Tag Archives: squat

Thank You

We were able to host the USPA Kabuki Open here at Union Fitness over the weekend. I just wanted to take this opportunity to thank everyone who made this event (and many of our events) such a success.

 

Doug, Candi, and their USPA crew. This event wouldn’t happen without them.

 

Pitt Powerlifting. These guys and gals are amazing and do all the spotting and loading.

 

Valkyrie Donuts. Check these guys out for the best vegan donuts out there.

 

Knock About Coffee. Thanks for brining the coolest coffee shop in town to our event.

 

Federal Galley. As always our neighbors are there for us and there for you.

 

Slider Vibes. The offical food sponsor of our event. If you have’t visited this gem yet, then you should check them out in market square.

 

Curtis Miller. For those of you who don’t know, Curtis does most of the work to set this event up.

 

Mr John. Yes we even have a bathroom sponsor. If you have ever run any event you know how important this detail is to success. Thank you Mr John for helping us out and being the only bathroom sponsor we will ever need.

 

Union Fitness Staff. These people are amazing and step up to challenges everyday and for that I thank each and everyone of you.

 

In addition I would like thank everyone who attended, competed, volunteered, or were involved. Finally, thank you to our wonderful landlord, Faros Properties for allowing us to  make a big mess and loud noises.

 

 

 

 

 

Curtis Tips for Push/Pull Event

We are coming up on one week out from our member push/pull event on Sunday March 21st. As many of you are aware, we had initially planned to hold the event this time last year, but obvious events kept us from doing so. Now that our Performance Lab is open with access to a great outdoor turf addition, we felt as though it was a great time to bring it back and give our members a fun event and a thank you for sticking with us over the past year.

 

There’s a good chance that a large majority of our members who will sign up for the push/pull have actually never taken part in this sort of event, and that is completely fine. Our only goal with this is to do something fun for our members who have been working hard and have stayed consistent with their training and goals throughout the past year. With the addition of food and drinks, there’s no doubt it will be a great time. Along with this, we will be raising money for the Pittsburgh Kids Foundation, and a couple of their staff members will be joining us to hang out and get to know our members.

 

As far as the specifics of a push/pull event, there are a few things that you will want to know and take into consideration before you begin.

 

First, it’s very important to understand the rules. This is something that we will be discussing throughout the week during Powerful class, but we will also hold a rules meeting at 7:30am on the morning of the event. In a push/pull event, you will be performing the bench press and the deadlift. For each lift, you will have 3 attempts to successfully lift as much weight as possible within the given rules. Before the event starts, you will give your opening attempt to the scorer. A good rule of thumb is to open with a weight that you could easily perform for 3 repetitions. After your opening attempt, you will go back to the scorer and let them know what weight you would like to lift for you 2nd attempt. During that time it will cycle through the rest of the individuals, and then come back to you for your 2nd attempt. Keep in mind, if you miss an attempt you cannot lower your weight. You can only attempt the same weight or choose to go up in weight, so choose wisely.

 

Next, there are certain commands that you will need to obey in order to have a successful lift. For the bench press, you will unrack the bar and wait for the judge to give you the “start” command. Once they do, you will lower the bar and touch your chest, pause it until it becomes motionless, and then the judge will give you the “press” command. Once you lock out the weight, you will hold it under control until the judge gives you the “rack” command. During that time, you must keep your glutes on the bench. If these are successfully done, then the result will be a “good lift”.

 

For the deadlift, there is only one command. You will walk up to the bar, and when you’re ready you will lift the weight and stand with it locked out. This means legs straight, hips into the bar, and chest tall. Once you are completely locked out, the judge will give you the “down” command. During that time you will lower the bar to the floor under control, and if all steps are done correctly, you will receive a “good lift”.

 

Last but not least, remember to have fun. This event is a way for you to challenge yourself, try something and learn something new, and to support and cheer along your fellow members and classmates who you have been working alongside of throughout your time here at Union Fitness. As always, do not hesitate to let us know if you have any questions at all. We look forward to seeing you all enjoy yourselves. 

