Read our Blog regularly for Jon Torerk’s and other BioMechanix staff members latest posts. Jon is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and looks forward to sharing his and his staffs insight into body building, conditioning and injury recovery.
(Part 5 of 5)
I also use the heavy elbow concept or technique for standing tricep push downs and bicep curls. For the standing tricep pushdown: start position while keeping core engaged. Grasp the bar or rope with a somewhat loose grip. I tell clients to drive their elbows towards their hips and place their upper arm in line with their trunk. In that position, elbows are directly in line with their hips just past anterior superior iliac crest of hip, in the axillary line.
Your elbows should be about an inch or two away from sides of your body in a flexed position, with your hands higher than elbows. This will engage the posterior deltoid and scapular muscle groups, which in turn keeps the upper arm from moving out of place during the duration of the exercise.
The same approach is ideal for the bicep curl, except the hands are below the elbows at the start position. This minimizes any shoulder extension or flexion during these exercises. While performing bicep curls all of the posterior musculature of the shoulder and arm should be engaged.
Remember in an earlier post, I mentioned about standing at kitchen sink, and your natural reflex to tense up if someone comes at you by surprise? Remember, how Wing Chung trains you to go against your natural instincts?
This concept comes into play in bicep curls. While performing bicep curls and throughout the entire movement you should feel your entire arm and core contract, not just your biceps!
During both of these exercises the only thing moving should be your forearms. Also remember to keep your head in a neutral position, meaning looking straight ahead, not down. Anytime you drop your chin and look downwards it will cause your upper back and shoulders to round. This will disengage the muscles supporting the humerus.
All of my clients know the “heavy elbow concept” and I hope you can try this either yourself or with your clients!
Learn more about correct techniques for strength training and resistance training at Biomechanix.net
Jon Torerk, CSCS
(Part 4 of 5)
Jin Young uses the term “heavy” all of the time, in regard to your elbows. The concept helps you position your arms in the most efficient place for blocks and strikes. It prevents you from using your shoulder and traps excessively.
Heavy elbows position you to use your body weight as the power source. In strength training, I put the heavy elbows concept into practice when I teach my clients to keep their traps out of the equation while performing certain movements.
As I have ranted before, most people unnecessarily recruit their traps while performing most rowing or lat pull down exercises during resistance training. Why? Weak posterior deltoid and upper back strength. When these muscles are weak, your traps come into play to assist. This is known as a compensatory muscle recruitment.
For instance when a seated row is done correctly, the elbows should be lower than the hands at the completion of the positive or concentric motion. This is the point when the weight is moved in closest to your body by the means of pulling.
The act of keeping your elbows heavy while performing the seated row exercise will help keep your shoulders down and engaged. You want to think that you are driving the weight towards you, leading with the elbows rather than your hands. During lat pull down exercises keeping heavy elbows will keep the shoulders from elevating and keep the traps depressed during the movement. This is the ideal and correct position.
It also creates a better mind- body connection, in order to disengage the trapezius and drive the elbows down as you pull the weight towards you. If you put into perspective that your elbows are closer to your body than your hands are, driving the weight downwards in a more direct path will be easier. For instance, for a front neck pull down keeping the elbows wide and heavy while driving the bar towards the top of sternum will create a straighter, more direct line towards you rather than a unsteady, unstable
Learn more about correct techniques for strength training and resistance training at Biomechanix.net
Jon Torerk, CSCS
(Part 3 of 5)
Ever hear that phrase “Unlearn everything you have learned?
Well it’s true in this form of martial art. I give Jin a lot of credit for putting up with us newbies. If you understood the art, you know how frustrating it must have been for him then, and yet he embodies patience with each new student.
Well, I finally get to my point here. After training with Jin for several years, I still am not very good at Wing Chun, but I’m still trying. After all he did say that it takes years and years to master.
But I did walk away with one concept from this art that I apply with training my clients. The “heavy elbows” concept, which both in his art and resistance training you can use right away. More on that in my next post.
More on Wing Chun and strength training at:
Jon Torerk, CSCS
(Part 2 of 5)
The difficulty in Wing Chun is actually the simplicity in it.
Imagine standing at your kitchen sink washing dishes. You are alone in your own thoughts and then someone sneaks up right behind you and screams really loud. Most people would react by immediately tensing up their entire body. After all the shock of being startled like that would naturally make you tense up completely.
In Wing Chun the art is an internal one, so you don’t have that reflex. Instead, you stay heavy and relaxed. Your forearms are like grass blowing in the wind, almost like feelers. But, your arms are also like concrete with all of your body weight behind it, when your strike makes contact with your opponent. If your strike does not go through or is blocked then you go soft again.
