Category Archives: weight training

THE ANAL LOCK– THE KEY TO LIFTING!

Yeah, I know, my bad punning habits die hard, but the Anal Lock is an important maneuver every gym-goer and lifter should know perfectly.

But, first, a test. Push or pull a heavy object (a heavy box, your bed, or a dumbbell). Now, repeat the same move after blowing out the air in your lungs through your mouth. In other words, at this point in the test, you have no air in the chest. See how difficult it is to move the heavy object? 

Valsalva

The difference lies in the fact that when you blew out the air in your chest, your intra-abdominal pressure is low. Any muscular effort in such a situation is doomed to be weak and futile. Watch any experienced lifter during a squat or a deadlift: at the beginning of the lift, he fills in air inside his chest, and his belly goes out (lifters mistakenly call this as “filling your stomach with air”). He holds his breath, and lifts. The breath is expelled at the end of the lift. 

Among the various muscular events resulting in a successful lift is the Valsalva Maneuver. The entire body becomes rigid and in a state of high muscular tension, with the breath held inside a closed glottis (larynx) and the anal sphincters tightly clenched along with the glutes. The abdominal muscles are also braced as if for a punch.

During the Valsalva, the intra-abdominal pressure becomes very high, and the nervous system excited. Indeed, the phenomenon of hyperirradiation is evident– when all the muscles are tensed by the nervous system, the ones responsible for the actual lift are more efficiently and strongly stimulated. Try lifting a weight with one hand while clenching the other hand strongly, while also tensing your glutes and tightening your anal sphincter. Then try to do the lift with all the muscles relaxed. The difference will be clear and evident. 

The difference between a good lift and a failed one is often the lack of hyperirradiation and failed maintenance of the anal lock. Clearly, a Valsalva maneuver is essential to lift a heavy load. Concentrate on this technique of forced expiration against a closed throat (often the breath escapes in a grunt), and you will be able to lift more. 

One could do something like a Valsalva while not tensing the glutes and locking the anus. Why not do that? It is commonplace for untrained people to forget the glutes and anus while focussing on the technique of the actual lift. This has the disadvantage of a less efficient nervous system stimulation (less hyperirradiation) and on top of that the creation of a complication.

There is not much mention amongst trainers and coaches about an important consequence if you fail to maintain the anal lock during a heavy lift. The raised intra-abdominal pressure translates into raised intra-rectal pressure. The pressure in the anal veins increases and they prolapse out of the anus, leading to an internal tear of the veins under the perianal skin. This results in a perianal hematoma, also known as thrombosed piles/hemorrhoids. This is a painful condition that will stop you lifting for a few days, and may even need hospitalisation for evacuation of the blood clot (a surgery). However, most cases are self-limiting and resolve in a couple of weeks. Cold and later hot  Sitz baths are useful, as may be the application of anesthetic ointments (like 5% xylocaine/lidocaine) and the intake of oral pain-killers.

Trainers and athletes need to be aware of this complication, and remember the importance of the anal lock.

An important pointthe Valsalva maneuver may be dangerous for certain people. For example, people with hypertension or a propensity for strokes may have intracranial bleeds because of sharply raised blood pressure. A physician’s help should be sought in case there is any doubt if you should do the maneuver or not.

NOT MAY, BUT MUST: THE MAY CHALLENGE!

