a real deadlift’, ‘Its just an easy deadlift’ or ‘be a man and use a straight bar’ are common comments thrown around gyms born simply out of ignorance.

Here’s my viewpoint on trap bar deadlifts…I love them. I think its a fantastic exercise. They are a staple in my training and should be viewed as much a mass and strength builder as squats and regular deadlifts.

There seems to be plenty of mass and strength here...

Now before people start losing the plot here, I want to make a few things clear. I DO love squats and regular deadlifts. They are great mass and strength builders and should be stables in any serious strength/hypertrophy programme. Also the specifics of squatting and deadlifting are important for many athletes such as powerlifters, Olympic lifters and strongmen and so they need to be practiced most definitely by such athletes.

The point I am highlighting is that most athletes don’t. The trap bar deadlift offers them the benefits of both the squat and the regular deadlift in one exercise but without any of the negative aspects of the two conventional lifts.

The trap bar deadlift puts the lower body in the same basic position as in a squat. When performing trap bar deadlifts you step inside the bar as opposed to having the bar in front of your shins (in a regular deadlift) or on your back (if you were squatting).

This puts the load more in line with you centre of gravity. This reduces the strain or sheer force on the lower back when compared to a regular deadlift. This is an important point for people who want protect their low back as much as possible especially those coming back from injury or with chronic low back issues, or simply athletes whose spines take a beating as it is in their sport without adding even more in training.

If we were squatting the bar would be up on the shoulders yet in trap bar deadlifts despite being in the squat position the load is not resting on your spine but actually disrupted across the shoulder girdle. As a result there is less compressive force through the spine and thus less stress on body/CNS when compared to if we were performing regular squats.

Trap bar deadlifts also allow you to completely control the entire eccentric phase of the lift as a result of the line of pull being more in line with your centre of gravity. The eccentric phase is a crucial component of a rep in terms of producing hypertrophy and the trap bar deadlift allows you to maximise its benefits.

In a regular deadlift due to the positioning of the knees and the path of the bar a complete controlled eccentric is not possible. The bar either travels horizontally away from you and your centre of gravity to get around the knees putting your body in a suboptimal position which can obviously result in injury or the weight is simply dropped back to the floor.

As mentioned earlier this is not a message to say stop deadlifting and squatting. Hell no! Indeed the extra strain they put on you (if used sensibly) works wonders on hormone responses to training and muscular development. Its also key for athletes that needs to perform regular deadlifts and squats in competition to use them in training! But even here the trap bar deadlifts can be used to increase frequency of leg training and to spare the low back. If you are an athlete or weekend warrior looking to build mass and strength and save you low back wherever possible the trap bar deadlift is for you.

Wrap up

The trap bar deadlift offers the  benefits of squat leg development and the benefits of deadlifting upper back, trapezius and forearm development. Not only this, they also reduces stress on the body (recovery is quicker and there is less stress on immune system) and the potential for injury is reduced.

Any athlete (or regular trainer) looking to spare their low back in training to allow optimal performance in competition should seriously consider trap bar deadlifts as their leg exercise of choice.

Leave Something in the Toolbox – by Jamie Bolton

In every approach to every goal, there are typically multiple tools at our disposal.
 
If we’re trying to get bigger, we’ve got a bucketful of competing training methodologies, calories to consider, macronutrient distribution within that and so on.

If we’re trying to become faster, we’ve got technique work & plyo’s before you begin to consider the strength work being done, aswell as diet.

If we’re trying to lean down for competition, we’ve got diet, cardio, training, and even supplementation to consider.

We know in every avenue we journey down, that its a gradual process of progression. Progression. That’s the key word. You have to account for the fact that we want progression to occur, but that the nature of the beast is that plateaus occur along the way. It is important to understand then that you shouldn’t show all your cards at once, as it were, if you want to prevent plateaus and keep continually progressing.

In a muscle gain phase. You don’t start with your calories set at 6000. For a start, unless your maintenance is 5500cals, you’re going to get fat pretty fast. But secondly, what will you do if/when weightgain later stalls? 7000? 8000? You’ve brought out the big guns far too early and left little room for practical progression.

Sledgehammer to crack a nut...overkill

In training. You don’t start with 7 days of training per week, twice per day. Whats next? Three times a day? Where’s the progression going to come from. You’ve set your stall out so high that progression is inevitably going to stutter out pretty quick.

In dieting. You don’t start with calories at 2000 per day, zero carb, 2 hours of cardio per day and popping fatburners like candy do you? Beyond wanting to kill yourself pretty quickly with that schedule, as and when your body adapts to the stimulus, where’s the progression coming from? Exactly.

Your body wants to adapt to whatever stimulus you impose on it. It’s why we have to continually challenge ourselves if we want to be better. The more you can leave in the tool box, the more you have later to bring to the frontline when progress slows. Moreover, the more tools you have left behind, the longer you can keep on that progression path and really start to completely stall as there’s nothing left to add.

What you don't use now can be used later

I can imagine a whole lot of head nodding occurring right now. I’m stating the obvious. But why do people still ignore the obvious then? How many people start a schedule toward whatever aim, that beyond already being a stretch to stick to, leaves little room for progression. Is it any wonder so many people fail at this?

You always want to do as little as possible to elicit the desired effect. Why bring out the 9mm when a water pistol will do to begin with?

Start growing on as few calories as necessary to just see some growth and add from there. Don’t go gung-ho from the off.

Start training at 3 days per week, milk it for its worth and then add more.

Start dieting with as little possible to lose fat. Reduce calories a bit first. When fat loss stalls, add a bit of cardio. Then a bit more. Then calories down a bit more. And so on.

Why make this stuff more complicated then it needs to be. Start simple, and keep it simple as long as you can. Why do more than you have to? Leave the tools safely in the toolbox until you really need them.

“Perfection is achieved not when there’s nothing left to add, but when there’s nothing left to take away”. Keep it simple and build it up.

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