I know, confusing right? That’s what Jin meant when he said he could not teach me a Wing Chun move in a matter of minutes. After that initial conversation I never mentioned his teaching me Wing Chun again. About a year later, Jin asked me if I really wanted to learn wing Chun. He told me that I would have to commit at least three days a week to his teaching me. I was more than excited, and to my knowledge, Brian Dodds and I became his first two formal students.
Jin wasn’t kidding. Everything he told me about Wing Chun was exactly as he said. It is a art that takes tremendous time and patience to learn, but the concept is simple. No fancy moves or tricks, just basic concepts that quite frankly go against your natural instincts. (keep this in mind for later).
More on Wing Chun and Strength Training at www.biomechanix.net
Jon Torerk, CSCS
(Part 1 0f 5)
I have had the good fortune to cross paths and train with Jin Young who is considered to be one of the best Wing Chun practitioners and instructors today. In fact Jin is invited to many Wing Chun schools all over the world to teach his methodologies and the most efficient ways of performing this martial art, which is essentially “Jin Young’s Wing Chun.”
Jin is the epitome of being humble. He claims that his methods are not necessarily the best ways, but for now a “better way” Jin knows several martial arts but his specialty is in Wing Chun. He is always evolving and mastering his art. As time goes by, he constantly adapts and changes.
When I first met Jin about 9 years ago I was blown away by how efficient his art is. In real life watching him live, not in a video or in anyway enhanced by digital effect, I had had never seen anything like it. In that moment I immediately wanted him to explain and show me exactly what he was doing, but Jin said it was too difficult to explain in a few minutes, because this is an internal art.
By internal art, he means it’s not just striking and blocking. It would take many, many years to master. Wing Chun resonated with me because I knew it to be Bruce Lee’s form of martial art. It is also known as Chinese Gung Fu, which Bruce Lee later used as a foundation to develop his Jeet Kune Do.
More on Wing Chun and strength training at www.Biomechanix.net
Jon Torerk, CSCS
I recently read an article in the New York Times titled “Fitness Crazed”. The article claims that all NASM (National Academy of Sports Medicine) trainers believe in avoiding barbell lifts in favor of using only wobble boards and stability balls. I am certified by the both the NSCA (National Strength & Conditioning Association) and ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine) both of which require that you have a bachelors degree or higher in Kinesiology, Exercise Physiology, or a related field. Although I am not certified by NASM, I do have several NASM Certified Personal Trainers (CPT) and Corrective Exercise Specialist (CES) on my staff here at BioMechanix Strength & Conditioning Clinic and I know that that is NOT their belief. I know this because I work with these individuals everyday at our facility.
All of my trainers including myself use balance boards, wobble boards, BAPs boards, Bosu balls, stability balls, and body blades with our clients to improve and increase proprioception and balance. We do not however limit our training regimens by any means to just this form of exercise. All of us are huge believers in utilizing free weights, which means using barbells and dumb bells, and performing olympic lifts.
The author of the article “Fitness Crazed” claims that anyone looking to get fit only needs to perform three sets of five repetitions of each the squat, dead lift, power clean, bench press, and standing press. I agree that all of these are great exercises, but limiting yourself to just these five lifts is a recipe for disaster down the road. Although he is right about the progressive overload principal applied to this program but performing only five movements is awfully restrictive. The progressive overload principal was a concept developed by a US Army physician named Thomas DeLorme in the 1940’s. This principal states the need for greater demands to be placed on the body during successive workouts over time if improvement is to be achieved. It also states the importance of variation in training, which provides periods of planned rest and variation in the exercise stress. The author states in the closing of his article that if you keep the practical knowledge of this principal you will reach a state of clarity, but he also states that he does not believe in muscle confusion, therefore contradicting himself. Obviously this guy has no formal knowledge in kinesiology or exercise physiology.
Prior to anybody lifting weights they should have either a Functional Movement Screen (FMS) or a full musculoskeletal evaluation. This will identify where you have strength imbalances, flexibility limitations, and mobility issues which helps you choose both the right exercises and the proper ratios of work to do between agonist and antagonist muscle groups. Most people lack upper back strength especially in their posterior deltoids. In that case you would perform more back than chest exercises, such as a 2:1 back to chest work ratio.
