Dr. Jakob Vingren is an associate professor of Exercise Physiology and Biological Sciences at the University of North Texas. His research focus includes resistance exercise and the effect of alcohol on hormones, muscles and athletic performance. Dr. Vingren received his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Kinesiology from the University of North Texas before pursuing a Ph.D. in Kinesiology at the University of Connecticut (currently ranked the #1 doctoral program in the country).
Effects of alcohol on training
Alcohol affects training, but turns out it’s not as bad as you might think. Dr. Vingren has worked on one of the more out of the ordinary research projects that included resistance training of chronically intoxicated rats. In this episode, you will learn about the effects of drinking alcohol in terms of quantity, frequency, timing (before, during, and after workouts), type, and more. We dive into how alcohol affects the androgen system, immune system, muscle recovery, and short and long-term gains.
Alcohol doesn’t reduce strength or performance, but it increases recovery time, and you won’t recover as well.
Chronic alcohol ingestion leads to less androgen receptors and less gains.
If you drank hard last night, you are better off not training today. Exercise damages muscles, so you should let your body recover from drinking before you are training. The more you wait, the better. But don’t wait too long…
Drinking beer vs. mixed drinks vs. hard alcohol alone — Mixed drinks and beer are better for you, because of the added sugars, antioxidants, and other substances that help recovery.
In college — the more you exercise, the more you drink.
Absence of exercise causes harder and longer hangovers.
Drinks that were aged in barrels, such as whiskey, bourbon, and brandy, usually cause harder hangovers because they contain methanol. As a general rule, the darker, the more methanol, and harder hangover.
If you’re going to have a drink, it’s best you do it when you are eating, specifically protein.
“Moderation is really the key… And separating it from your workouts.” — Dr. Jakob Vingren
Dr. Theresa Larson is co-creator of The Low Back Fix and Knee Fix, and founder of Movement Rx, a physical therapy and wellness company that offers support to wounded warriors and individuals with health and movement issues. She travels all over the world as a speaker for MobilityWOD and the CrossFit Movement & Mobility Trainer Course. She is a lululemon ambassador, and works with nonprofits including Team Red White & Blue, LinderKids.org, Resiliency Project, CrossRoads Adaptive Athlete Alliance, and the National Eating Disorder Association.
Anders Varner is the co-creator of The Low Back Fix and Knee Fix, and owner of Anders Varner Training located in San Diego, CA. Anders found the weight room at 13 and decided he would call it home for the rest of his life. A four- time CrossFit regional competitor and member of John Cena’s “One Ton Club,” Anders has trained with and coached high level athletes from the worlds of the NFL, WWE, and CrossFit. A true believer in self discovery, Anders finds his true passion in helping the everyday person live a pain free, empowered life through mindful movement. Anders Varner’s approach has helped transform the lives of stroke victims, pre and postpartum moms, extreme weight loss clientele, and individuals recovering from drug and alcohol addiction.
Our knees are the biggest joints in our bodies, and they are super important because they provide stability. Knee pain and injuries are usually a result of bad habits associated with foot, ankle and hip movement. In this episode, we cover knee problem symptoms such as sciatica, knee clicking, behind the knee pain, knee overextension, and more.
“You can never go wrong with building more stability or balance in the joints.” — Dr. Theresa Larson
Don’t sit for too long — When you sit down, you’re not activating your glutes, which results in weak glutes, which leads to bad mechanics. Squeezing your glutes while sitting is possible, but it’s not comfortable or intuitive, and strong glutes are important for good movement mechanics. If your day consists of a lot of sitting time, make sure you’re stand up often and go on walks.
You need good form even when you are walking — Walking with your feet turned out (a.k.a. duck footing), causes bad hip and knee positions and movement. Even worse, running with bad form, such as heel striking, causes even harsher damage on the body.
Don’t wear cushy shoes — Shoes with thick, cushy soles are not good for your health. Ideally, wear minimal, flat shoes, so you can use your foot and leg muscles correctly.
Don’t wear heels too often — If you are a woman who wears heels often, (for example: to work), make sure you are switching to flat often. Spending a lot of time in heels, causes unwanted toe dominance and bad ankle flexion mobility, which means you won’t be able to squat well.
Slow down your training — Have you ever done a 90 second squat? Yup, 90 seconds. Slow down your training to focus on stability, that will help with your longevity.
“The gym doesn’t need to be this place where we go kick our own ass, every single day, as hard as we possibly can. We can create this balance in our life, where some days we slow down a little bit, some days we are going to lift and try to PR.” — Anders Varner
Lower back pain is proof that your strength, speed, and power is built on a faulty foundation. There is no amount of foam rolling and mobilizing that can save you. The problem goes deeper, beyond soft tissues and joints, and into the nervous system affecting the way your brain communicates with your body.
If you are in chronic pain, it is going to get worse. Your brain recognizes any load on your spine, including bodyweight, as a threat. To eliminate that threat, it signals pain to your low back to stop you from further harm.
