How Do You Use the Trap Bar?

 

For those gym-goers that are looking to build the most size and muscle possible, a good plan is to turn to the so-called big three lifts. These three major movements are the bench press, deadlift, and squat. With just these three exercises a relative novice could become an absolute monster with enough dedication and time. And the nice thing about these mass-builders is that you don’t need much by way of equipment, usually just a basic Olympic style barbell and a rack or bench-combo system of some sort.

But did you know there’s another often-overlooked apparatus you could be incorporating into your training?  The trap bar. Most gyms I’ve belonged to had one, though it was usually pushed off into a corner somewhere and only occasionally used by someone – and usually the wrong way.  Let’s try to better understand how to use the trap bar, and you may find that it’s a tremendously useful way to switch up the motor patterns you’re engaging with your weight routine.

trap bar

The Deadlift

 

With a modified trap bar deadlift, you’re engaging several different parts of your thoracic chain that otherwise wouldn’t get worked by the traditional deadlift. While the deadlift is an amazing exercise, it is more or less primarily geared for those looking to powerlift (and maybe a few masochists who just like the lift). If you’re someone that is an athlete, soldier, or law enforcement officer, you need an exercise that is not only going to engage the back and lower body, but you want to ensure that it’s capable of really putting in the work that will translate to usable skills. Form is massively important with this movement but by keeping an eye on it, you’ll be able to see that with the trap bar deadlift, you’re tackling the lift with a slightly different range of motion.

 

With a traditional deadlift the bar is in front of you and the goal is to minimize that by dragging the bar against your legs on the move upwards. With the trap bar deadlift the bar is basically aligned with your spine and you’re able to stand straight up with it instead of leaning over the bar so much.

trap bar dead lift

Unlike the deadlift, you’re going to be engaging your low back less and your quads and hamstrings more, especially your quads. So instead of getting a primary glute or hamstring-oriented stretch when doing the exercise, it’s going to really emphasize your front of your legs . So essentially, the trap bar deadlift is taking the traditional deadlift range of motion and enabling you to follow more of a dynamic, sports-oriented pathway. This is a unique exercise and if you stick with it, it can even carry over and improve your numbers on the squat and regular deadlift, while possibly sparing your back from too much compression.

 

And without a doubt, it’s the most popular exercise people do with the trap bar. Aside from that, there are other great ways to get in shape via the trap bar.

 

Trap Bar Press

 

Most people’s chest training often suffers from lack of variety.  A great way to mix it up and stimulate new growth is to engage your pecs via the trap bar. Most have only ever bench pressed with either dumbbells or a straight Olympic barbell, and while this is a classic and effective exercise, with the trap bar you can attack your muscles from new angles. Because of the shape and length of the bar, you’re getting a very dynamic and unique stretch on the shoulder capsule and the triceps. This will enable you to not only press more weight if you do the exercises consistently, but you’re truly exposing your muscles and body to new stimuli that will result in much greater muscle hypertrophy.

 

So whether it’s just a basic press or the classic deadlift, with the trap bar you can incorporate new muscle emphasis to break up the monotony of your routine and even improve upon your time-tested, big three lifts.

How to use Floss Bands for Rehab

I’ve been through all kinds of rehab treatments for the many times I have busted up my body in training and on race day.  A round of epidurals in the old back, chiropractic, “rolfing” and other deep tissue work – they all have their place and DO work, but at different speeds and the extent of recovery will vary with each individual.

And then in the second phase of treating an injury active recovery methods like yoga and Pilates tend to help once the initial inflammation of a pull or strain has subsided a bit.

floss bands

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But I came across a new methodology about a year-and-a-half ago that’s nothing short of amazing for both injury prevention AND treatment – band flossing, or simply “flossing” among the in crowd.

First seeing this used by competitive cross-fitters and power lifters, I had to give it a go with a recent nagging knee strain that wasn’t responding to my other attempts to get the pesky join back in line.  Short story: it worked pretty well and is now a part of my warm up and cool down regimen.  Here’s some more about this cutting edge rehab modality.

 

When you can use Floss Bands?

 

Floss bands aren’t going to be much use with spinal issues, but seem to be well-suited to the following:

  • ankle mobility
  • shoulder internal rotation
  • anterior knee pain, lateral knee pain
  • infra-patella pain or pain under patella
  • upper thigh, hamstring
  • upper arm, forearm and elbow

Each of these areas and their relevant functions call for a distinct way to wrap the floss bands. If there is a problem with how the compression bands are wrapped, the whole process will be ineffective. Wrapping the floss bands too loosely or tightly is not recommended. And definitely don’t use floss bands on bruises or open wounds, even if there is a bandage. Do not use these bands in case of severe injury such as fractures or torn ligaments. Use floss bands for very short periods of time, usually 45 seconds to two minutes at a stretch and you should unwrap the bands if there is any tingling sensation, if the skin turns pale or if there is any indication of increase in blood pressure. Floss bands work best when used sparsely and only around the affected muscle, joint or tissues.