Exercise or fitness routines should technically be exercise prescriptions, not just random exercises thrown together just to make you sweat. The act of simply lifting weights in some unplanned fashion will cause strength and flexibility imbalances. This will most definitely lead to some kind of musculoskeletal injury. The five exercises above are all great lifts as I had mentioned, but some muscle groups are ignored such as the back and posterior shoulders. Not training these muscles will cause a forward head rounded shoulders posture and lead to shoulder mobility dysfunction. A functional Movement Screen will identify who can and cannot perform the above mentioned lifts correctly. Truth is, in order to have good stability you must have good mobility and if you do not posses this, then performing some of these exercises can be more harmful than good for you.
For example, several years back one of my clients who had been lifting weights for years with several so called trainers (I refer to them as fitness instructors) prior to seeing me, had demonstrated how he did a standard barbell squat. His form was horrible as he had too much trunk flexion and his heels lifted off the floor as the weight was transferred all into his knees and lower back. Clearly performing this lift was not a great choice for this client (his previous fitness instructors should of known better), so we worked on his thoracic spine and calf mobility, and yes we used a lot of stability on the balance balls and boards as tools to improve his situation, but it was by no means the only thing he did, as free weights were the bulk of his routine. We stayed away from barbell squats for nearly a year as we strengthened his core and stabilizing musculature of the hips. He now does barbell squats with immaculate form and often super sets them with leg extensions for four sets of each, back to back with no rest between exercises. Presently his final set of squats is 225 lbs for 12 reps. His first set is 20 reps with a lighter weight.
My point is that fitness and exercise programs should not be some “cookie cutter” routine or the latest trend that you find in a book or magazine. Get evaluated first and see what areas of your body need work. You may not be able to perform an exercise with proper form and may need to work up to it. Doing an exercise wrong will cause you to utilize compensatory muscle groups, by this I mean using muscles that should not be involved in that particular movement. This benefits no one and will certainly cause a musculoskeletal injury and promote you to move wrong, which will transfer to everything you do.
One last thing. Most of these health and fitness articles found in the papers such as the LA Times and NY Times are written by people with no formal background in exercise physiology, kinesiology, or exercise science. Most of the times when I read these articles I just shake my head in disbelief of the misinformation they are passing along.
Jon J. Torerk, CSCS
Check out our YouTube channel, BiomechanixLA. Here you will see the latest strength and conditioning techniques as well as tips and tricks for cutting edge exercises. This week there’s a brand new interview with Jon Torerk and Rochelle LeBlanc from Let’s Talk, a public television channel. Check out the critical tips that Jon discusses to keep your body young and injury free.
Are you tired of being out of shape and overweight? At BioMechanix our clients come for many reasons and weight loss is among the top of them.
Some of the biggest and common mistakes people make on their quest to lose weight is to just go to the gym, doing a lot of cardio, abdominal work, and drastically cutting down on calories to fast. Many people are guilty of just doing isolation or spot training such as numerous amounts of sit-ups, and glute-kickbacks. Not that this is completely wrong but ONLY doing cardio and isolative muscle work will not get you the results you want! One hugely important thing is that you need to include compound multi-joint movements in order to burn calories more efficiently and in order to get you to reach your goals and you need to incorporate the following:
*BALANCED and CLEAN diet that you can maintain for LIFE
*Structured strength & conditioning program
*Cardiovascular routine that involves interval training
*Structured flexibility routine
*Supervised training program with a qualified strength & conditioning specialist
Having a structured and planned exercise regimen will get you the results you want. Just doing cardio will not get you there and it does not build lean, fat burning, muscle tissue!
By engaging in a strength & conditioning program you will make your body stronger and a more efficient fat burning machine. By increasing your lean muscle mass your body will require more calories just to maintain that newly developed muscle tissue, therefore making your body a fat burning furnace.
By the way if you are constantly stepping on a scale to see how much weight you lost, you should know that this is not necessarily an accurate way to measure total fat loss. The fact is that muscle is much more dense than fat which takes up less space in your body.
For example five pounds of fat is about the size of a loaf of bread. Five pounds of lean muscle is about the size of a one-pound stack of sliced American cheese. So the space they occupy in your body is significantly different.
Aside from stepping on the scale you should also consider how your clothes fit and how you look in the mirror. In time you will notice that that your body does not look the same and your clothes will actually fit you like they were someone else’s.
And another thing you should know is that muscle does not turn into fat! That’s like saying an apple could magically turn into an orange, which is simply impossible.
Here at BioMechanix we will set you on the right track of losing that unwanted weight and teach you how to train right. We will guide you along every step of the way, teaching you how to lift weights, exercise, and eat correctly.
