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Q: There's a lot of talk about high cut calves and how this can be to an advantage to you. But is it possible to have different types of muscle insertions in the upper part of the leg?

I know that people with long achilles tendons usually jump higher than other people but is it really that important? I noticed that the high jumper Stefan Holm has low cut calves and he recently cleared 240cm at the height of 5'11". Would this really be possible if he were at a true disadvantage?

Ok. Get a big bag of rubber bands of different lengths. Take a little bitty rubber band, pull it back, release it, and see how far it flyes. Then take a big long rubber band and do the same thing. Which one flyes further? It should be obvious that a longer and stiffer rubber band flyes further then a short and weak rubber band. The tendons in your body are the same way particularly the achilles tendon. The longer and stiffer the tendon the more rebound it gives when you "pull it back". It pulls back when it's stretched which it is with every footstrike. Keep in mind I'm referring here to tendon stiffness and not stiffness related to range of motion. Stiff tendons are superior because they resist mechanical deformation better and "pay back" with a stronger contraction when they're stretched. A tendon needs to be stiff, have good damping, and the joint needs to have good, but not excessive, range of motion.

The current emphasis on flexibility neglects the equally important mechanical qualities of the tissues comprising the joints, in particular their stiffness and damping ratio. In other words, it is important that these tissues offer each joint an effective balance between mobility and stability under a wide range of operating conditions. For instance, a joint whose tissues have low stiffness (or high ability to be stretched easily), but a low damping ratio (or poor ability to absorb tensile shocks) will be especially susceptible to overload injuries.

Ok now that's just one factor. Of course throughout the rest of the body muscle lengths, tendon lengths, and size of the muscle bellies will vary as well. For example, the tendon of the quadriceps tendon will demonstrate quite a bit of variability as will the length of the thigh bones, length of the lower leg, where the glutes attach and the size of their muscle bellies, size of the hamstring muscle bellies, as well as many other things. Yet, as I've said before, you can add size to a given muscle group and you can make a tendon stiffer or weaker but there's nothing you can do about shape, structure, bone lengths, tendon attachment ratios, or any of that stuff so why bother worrying about it? And just like you saw with the high jumper, disproportionate strengths or motor strength qualities can often make up for disadvantageous limb leverages.

Q: I train really hard, and I feel like I'm in great shape for basketball. There is just one part of my body that I cant seem to get toned. That is my core area. I have a little extra fat on my stomach and "love handles". I do crunches and other ab execises but I was wondering if you could just make me a diet plan for a week that I could follow that would help me get a six pack for summer.

Bodyfat is all about energy balance. If you consume more calories then you burn you gain fat. If you burn more calories then you consume you'll lose fat. There are about a million different ways of complicating that basic thermodynamic equation and we could start right now and not be finished 10 years from now but that sums it up so keep things simple. If you wanna lose that fat around your gut you need to expend more calories then you consume.

The average person "drinks" too many calories. They consume about 350 calories per day of soda and that's not including other forms of sugary beverages. The soda consumption by the average teenager is even worse. I have found that the average male under the age of 25 can lose up to 2 lbs of fat per week simply by not "drinking calories". It's easier to consume calories by "drinking" them vs eating them which is why it's easier to lose fat if you eat calories instead of drinking them. That means cokes, fruit juice, gatorade,or anything else that you "drink" should be eliminated in favor of water and sugar free beverages such as tea, coffee, diet soft drinks etc. Do that and you'll be on the right track.

If that's not enough then gradually begin to cut down on the "Big C's." The big C's are cola, candy, cakes, cookies, ice (C)ream, and cereal. Replace those foods with more eggs, oatmeal, fruit, lean meats, vegetables, and anything else you can either shoot or grow. It doesn't get much simpler then that. Try to make one change at a time rather then a complete overhaul. If you try to overhaul everything at once you'll probably end up starved and constantly hungry.

Q: I too am hoping to start my own training business once I turn 18 and can get certified by some nationally recognized place, such as NSCA, the ACE, etc. I do have a question for you regarding NESTA certification, does this certification hold any basis, basically I'm curious as to how legit their certification is. Is it worth my time, and money for that matter, to become certified by NESTA?

A: Unfortunately, I've never heard of NESTA certification so can't offer an opinion there. I have heard of ACE and that's one of the organizations that people like to make fun of. About the only certification I feel that is worth getting is an NSCA CSCS certification and that's mainly because it's internationally recognized and will be a requirement if you want to get a good job in the strength and conditioning industry. However, it also requires a college degree. Even though your degree can be in basketweaving, coin collecting, or whatever, you still need a degree. :) Now that I think about it, the ISSA trainer certification is also pretty good as far as the information covered, provided you actually learn it.

Truthfully though, you can learn everything on your own without a certification so unless you plan to work for somebody else I wouldn't even worry about it. I'd say I've learned 99.9% of the things I know on my own and only .10% through certifications, classes, etc. Like I said the main reason for getting a certification is to get a job. If you just want to learn stuff then get a copy of "Supertraining" and read it front to back and take notes. Get a copy of "The science and practice of strength training" and read it front to back and take notes. Then buy up all the soviet fitness reviews and read them front to back and take notes. It won't be easy getting through those books but do so and you'll learn a lot.