Powerlifting Adventures With Sky CeJ…(more importantly Sky)

To my most excellent Dudettes & Dudes,

 

Skylyn & I are beginning our powerlifting meet prep for the 2021 Iron City, Open and we want to share our adventures with you! On this 12 week journey we will show our training, go to meals, technique and cues we’re working on, recovery, the excitement of wrapping our knees and all of our nonviolent fist fights  & verbal screeches in between.

 

Just a quick brush up, a powerlifting meet. Meets usually start in the morning and go to late afternoon, so bring your snacks and maybe some caffeine. Women and men are broken down into weight classes and compete in their flights. The lifter will get three attempts to lift their maximal weight in the Squat, Bench & Deadlift (in that order). There are some commands and rules you have to follow, such as proper depth on the squat, a press command and not lifting your tush off the bench on the bench press and to lockout and hold your deadlift until the down command, to list a few. You add up to total weight of your top 3 successfully completed lifts and that is your total for the day. Remember at the end of the day, it’s a competition against yourself and really just to have fun tossing some weight around.

 

This week, we will be building our blueprint plan of attack for the next 12 weeks with some main goals being, build strength, movement efficiency and increase confident in the Squat, Bench & Deadlift. Our plans will be similar yet a bit different to address our specific needs and improve our weaknesses. For example, Sky may be able to handle more volume and frequency (reps/sets & amount of days/times performing a exercise during the week) than I would. So she may have an extra squat & bench session or a few more sets and reps in her program. Also most days we won’t be able to train together and will have to utilize different equipment and that is ok and we will make it work! So hold on to your butts, ask us some questions as we go and lets see where this ride takes us!

 

Be most excellent to one another!

 

CeJ

How’s My Squat?

We all know that Instagram has become most people’s go to for training information and videos. We could debate all day long whether this is a good thing or a bad thing. In my eyes the sum of it all is a good thing. I do see the down side, which is mainly ego. Yet I will take this, if it means that we can learn from some of the smartest people in the world.

 

This week I received a few messages about different pro athletes training. I find it concerning anytime that one comments on training that they were not present at the session, and know the background of the training. So when these questions are posed to me I tend to be honest yet give a non-answer.

 

Let’s break down a few of the different squats we see online.

 

  1. The Ed Coan squat- This is the squat that is well below parallel and looks perfect. We rarely see these.
  2. The Westsider- Super wide and no deeper then we need to be. Often times a bit on the high side.
  3. The ATGer- Low as can be with a side of knee cave.
  4. Front Squat- This gets two different groups, the Oly lifter who looks perfect and the the powerlifter who can’t get in the right position and looks miserable doing the lift.
  5. The NO Eccentric Box Squat- Race to the box, slam as hard as possible, and try to snap your spine (please don’t do this).
  6. The Rock and Roller- This is another variation of the box. Hit the box rock back and try to slingshot yourself back up.

 

Ok with me now judging everyone the truth is this. People have become strong doing each and everyone of these. So instead of telling someone what they should do you should probably just sit back and learn. People have become strong doing all of the above and while you can argue what is “right” it doesn’t matter as it is not your training.

 

Be Strong!

 

Old Man Uncle Hamer

Breathing and Bracing for Strong Lifts

Properly breathing and bracing is one of the most misunderstood aspects of a strong lift, but one that can play a major role. We’ve all either done it ourselves or have seen it at one time or another. Someone unracks their squat or sets up for their deadlift, they go to take a big breath to build tension and their chest gets full of air and the bar shrugs up on their shoulders. While this may seem like a great way to get tight, it is actually doing the complete opposite. What we actually want is too pull air deep into our diaphragm while expanding that pressure downward and outward into our abdominal muscles, obliques, and our lower back.

 

To understand this a little better, let’s break it down with a little bit of anatomy. When we take a breath before a lift we want to fill our diaphragm, not our lungs. Our diaphragm is located underneath of our lungs in the bottom portion of our rib cage. When done correctly, filling the diaphragm and keeping it locked in throughout the entirety of the lift can keep you in a strong and proper position and can allow you to lift more weight safely. When the diaphragm is filled and pressurized correctly, it can help connect the major muscle groups of our upper body to our lower half. This will help to build a tremendous amount of tightness and rigidity from head to toe.