 

How to use Floss Bands for Rehab

 

Always opt for optimal tension while using floss bands for the first time. You don’t want it to be loose and you definitely don’t want it to be too tight. Just have enough tension to allow the range of motion or the workout you are about to undertake. When you are using floss bands on shoulders, wrap away from your body so you should go clockwise on the right shoulder and anticlockwise on the left shoulder. Start wrapping at the top of the shoulder and continue wrapping till about mid arm. Tuck the end when you are done with the length of the band. Rotate your arm and test the motion. Remember to keep the time-under-tension below 2 minutes. Finish the shoulder exercise and then remove the band before moving to any other joint or muscle where you may need the band.

 

When you have to use floss bands on the elbow, start above it and ensure fifty percent tension on the compression band, wrap the band away from your body and ensure seventy five percent tension, wrap till just under the elbow and then move up wrapping the arm till above the elbow. Tuck the tip of the band. Straighten the arm and bend it to feel the range of motion and adjust tension if needed. Wrists and hands can be wrapped in the same way. Start with the hand, wrap the band two to three times and then bring it towards the wrist, wrap it around the wrist a few times depending on the length of the band and then go back to wrapping the hand. Tuck the tip of the band under itself at your palm. Grip this part if you want and test the range of motion of your wrist by bending it up and down as well as sideways and circular motions. Flex your hand and form a fish to see if you have any pain or discomfort due to the tension.

floss bands on thigh

Wrapping techniques for thighs and hamstrings are the same. Start wrapping the lower quad to the middle part of the thigh and back to where you started. Do squats and check how you feel. When you wrap floss bands around knees, do not cover the whole knee. Focus on lower or upper parts of the knee depending on the focal point of the pain. Use the back of the knee to go up or down the knee cap. The same technique must be used for ankles. Do not cover the entire ankle.

For a more visual walk-through there are a couple of great videos on YouTube when you search “how to use floss bands”.

Dumbbells vs. Barbells – Is One Better Than the Other?

 

This argument never goes away – and it’s just as prominent on bodybuilding and fitness forums as the old “machines vs. free-weights” debates. While most people use a combination of both, there are die hard fanatics who claim one’s superiority over the other.

Is there anything to it? Let’s look into the pros, cons, and possible limitations in each case.

 

So First we have Dumbbells

 

While some “experts” claim they’re potentially the more dangerous of the two, I think that dumbbells are just right for newbies. If you’re getting started with weight training, dumbbells will probably be better for you than barbells depending on your strength level. With dumbbells, you can start out as low as 2.5lbs in each hand and incorporate stabilizing the weight as well as just pushing or pulling it. This will assist you with improving your coordination and activating a range of muscle fibers. Consider that a standard Olympic barbell is going to weigh 45lbs with no weight added to it – this can be a limiting factor for noobs.dumbbells

 

Also dumbbells assist with evening out strength imbalances in the arms and legs. These strength imbalances are quite common among newbies and can actually be reinforced by the use of barbells.

 

Safety does play a part here too depending on the exercise. For example, if you find that you’re unable to make it through a rep because of muscle fatigue, you may simply drop your dumbbells. You’ll never get pinned under them, as you might during a failed bench press or failed squat with barbells.

 

In terms of drawbacks, a lot of commercial gyms have a limited supply of dumbbells handy, and they may not be in the weight increments you need at the time. If you’re trying to equip your home gym with all the dumbbells you’ll need for various exercises – and especially if you’re a big burly man – be prepared to shell out $1,000=plus for a comprehensive set.

Forget adjustable dumbbells – they’re a pain in the butt, especially when you need a quick-change like with conditioning-type workouts.

 

And now for Barbells

 

If you’re going for massive lifts barbells are going to be a requirement for your training, arguably more so than dumbbells. You simply can’t build your bench press without doing bench press. And while I’ve seen dumbbells go up to 200lbs apiece – have you ever seen someone try to wrangle one in each hand?  That’s the territory of the super elite – and event they usually require 2 spotters.

Think about trying to do lunges with heavy dumbbells – the bruising and friction of those things banging into my thighs is not what I call fun!

However, as we mentioned ease for noobs with dumbbells, there is a component to that with barbells as well. The fixed range of motion of barbell lifting allows a relatively stronger noob to work out proper exercise form without dumbbells swaying from side-to-side.

 

One key “pro” of barbells is their versatility. You may perform rack pulls, cleans, dead lifts and squats all with barbells. When you try to same moves with dumbbells, you may find that the weight is too difficult to hold. Barbell design means that it’s possible to use bigger weights with a higher degree of comfort.barbell

 

Barbells are awesome when it comes to doing exercises of the “explosive” type, including snatches and power cleans. You just can’t get this type of explosive action on dumbbells.

 

In terms of the downside, using barbells can be dangerous. We don’t recommend using them alone. It’s always better to have a fitness buddy to spot you while you train with barbells.