In addition to that, the most important thing is that you train your butt off for a variety of sports for a number of years even if you're not great. There are a lot of things that you have to experience on your own. Work with and seek out as many people as you can for knowledge and devote your time to as many athletes as possible. Keep an open mind and realize you can learn something from everyone and the moment you think you're smart is when you're really not. You have to accumulate enough knowledge and viewpoints so that you can form your own thoughts based on contradictory opinions. Keep doing that for 10 years and you'll get to a point where things start to come together. :)

Q: I saw your beginner routine for a girl and like your progressions. I was curious if you have a progression to accomplish a single armed pushup?

Good question. For those that are wondering here is the workout he's referring to which was written with a 12 year old beginning female trainee in mind.

The focus is on body control first of all. Set several short term strength goals. These include full range pullup, one full range dip, 25 v-ups with perfect form, 10 janda situps, 1 full range single leg squat, and be able to hold herself near the top of a manual glute ham raise for 10 seconds. Once she gets these goals knocked out then we'll introduce weights. This will build GPP and get her stronger a lot faster. Here's how I'd go about introducing it:

For each one of those goals above you'll have a progression of exercises. Once she is able to complete one progression she then moves on to the next. Train the whole body 3 x per week and hit everything...even 2 x per week will be plenty to get her moving in the right direction. Here's how the progressions would go. On some of these you can mix and match different movements at different times and of course you can supplement with weights. For example, you can also have her do bodyweight bulgarian split squats at any time or bodyweight squats at any time or pushups at any time etc. but this is about as simple as you can make things and hardly any equipment is required.

Pullup progression

1. Supine row - feet on floor - x 20
< 2. Iso chin x 10 seconds top, 10 seconds midpoint, 10 seconds just short of lockout *** When she can do this she'll be able to do at least one pullup
3. Negative accentuated pullup x 4 seconds eccentric + partner assisted concentric (have her lower herself all the way down on a 4 count and help her back to the top) x 5 reps (start holding her from the waist, then progress to the feet, then one leg - when she can complete 5 reps with you only assisting by grabbing onto one leg she can probably knock out 5 full range pullups when fresh)

Ok, so basically what this progression means is you have her start off doing supine rows with her feet on the floor. When she can complete 20 of those move her onto iso pullups where she holds the top position for 10 seconds, then immediately descends down and holds the midpoint for 10 seconds, then near the bottom for 10 seconds. When she can do that with 10 second holds at each position move her onto negative accentuated full range pullups etc.

Dip Progression
1. Iso pushup between low benches, feet on floor (not on knees) x 10 second hold
2. Regular pushup x 20
3. Iso Dip x 10 seconds top x 10 seconds midpoint *** When she can do this she'll be able to complete at least one full range dip.
4. Negative accentuated dip x 4 second lowering, partner assisted raising x 5 reps

Abs progression
1A. Chinnees (sprinters situp) x 30 in 30 seconds (raise the torso while lifting one knee up)

1B. Cross bench situp x 10 (drape her legs over a bench and have her pull herself up as far as possible engaging the hamstrings)

Single Leg Squat "pistol" progression

1. Bodyweight squats (butt to calf arms folded in front) x 50
2a Peterseon stepup x 20 (3 second eccentric)
2b.Ski squats (wall sits) - x 5 positions 10 seconds each (sit on a wall and descend to a 1/4 squat, hold for 10 seconds, to a 2/3 squat, hold for 10 seconds, to a 1/2 squat, hold for 10 seconds, to a deep squat, hold for 10 seconds, to a ATG squat, hold for 10 seconds. Start off at 10 seconds and work up to 20 seconds per position.
3a. Bulgarian bodyweight split squat x 10 (3 second eccentric, 2 second pause at the bottom of each rep)
3B. Single leg ski squats x 5 positions x 10 seconds each
4a. Single leg pistol off sittign onto box, using something to hold onto for balance x 8-10
5. Sl squat on box, free standing x 5
6. SL free standing pistol x 1

Glute Ham progression

1. Wall pawdown x 2 legs x 20 (have her lie on her back next to a wall.
place the feet against the wall and "pawdown", contracting the hamstrings and elevating the hips.
2. Single leg wall pawdown x 20
3. Iso glute ham top position x 10 seconds
4. Eccentric glute ham x 5 (lower under control and assist on the concentric)

You don't need a lot of volume per workout or per exercise although training in this fashion one can handle quite a bit. Initially the gains are all neural so "learning" is the most important factor. 1-2 sets per progression per workout will be enough. Go ahead and feel free to "supplement" with other stuff to such as :

Push-ups, reverse 45 degree lying leg raises (garhammer raises), Back raises, Lunges, Bench presses, overhead squats, Pulldowns, light barbell squats, Hanstand wall supports, Step-ups, Dynamic flexibility movements, agility movements, sprints etc.

I would warm her up each time having her do some footwork drills such as an agility ladder. Each workout have her do one easy plyo movement such as 4 star hops etc. Incorporate some over a full range of motion, such as lunge jumps and squat hops.

When she can complete the aforementioned goals, then we'd move her onto barbell focused movements and more advanced control exercises.

Ok, now to finally answer your question, :) The progression for a single armed pushup could go something like this:

A: Iso single armed pushup hold - Get in a proper "1-arm pushup" position and Work up to holding the top position for 20 seconds.

B: Eccentric single armed pushup x 5 second lowering x 3 reps (have a partner grab you and lift up just enough for you to lower under control)

C: Single Arm pushup

Perform 3-5 sets a couple of times per week, advancing through the progressions. You oughta have your goal knocked out in no time at all.