While we have been grinding through our lives, four months of the year have rolled out silently under our feet, and many of us are still nowhere in the path of progress we had chosen during the last New Year resolution.
I can’t make you rich or help you get laid, but I can help with fat loss.
I am taking up a May Challenge from tomorrow: Lose 10 pounds of fat in May! This is inspired by Vic of Gym Junkies who has really got ripped in a few weeks with his diet and training. Of course, Vic is a martial artist, and is leagues ahead of most of us in fitness. Believe me, this doesn’t make it easier for him. On the other hand, beginners have it easier in the fat loss fight. The leaner you get, the more difficult it is to shed of those last remaining ounces and pounds.
How am I going to lose 10 pounds of fat in May?
I will try to take in a caloric intake of around 11 per pound of body weight. For me, that comes to around 1850 calories. I am sure that even if I eat clean, as I usually do, I will exceed 2000 calories, going up to 2300. I won’t scrooge on that.
Here is when IF will be handy: I will use my three IF days of the week to restrict my calories. I assume that if I eat five hours on my IF days I will not exceed 1500 calories. So, a 300 calorie deficit over my allowance will compensate for my exceeding it on the other ‘eating’ days.
While we are still at nutrition, I will ensure that my protein intake will be around 1 gram/lb body weight on at least my eating days, while it would not be less than half that on my fasting days (around 75-80 grams/day). With resistance training, I don’t expect any lean mass losses.
Three days a week (on my IF days), I will go low carb (around 50 grams per day), while I will hit it up on the other four days. I will not spare myself too many mangoes, I can tell you!
I have also determined that I will take my training to a higher level this May. Some numbers:
1. I will try to exceed my Deadlift by 25 percent. I am currently lifting 1.5 times my body weight, and I will try to go up. At the least, I will raise up the reps at my current weight (a little uncertainty there in my mind).
2. I will increase my pull-ups and push-ups by 50 percent this month: the reason is I don’t do too many as it is. I have jacked up the number of pull ups to around 100 or maybe 200 per week. I will now do 250 pull ups every week. Push ups: 150 to 200 a week (I know it is not much).
3. I will do Power Cleans and exceed my best by 10-15 percent. I currently lift around a measly 110 lbs. I will try to go to 125 lbs.
4. I will sprint even harder than I do at present: I will not spare myself during my (twice weekly) sprint sessions. ‘Kill It’ will be my motto!
5. I will increase my Bench Press by 25 percent.
If I find myself unable to achieve the specific numbers, it will not be because of want of trying. I will readjust my targets if necessary and increase the intensity and volume at optimal loads.
What about me, I don’t do all this shit?!” you say?
Well, for starters, start increasing your activities and systematically charge up your workout. Make it work!
Here is how:
1. Stop taking your car to where you normally do. Walk it some way, at least. Stop taking the car to nearby places, though many of you may not be living in places that are walker-friendly.
2. Stop taking the lift. I climb six stories up and down on a routine basis, as that is the level I live in. If you can run up and down, even better. Try it, at least!
3. Stop finding excuses. Period. Just do it!
4. Concentrate on your eating: that is THE thing that will make it happen. Remember to take in a max 11 calories per pound of body weight, and stick to it. Eating clean means eating natural foods only. No sugars, processed foods, or food products at all. I would strongly suggest laying off grains and potatoes as well.
5. Kill cravings: keep your cupboard and fridge clean, and visualise yourself at the end of the 10 lb fat loss. If that doesn’t help you control your cravings, what will?
6. This month, don’t let go. Be merciless!
7. If you don’t belong to a gym, or you have never lifted, try the following exercises/activities:
* stair-climbing
* sprinting (20 seconds on, rest 10 secs, repeat till you fail- a maximum of 8 reps).
* do burpees: 10 at a time. Doesn’t matter if your form is bad, and you feel like dropping. Just do it as well as you can, and do 10. Repeat three times.
* Choose four different exercises like squats, push-ups, lunges, burpees, mountain climbers, bear walks and planks, and do 30 seconds of each without taking ANY rest. Repeat three times with a couple of minutes rest.
8. Try to incorporate more activities in your daily routine. This Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT) will help burn up a few hundred calories daily. I can’t stress this enough!
9. Don’t allow yourself to fail: use any resource you can to help you from failing: try me if you want, by all means!
10. Blog about it, and make your commitment to fat loss public. This ensures accountability, something I learnt from Tom Venuto. I challenge my blog friends to post on this challenge and take it up. If you think 10 pounds is too much, take a 5 lb challenge- but take it up. This is one chance you shouldn’t let go: fat loss as a group activity is great!
Let me know what you are going to do this May!
As for me, I ‘m gonna kill it: with my six packs so close to visualisation, I am not taking failure as an option!

Postscript: If you are thinking, “Oh, I can’t do all this, Doc is being impractical”, then you gotta stay fat. Fat loss ain’t comin’ to you without commitment, short of bariatric surgery, AIDS or cancer!
Use my links (both within this post and in my blogroll) to learn more.

THE FRONT SQUAT

If you haven’t checked it out already, get into Precision Nutrition’s site. They have a ton of information on nutrition and exercise that could be put to good use.
I found this interesting analysis of a paper comparing the efficacy and wear-and-tear effects of the two commonest types of squats (front and back) on the knee joint.
I had already read this paper and the conclusions, but you can go ahead with this article.

The Front Squat is a great exercise alright, but the problem is that you probably need spotters and/or a squat rack if you want to pull heavy. If you don’t have these, you could use a Smith Machine, but this is a poor second, as the machine describes a straight line movement and your core muscles are not put to the test as in the free squats.
The main problem with front squats (when you have good form in it), in my experience, is the inability of the squatter to extend the wrists to the extent needed to hold the weights while going down and coming up. A related problem is the issue of putting the weights back in place once the exercise is done. If you use a crossed grip style, it becomes even more difficult to lay the bar down. Beginners can do front squats with just a barbell or with light dumbbells, but should up the ante soon, as these are the ones where you should hit it hard and heavy to lose that tyre of fat, and get stronger in your legs and back.
Whatever it is, the front squats are great exercises that every person must do, even those (I would even say especially those) who have painful knees.
For a detailed and extremely intelligent analysis of squats, I can’t find one better than the Squatting 101 at Mike Robertson’s site (one of the treasure troves of kinesiology info in the net).