 

When it comes to explaining and better understanding this method, I like to use the soda can analogy. Take an empty soda can and place a small dent in the side of it. Now place that soda can on a table and push down on it with your hand. There’s a 100% chance that it collapses with little effort. This is equivalent of breathing high into your chest. Now take another soda can without a dent in it. Place it on the counter and again try to push down on it with your hand. There’s a chance you wont even be able to collapse it this time. You have now successfully filled your diaphragm and braced completely. Which one do you think is better for a big lift?

 

As mentioned in the video, a simple and effective way to practice this technique is with a small micro mini band around your mid section. Be sure to place the band above your belly button as that is where you will get the most expansion from your diaphragm. This is also where you should place the center of your lifting belt if you wear one. Focus on taking a breath and pushing it downward and outward. While practicing this, be sure to look at yourself in a mirror. If your shoulders rise when you take your breath, then you are taking your air up into your lungs and your chest. Revert back to the soda can analogy. Continue to take your time and focus on your breathing and bracing every session and you will notice an immediate and sustained carryover to the quality and performance of your lifts for years to come.

 

Stay strong, friends.

Let’s get scientific today at UF. We can discuss the force-velocity curve all day long and debate the minor details involved in lifting, and I’d love it. Yet, today I would like to give you a quick overview on the force-velocity curve and why it is important to you.

 

The Coach's Guide to Programming and Periodization: Surfing The Force-Velocity  Curve and Changing Seasons / Elite FTS

 

This image came from elitefts.com, if you are not aware of elitefts I would recommend checking them out. I have been fortunate enough to be involved with them for over a decade.

 

Notice on this curve that the top left is maximal strength. This is training when the bar is under .3 meters per second squared. For our purposes the speed at the bottom right of this graph end is at around 2.0 meters per second squared. The reason I said for our purposes is that we are looking at this graph always under load, notice the percents on this chart. What this means in practical terms is that I am not considering high level plyometrics or sprints. These do have their place yet I just want you to begin considering how this matters when dealing with weights.

 

Why is this important to you?

 

If your goal is to get stronger the single most effective thing you can do is train heavy and hard. Remember Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands (SAID principle). If you want to move more weight you must train under heavy load. Yet as you can see this curve has a lot of space under it, and we must move the entire curve up and to the right if we wish to perform our best.

 

If you have never considered what I am writing about I would recommend that you begin performing some low levels strength explosive movements. You do not need to change your overall programming in order to do this. Just add this into your warm up. Here are some examples of things you could do.

 

  1. Med Ball Chest Pass 3×10 prior or benching.
  2. Box Jumps 3×5 prior to squat or deadlift.
  3. Med Ball Scoop Throws 3×5-10 prior to squat or deadlift.
  4. Broad Jumps 3×3 prior to squat or deadlift.
  5. KB work, swings push presses, or snatches. I’d do these any day.
  6. Explosive push ups 3×5-10 prior to benching.
  7. Weighted Jumps 3×3 prior to squat or deadlift.
  8. McGill Pull Ups prior to any lift.

 

These are just a few examples,  yet there are many ways to sneak in this extra work without hurting your main lifts (and hopefully helping the main lift). As with any new idea implement this in for a few cycles, test it and see what your results are. Don’t ignore how this makes you feel as well. Maybe your numbers don’t go up but you feel better, there is something to be said for this as well.

 

 

 

 

Meet Recap and Reflecting Back

I recently competed in my 15th full powerlifting meet. My goal for this meet was to step on the platform healthy and achieve a 2000lb total. This is a goal that I have been working towards for a very long time, and with the help of a great support system, I was able to do just that. It didn’t go exactly as planned (although it never really does), but I was able to stay focused and under control, and managed to walk away with a 804lb squat, a 430lb bench press, and a 766lb deadlift. As I sit and reflect, I can’t help but think about the journey and how I got to this point.