So come on in! The new you is eagerly awaiting here at BioMechanix Strength & Conditioning Clinic and Athlete Build!
Jon J. Torerk, CSCS
You’ve probably seen those infomercials advertising Extreme Conditioning Programs (ECPs). You might have seen two popular ones on television now: Insanity and P90X.
The appeal of ECPs is that they appear to promise a quick fix – you could rapidly build muscle and get fit, no matter how out of shape you are. The testimonials look awesome, featuring the before and after photos of people touting how fast they totally transformed their physiques.
ECPs work for people who have previously received instruction in advanced power lifting techniques and plyometric exercises. Because ECPs require an extremely high level of biomechanical proficiency.
Unsupervised intense exercise programs aren’t the ideal prescription for people who have rarely, if ever exercised before. ECPs can be dangerous when they invite you to start an unsupervised exercise program that includes advanced power lifting techniques and plyometric exercises. The widely respected National Strength and Conditioning Association does not recommend ECPs for most individuals, and neither do we at BioMechanix and AthleteBuild.
What’s a good analogy? Imagine if this were your first time skiing and the ski instructor brought you to the top of a double diamond trail. Then he shouted out “Go for it!” even as you barrel down the slope, out of control.
Can you safely learn how to ski at an expert level without proper instruction from a trained professional to guide you, watch your form and correct it – and stop you when you break your form and risk injury? The answer is obvious.
ECPs aren’t bad, but for most sedentary people, they aren’t the ideal way to get fit. Power lifting and plyometric techniques are potentially very dangerous activities. If you don’t understand the precise mechanics of how to do these exercises correctly, the likelihood of injury is extremely high since these programs push you to failure or near failure. They can result in biomechanical breakdown and improper technique.
If ECPs are something you are interested in adding to your fitness routine, we advise you to seek proper instruction from a NSCA Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), or a USA Weightlifting Level 1 Sport Coach Certified instructor.
We recommend the same approach for cross-fit classes, which are designed much like the ECPs. Rapid power lifting and plyometric techniques call for expert attention to monitor how your form is holding up – or breaking down. When your form breaks down and you continue the exercise, you are at the greatest risk for injury.
We suggest that you look for a cross-fit gym that is owned and operated by an NSCA Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), or a USA Weightlifting Level 1 Sport Coach Certified instructor.
Remember: we’re not saying you can’t lose weight and tone up doing these programs. However, we advise you to ask yourself honestly: do you have the knowledge to do these programs using the proper form and technique? Poor form sets you up for injury. And, that’s an insane approach to building your ideal physique.
Jon Torerk, CSCS
It’s the quality of food you eat and the metabolic effect they have on your
body that is important, not necessarily the amount of calories. Different
people will have different caloric requirements, based on their activity
levels. When you eat well, typically you can EAT MORE because the foods you
are eating are generally less dense in calories. Eating more than 3 times a
day will help boost your metabolism.
How you eat is key component to maintaining proper weight and athletic
performance. Typically, natural foods with less ingredients in them are
better for you, including eggs, turkey, carrots, and lean beef. Many
so-called health foods in the supermarket have added sugar and artificial
ingredients, so be sure to read the label before consuming.
Eating only once or twice a day will slow down your metabolism. Cutting
calories too far down puts your body in starvation mode and actually makes
your body hold on to fat.
Consuming large amounts of artificial sweeteners also makes your body hold
onto fat, as these substances are stored in your fat cells because your body
treats them as a toxin. Diet soda and artificially sweetened diet foods
should be pretty much eliminated from your diet completely. And, keep your
simple sugar intake low.
On the other hand, your body requires salt. When you exercise you lose
sodium through sweat, so munching on some salty snacks can help replace
electrolytes and reduce muscle cramping.
Your diet should be revolve around an eating plan that you can follow
virtually all of the time. Avoid the fads and temporary crash diets. You
don’t want to subject your body to these crazes. They may leave you with
cravings and a rebound unhealthy weight gain.
About your exercise regimen and more
Exercise habits should be as consistent as your eating and sleeping habits must be, if you’re body is going to work for you. Strength and conditioning doesn’t come from a casual relationship with exercise, neither does the lean body you desire. Remember if you are fat: it took a lot of hard work and time overeating to get there. Don’t expect to get lean overnight. It will take a new mind set, focus, hard work, and discipline to get there.
Eat well, get into a strength and conditioning regimen, and make sleeping a
priority, too. The results will make you not just healthier, but also more
confident and attractive, too.
Jon Torerk, CSCS
CEO and Clinic Director