T Nation

Exercise Technique Critiques

The gym that I attend is called Zest Health Club in Adelaide, Australia. Next to the gym is a training centre for fitness professionals(so called)called A.I.F. So all the students and personal trainer use the gym.

What i keep seeing in the gym is bloody stupidity. Whilst doing my set of Deadlifts, I saw a personal trainer(girl) taking a young guy through a personalised gym programme. The first thing she said was, ‘We are going to start with Smith machine squats’, as they did a couple of reps, she stated that the knee’s should never go over the toes! Shit, i was so mad i felt like punching her in the head…So i suppose walking up and down the stairs shouldnt happen.

But i controlled myself and busted out some heavy deads.

Their next exercise was barbell bench press, she set up her client on the flat bench and told the client to lower the bar to where their is a 90 bend in the elbow joint…God, no wonder people cant improve… She said their was no prove that lowering the bar to the chest was any different?

Db shoulder press was next, same thing! Lower the dumbbells to 90 degree bend in the elbow joint. Everything seems like its gettting cut in half.

So im guessing all pressing movements are only to 90 degree bend in the joint?

All squats, lunges are the same with no toes going over the toes and knee and ankle joint must be lined vertically.

But i never hear them say curls should stop at the 90 degree bend, tricep extensions either. Where are they getting this shit info from, its teached by the lectures, and i bet its from these uneduacted physio’s and chiro’s that have never done weights.

P.S. Those people are smart but their are some idiots.

Well i finally think Personal trainers are getting worse or have hit the bottom of the scrap heap.

What are your guys thoughts on these techiques? I believe full range of motion is essential on 95 percent of the time.

Squats: Ass to grass

Bench press to chest

etc

Though i do realise techiques that involve bands and chains, pins etc in the power rack are great.

But a learner doing those techniques suck ass.

These things are taken out of context, but some are true.The overhead press at 90 degrees is usually combined with a upright row of some sort(single arm dumbbell,etc).That takes care of the delts by splitting a long motion into to more effecatious halves.Not neccessary,but it does work.As far as the 90 degree bench press:First,a bench press is a competative lift in powerlifting.It is not that same as the “90 degree barbell horizontal abduction” it sounds like you are describing.(90 degress is all you need to effectivly work the pecs.After that, they lose their mechanical advantage and the load shifts to the triceps and delts,both of which can be worked with better exercises( clean and jerks and weighted dips come to mind)This is simply biomechanics, an often ignored application of mechanics in favor of emotional attachments to exercise pedagogy/mythology.The only people who need to do “bench presses” are powerlifters.Period.You can do them for fun but unless you are gifted at the gleno-humeral fossa and have a barrel chest, they are less than efficient.Trainers of this fashion usually call the 90 deg supine press a “bench press” causually,in common usage, for ease of communication.As for the knees over toes thing in the squat, that really depends on what your goals are.As for why that is taught in a gym, it is the sad recommeddation of the ACSM.It is a liability thing-one of the reasons I quit training at other peoples’ gyms! And now the Smith machine: fucking melt 'em all down into reverse hypers!Sell them to buy sandbags and kegs and kettlebells…real workhorse stuff,Dinosaur style!Hope this give some inside perspective…

Oh, and “full range of motion” is a myth.Unnecessary and in many lifts, impossible. “ass to grass”- Nice macho mantra but no real science there.Did ya know that the protective ground substance that lines your knees does not equally cover the joint suface? The style of lift and the goal should determine what the range of motion is.Exercises are for athletes.Athletes do not fit exercises.So depth of squat should be, for example past parallel for an Oly lifter,at least parallel for a powerlifter, and above parallel for a jumper( Accentuation of Range training, old Eastern Bloc thingy)…etc.This perspective cannot ignore or at least not promote that one should use only one exercise per bodypart/muscle synergy motion. Depth vs health also counts.Long femures make you a shitty squater.No debate here,just a fact.I could do 315 for 15 reps with a stiff legged dead even though I could only do 315 for a single a powerlifter parallel.I squatted all the time and rarely deadlifted.Then I studied biomechanics and discovered why.Now myself and my clients perform the way our respective bodies are built and we excell.We all dont get to have great biomechanics on all lifts.My late 70’s truck just seems to do better stump jumpin’ than my sports car.I bet my truck trains full range…or maybe it is just inherant mechnical advantages…hmmm.
As for the full range thing, there are very few motions that can train a muscle “full range”.Take the biceps brachii for example: a dumbbell curl from locked arm to full elbow flexion is NOT even full range.It is just full anatomical range in that position.Being that some of the biceps mass is biarticular,humeral position effects length tension relationships/ROM. So you must train you biceps from humeral hyperextension(elbow behind body)to full elbow flexion to point of elbow raised in sagittal flexion skyward.If you doubt me, flex you biceps “fully” with you elbow at your side like you had completed a “full range curl”.As you use your other hand to feel your biceps, now raise you elbow to the ceiling.It just keeps flexing.There is yer proof.As for a full bench, dont even get me started on how far away from “full” a barbell bench is.Biomechanics is cool…