 

April of 2013 was my first powerlifting meet. I totaled 1310lbs at 190lbs bodyweight. To some, that isn’t a lot. To others it is. To me, it was neither. It was simply a starting point for my journey going forward. Even though the sport of powerlifting is judged off of how much weight you can lift, for me, it has never been just about that. Each time I walked into the gym, my only goal was to be better. Yes, sometimes this meant lifting more weight. Sometimes it meant learning something new about my technique. Other times it meant failing. But even when we fail, we have the ability to grow and become better if we have the right perspective. In my eyes, even a setback or a failure was a victory, because I learned something. I knew that if I kept this mindset and continued to accumulate the small wins, then I was progressing towards my goals and continuing to grow as an individual. Small wins over the period of weeks, months, and years add up into very big victories. 

 

This doesn’t just hold true for me, but for anyone. With the same mindset, any goal is attainable. The important thing to remember is that progress is never linear, whether it’s lifting weights or in life. There will always be setbacks, let downs, failures and achievements, road blocks and detours, but the most important thing is that you never give up. Could we do things more efficiently and be smarter with some of our decisions? Of course. But every single decision we make and experience we have leads us to this point where we are at this very moment. That’s living, and that’s how we grow. 

 

It’s hard to put into words exactly what this meet and this achievement means to me. All I can say is that every time I grab a barbell or walk into a gym, I am extremely grateful to be healthy and to have the opportunity to do something that I love. Having my wife there to experience it with me along with some of my closest friends was legitimately a dream come true and something that I will cherish for the rest of my life. Powerlifting has given me more than I could ever give back. It has taught me lessons, helped me grow and mature, and has introduced me to some of the best people I’ve ever known. For that, I am forever grateful. 

KISS in the Age of HIT

KISS is it. No not the band. I know CeJ looks like he could be a member of the band circa 1977, yet let’s be honest here, they only have one good song. Now that I have alienated most of the Yinzers who love KISS, let’s talk about training. KISS is an acronym for Keep It Simple Stupid. This is one of the best things I did as a strength coach to improve my coaching and my athletes.

 

How many periodization models can you name? Conjugate, concurrent, western, tri-phasic, block or even 531. The confusion in training can be too much for many people. I know I often made this mistake. I was speaking to our own Cody Miller the other day about how often I have over-complicated my programming (for myself and my athletes). While I have never been a huge fan of HIT training as a year-round training style, I do believe we can learn a lot from these people. Look at Marty Gallagher, Dr. Ken Leistner, Mike Mentzer or even Arthur Jones.

 

HIT

 

For those of you unfamiliar with this style of training, it is simple, short, and hard. Even the great Dorian Yates used many of HIT’s methods to build his impressive physique. Dorian was known for having one of the best backs in the history of bodybuilding. Yet his secret to training was simplicity. HIT stands for High Intensity Training (in their case intensity is used as a mindset not % of 1 rep max). HIT training sessions are generally short with low total sets and most sets being taken to concentric failure or beyond. Training can be done as often as 5 times a week but generally, it is done 2-4 times per week.

 

I am not advocating to change your regimen to entirely HIT training, but I am claiming that too many overthink their training and do more thinking than working. I even look at Dr. Micheal Yessis’s 1×20 program as a continuation of HIT training. The difference is Yessis doesn’t train the athlete to fail. Yet it’s still one hard set of work and then moves on to the next exercise. This style of training does have its place in the gym and should not be ignored.

 

Moral of the story

 

When in doubt, train harder. Over my two decades in the iron game, I have seen too many people searching for the answer when the answer is more hard work. Build some sweat equity and push yourself to somewhere you have never been. I know I don’t have the answer yet I know hard work is never wrong.