 

Which “Bell” is Right for You?

 

Now you probably see that the argument is a silly one – both should make their way into your workouts. Most gyms have plenty of both. If you’re not currently a member at a gym, check out a free intro class trying out dumbbells and barbells – especially if the gym will give you access to a trainer, which is a fairly common “hook” these days. This will be helpful even if you plan to buy this kind of equipment for yourself in the future. You’ll be able to try before you buy.

 

Your fitness level and level of experience with weight training, as well as your fitness goals and current programming, will be important factors to dictate when and how often you include dumbbells or barbells.

The Tabata Formula – Fad, or Fat Shredder?

There are plenty of exercise fads are billed as the “next big thing in fitness”, only to fade into obscurity quickly. If you’ve been a fan of HIIT. training (as I have been for years) then you might want to check out Tabata.

You may not realize that workouts which are shorter-than-average often have the capacity to burn insane amounts of calories! Tabata delivers in this important respect – you can go hard, or you can go long, but you can’t truly do both!

With its origins in Olympic training Tabata can’t really be considered a fad, especially for how long it’s been around.

Get Better Results from Shorter Workouts

At the core of this training regimen is the ability to burn more fat in less time. Tabata is a popular type of HIIT (high-intensity interval) training which is composed of 8 rounds of super-high-intensity exercises, which are performed with an interval of “twenty seconds on, ten seconds off”.  This is extreme even compared to many HIIT programs that run one minute of intensity followed by 30 seconds rest, then repeat.

This regimen was created in Tokyo seventeen years ago, by Izumi Tabata. Fat-burning was not the original intent but rather to maximize athletic speed, output and recovery between sets. dr tabata

The creator of this workout style was employed as a researcher at Japan’s National Institute of Fitness and Sports. He developed these innovative workouts in order to assist athletes with their aerobic and anaerobic conditioning.

What Are These Workouts Like?

This type of workout usually lasts for just four minutes. It’s made up of repetitions which last twenty seconds each. The repetitions are intense exercise – think hyperventilation! After the twenty seconds of intense exercise, there is a ten second rest period, usually where I am gasping like a landed fish.

You’ll need a stopwatch or a workout buddy; don’t trust yourself to count accurately when under that kind of torture.

While it’s an “4-minute workout” I find that a good 10-minute warmup with some kind of cardio prior to the Tabata session is more effective, and easier on the joints.  Schedule a couple of cool-down minutes afterwards too.

Why Are These Workouts So Effective?

Studies have demonstrated that training of this type boosts the human body’s capacity to burn fat during the daytime. Basically, it helps you to burn fat hours after you’ve completed your short workouts! If you choose typical aerobic training over Tabata, your body will burn fat only while you do the aerobic training.

These workouts also raise VO2 max in certain people. VO2 max is the maximum quantity of oxygen which is utilized during workouts.

Who Are These Workouts Right For?

Understand that this workout style is very demanding. Many people hear the 4-minute workout part and think it’s a cinch – make no mistake, we’re talking about a 4 minutes beatdown that should leave you a slobbering mess if you’re doing it right.

The creator developed this form of exercise to help a speed skating team boost its fitness. As you can imagine, the speed skaters were rather fit to begin with! These workouts boost cardiovascular fitness and improve muscle endurance. To get through these intense workouts, you will need basic fitness, as well as mental toughness. You’ll have to push yourself through the workouts, because they are very hard workouts!

I recommend being in very good shape before embarking on this style of training. While you don’t need to have the conditioning of a competitive speed skater, you shouldn’t try these workouts if your idea of daily training is a stroll to a shop around the corner.

Tabata is perfect for those who already lead active and athletic lifestyles. It was designed to condition athletes. If you want to access a body which performs better during longer sessions of physical exertion, Tabata will deliver the right benefits.

But of course if you’re new to exercise talk to your doctor and get clearance for this kind of intense workout, or take his advice for adjusting the program for your situation.

Which Exercises are Performed?

Really, there are dozens to choose from. It’s possible to do it on fitness machines such as stationery bikes, elliptical machines and stair-climbers. Some people use real bikes or climb real stairs. Others use battle ropes, row or sprint. Some weighted exercises can work too like dumbbell thrusters or squats. In general, coaches and athletes like the following exercises the best:

Front Squats – Front squats which are performed with lighter weights are good because they activate a greater number of muscle groups. They are simple to begin and to complete. They will make you cry however (at least for me).

Kettlebell Swings – These swings with kettlebells boost coordination and conditioning and they feature rapid setup, which means that it will be simple to transition between your breaks.

Upper and Lower Body Combo – When you combine lower body and upper body exercise, you may stop certain muscles from getting tired. Go for four rounds of upper body exercise and then do four rounds of lower body exercise. One idea is four rounds of push-ups and four rounds of lunges.

If you want fast and efficient training, Tabata may be perfect for you. So, why not give it a try?