[quote]mastemah wrote:
Oh, and “full range of motion” is a myth.Unnecessary and in many lifts, impossible. “ass to grass”- Nice macho mantra but no real science there.Did ya know that the protective ground substance that lines your knees does not equally cover the joint suface? The style of lift and the goal should determine what the range of motion is.Exercises are for athletes.Athletes do not fit exercises.So depth of squat should be, for example past parallel for an Oly lifter,at least parallel for a powerlifter, and above parallel for a jumper( Accentuation of Range training, old Eastern Bloc thingy)…etc.This perspective cannot ignore or at least not promote that one should use only one exercise per bodypart/muscle synergy motion. Depth vs health also counts.Long femures make you a shitty squater.No debate here,just a fact.I could do 315 for 15 reps with a stiff legged dead even though I could only do 315 for a single a powerlifter parallel.I squatted all the time and rarely deadlifted.Then I studied biomechanics and discovered why.Now myself and my clients perform the way our respective bodies are built and we excell.We all dont get to have great biomechanics on all lifts.My late 70’s truck just seems to do better stump jumpin’ than my sports car.I bet my truck trains full range…or maybe it is just inherant mechnical advantages…hmmm.
As for the full range thing, there are very few motions that can train a muscle “full range”.Take the biceps brachii for example: a dumbbell curl from locked arm to full elbow flexion is NOT even full range.It is just full anatomical range in that position.Being that some of the biceps mass is biarticular,humeral position effects length tension relationships/ROM. So you must train you biceps from humeral hyperextension(elbow behind body)to full elbow flexion to point of elbow raised in sagittal flexion skyward.If you doubt me, flex you biceps “fully” with you elbow at your side like you had completed a “full range curl”.As you use your other hand to feel your biceps, now raise you elbow to the ceiling.It just keeps flexing.There is yer proof.As for a full bench, dont even get me started on how far away from “full” a barbell bench is.Biomechanics is cool…[/quote]

Good points, though i dont agree with all of them.

But im still sticking to:

Squats: Hamstrings touch Calves then up to just before lock out. (yes thats my macho talk)

Bench Press: Bar touches or pauses on chest. Then press to arms are locked out

Deadlifts: plates rest on the floor between reps.

Dips: Lowering down until forearm meets bicep.

DB shoulder press: Lower Db’s until they touch shoulders.

Yes Im getting that you are a trainer that has specific exercises for specific body types/Injuries, and i respect that because I was Strength coach for 7 yrs. So I know what your talking about their.

Though I disagree with your point about the bench press, just because you weren’t ‘born’ to bench press doesnt mean you cant work hard at it and reap the benefits. I would like to know the comments or thoughts from guys like Poliquin and cressey on this point.

Anatomical range is what i train normally. Not joint angles.

Not going all the way to parallel de-stablising the knee joint in squating.

And yes lever length does effect exercise selection. Though sometimes this can be deemed a easy way out for certain exercises. Tall athletes not squatting!

And no full range of motion isn’t a myth.

[quote]mastemah wrote:
As far as the 90 degree bench press:First,a bench press is a competative lift in powerlifting.It is not that same as the “90 degree barbell horizontal abduction” it sounds like you are describing.(90 degress is all you need to effectivly work the pecs.After that, they lose their mechanical advantage and the load shifts to the triceps and delts,both of which can be worked with better exercises( clean and jerks and weighted dips come to mind)[/quote]

But isn’t this the main benefits/advantages of performing such an exercise (a powerlift bench as opposed to the “90 degree barbell horizontal abduction”), to gain results (not just in chest, but delts/tri etc) from such a compound exercise?
Agree with the mastemah on the liability issue though. Just like everything that is effected by liability, some (not all) education institutes of personal trainers have been ‘watered down’ to a pale version of an occupation that what once genuinely intent with improving strength, mass, fitness etc… and not just out to remove lost souls of their money.
Not all have gone down this path, but Alphaboy i too have seen the result of liabilty in ‘large chain’ gyms. Ass-to-the-grass squats, along with many other ‘proven’ techniques are non-existent to the trainer in such ‘liability-paranoid’ places.

…oh and Alphaboy, great avatar mate. What are they on? gotta get some lol

I love this ass-to-grass myth because I’ve yet to see anybody, except Olympic lifters do it.
Even the deepest squatters rarely get that low. The flexibility required to get your butt on the ground is phenomenal.

I like when ultra conservative bookish types are appaled by powerlifting/balls to the wall training techniques.
I used to lift at my college gym where the personal trainer students used to practice teaching each other how to lift.My observation is that those kids had to go by the book, because that is all they knew or were ever exposed to. That and you can’t teach these kids to go out and train everyone they come into contact with by the methods that we discuss on these threads.That would turn the general population of “health fans” into shredded meat. The main target of these kids is the fat, middle aged, swiss ball bouncers. These people don’t want to bench press anything more than what it takes to feel like they did something, and they cartainly don’t want to do a dangerous maneuver like the squat or dead. Lifts like that are “dangerous” and “unhealthy”. I was told that by some girl who was doing a sumo style deadlift with a 35 lb. dumbbell as she bounced her ass off of a swiss ball to avoid going too deep and injuring her self.
That may be the sad state of the art, but if you keep a sense of humor, it is fun to watch.

I split my pants doing squat the other night. I had no jocks on so my ass was hanging out. I didnt worry, just wrapped a spare t shirt around my waist and finished me workout. Love the avatar sedgo ya big pansie. :wink:

[quote]kefu wrote:
I love this ass-to-grass myth because I’ve yet to see anybody, except Olympic lifters do it.
Even the deepest squatters rarely get that low. The flexibility required to get your butt on the ground is phenomenal.[/quote]

“Ass to the grass”, yeah just macho metephorical ryming goin’ on, don’t take the line litral, word. You don’t literally touch some grass with your ass. (grass rash, ouch!)
As aplphaboy described “Hamstrings touch Calves then up to just before lock out.”