 

– Todd Hamer

Weekly Wrap Up

Happy Friday Union fam, it’s been a great week here at the facility and going into the weekend we have a handful of things planned for our members and clients. But first a slight recap from myself (Jocelyn):

 

I can only speak for myself but I know the rest of our staff would agree, getting to spend our time with all of you is a privilege none of us take lightly. We all got into this field because we enjoy guiding people along their own fitness journeys and with that being said it is truly one of the few reasons that gets me out of bed in the morning. Now, some days are harder than others obviously but sometimes all I need is great one hour coaching session to get those endorphins going again, if you’ve taken any of my classes you know I’m always dancing and cracking really bad jokes.

 

On Monday’s and Fridays I coach my class MOVEment which is a slight play off of the CrossFit programming I have grown to love and what got me to enjoy working out. It’s fun for me to come up with workouts and watch my classes run through them, you’ll always leave a MOVEment feeling like you got a solid hard workout.

 

With classes still gaining traction during this pandemic I’ve had some great opportunities to get to know clients in classes one on one. When I first started here at Union back in January I was a fresh face and then the pandemic hit and we were all forced through virtual connection. Luckily social media in that respect was a game changer and when we came back, seeing some faces I haven’t seen in a long time made me so happy. 

 

I might be biased but Cardio Lab might be one of my favorite classes to program for, my Tuesday crew is about the same every week and they have all come to expect the same thing from me, a hard workout (but they secretly love it). I’m sure they all come to listen to my Halsey inspired playlists and my terribly awful dance moves, I know I need to work on them guys.

 

If you’re around this weekend, come take a Friday evening MOVEment with me at 6PM for a great grindy conditioning piece or hangout with me on Saturday. I’ll be here at Union for the Kabuki Open and going over to Allegheny City Brewery to hangout while CJ and Grayson coach some of you all through our Bootcamp and Boo’s!

 

So, if you’re free come hangout, have a beer and enjoy a (fingers-crossed) beautiful day!

 

Much love Union fam,

 

Jocelyn

Curtis’s Training Log

I am currently 2 weeks out from my next powerlifting meet. It has been one year since I stepped on the platform. As far as my training goes, one of the best things that happened over this past year was forced downtime. For 10 weeks, I was unable to train with any sort of actual equipment. During that time, I was confined to my garage with only a few resistance bands, some cinderblocks, and 2 bags of rice, that’s it. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, my body was hurting and in need of a break from lifting. This was the first time in the 12 years that I have been training and took more than a week off of any barbell training, that’s 12 years of putting a bar on my back and in my hands almost every single week. We never realize it at the time, but it adds up and can accumulate a great deal of fatigue when not addressed.

 

When those 10 weeks of quarantine ended, I was mentally and physically refreshed and ready to get back into training. My body felt great, my mind was clear, and I was more motivated than I have been in a very long time. After a couple of months of getting back into the grove, I picked a meet, put a plan together, set my goals, and got to work. With the help of my training partners, I am currently feeling the strongest and healthiest that I ever have.

 

Listed below is a layout of my last 3 training sessions. One for squat, one for bench, and one for deadlift.

 

Day 1: Heavy squat:

 

Competition squat: Worked up to a top single at 755lbs.

Belt squat machine: 5 plates per side: 4×10

Leg extensions: 50lbs: 4×15

Leg curls: 50lbs: 4×15

Ab rollouts: 3×15

 

Day 2: Heavy bench:

 

Competition bench: Worked up to a top single at 425.

Competition bench: Backdowns: 345lbs: 3×2

Flat bench fatbell press: 120lbs: 4×10

Chest supported row: 90lbs: 4×10

Dead stop skull crushers: 125lbs: 4×10

Band pull aparts: Red band: 5×20

 

Day 3: Last heavy deadlift:

 

Competition deadlift; Worked up to a top single at 765lbs.

Bent over barbell rows: 185lbs: 4×10

Cable lat pulldowns: 200lbs: 3×12

Leg extensions: 50lbs: 3×15

Leg curls: 50lbs: 3×15

 

My goal this meet is to break a 2000lb total. This is something that I have been working towards for a long time. Anything can happen on the day of the meet, the only thing that I can do is prepare to the best of my abilities and trust in myself and everything that I have done up to this point. The rest has already been decided.