Dr. Theresa Larson, DPT and Anders Varner have taught movement principles to thousands of trainers and health practitioners on 4 continents, and have coached and treated over 100 CrossFit Regionals, WWE, NFL, and MLB athletes. Through their combined 20 years of movement expertise they’ve witnessed that lower back pain is the most common and debilitating injury you can experience.
Lower back pain is a symptom of problems that you can control. It starts with the breath, developing core stability and down regulating the nervous system. This allows you to create balance amidst external stress and structural balance in your body. Practicing these principles creates behavioral changes that help you build a foundation that moves you from pain to performance.
Your breath, balance, and behavior: A simple recipe to a complex problem.
The way you breathe is the single most important aspect to understanding lower back pain, movement mechanics, and rehabilitation.
It starts with being still. Through stillness, you will find the breath. The breath has two major roles in eliminating lower back pain: down regulation and core stability.
You have heard of the “Fight or Flight” response. This is the body’s natural reaction to stress — controlled by the sympathetic nervous system. Any time you feel stress, this system is working overtime. Emotional, mental, and physical stress are stored in the body’s tissues leading to tight muscles, decreased ROM, and tension in the connective tissues.
The opposite of “Fight or Flight” is “Rest and Digest.” “Rest and Digest” is the body’s down regulatory system, the parasympathetic nervous system. This system is responsible for flushing stress out of the body.
The breath gives your brain the chance to stop processing external threats, restore function, and heal itself.
The Stress Breathing Checklist
Take a deep breath, did your belly rise before your chest? Yes / No
Take a deep breath, was your mouth open? Yes / No
Your thoracic spine is protected and supported by a massive bone structure, the rib cage. Below the ribs, however, in your lumbar spine, there is no such structure. Instead, you have to create this structure, using your core to stabilize your lower spine.
Turns out, the six abs you work so hard on are the least important muscles in your body when it comes to low back health. The multifidus is the deepest core muscle. Attached to the spine, the multifidus assists in vertebral stability and function. The transverse abdominis, responsible for lateral expansion of rib, provides stability to the spine by connecting the rib cage to the pelvis.
The only way to train these deep core muscles is through diaphragmatic breathing, deep into the belly.
With straight legs, can you bend over to touch your toes? Yes / No
Can you rotate and look behind you, pain free, with equal rotation on each side? Yes / No
It is ok to admit your life is stressful. From the time you wake up you are rushed, stuck at a stressful workplace, and bookend your day sitting in rush hour traffic. The first time you think about quality movement is walking into the gym. Sitting in traffic and meetings all day is not the ideal way to prepare for a workout with 45 deadlifts and pull ups for time. Balance is divided into two categories, “global” and “local.” On a global level, analyzing general stress brings awareness to the energy you are bringing into the gym. Sleeping 6 hours, multiple deadlines at work, plus a long commute is the triple threat of general, long duration stress on your body. Throwing in a high intensity workout does nothing but compound the stress and fatigue your body is combatting. This stress is stored in the tissues and nervous system. Despite your intuition, you do not need to stretch your hamstrings. General, long duration stress creates inflammation in the body. This inflammation is stored in the tissues. The brain communicates with the body through a complex system of nerves passing over and through joints. Increased inflammation in the tissue compresses these nerves and signals to the brain that there is a problem. The tension you feel in your hamstrings has nothing to do with the length of the tissues. What you feel is adverse neural tension that cannot be stretched, foam rolled, or mashed with a barbell. It can only be fixed by reducing stress and inflammation in the body through the breath.
Global Balance Checklist
Did you get 8 hours of sleep? Yes / No
Was your total work day (including commute) less than 10 hours? Yes / No
Local balance references the asymmetries you have developed through poor movement mechanics and lifestyle choices. When you squat, your right leg is a little stronger and at higher percentages you start to develop a tiny hip shift. Setting PR’s is great, you earned it, but you also are earning the pelvic imbalances that lead to lower back pain. Your body loves these asymmetries. Your brain does not know back squatting is cool. It recognizes a gigantic weight on your back that is about to crush you. Your brain is going to use every resource and advantage it has to stand that weight up. Your strong leg is going to bear the brunt of that load because your brain knows your weak leg is going to fail. Over time, asymmetries develop, imbalances shift your pelvis effecting the way you walk, sit, and train leading to chronic pain.
Can you stand on one leg with your eyes closed for 30 seconds? Yes / No
Lower back pain is not something that happened to you. Lower back pain is the symptom of the default behaviors you have adopted over the years.
Default behavior patterns are hard wired into your daily life. The way you brush your teeth and drive to work are practiced so frequently that they become automatic. Lower back pain is no different. Your default behaviors, stress management and movement patterns are so automatic that you do not think about their downstream, negative consequences.
By changing your behavior patterns, you can change the outcomes.
The first action is always to find stillness and focus on the breath. Once you have established this baseline, then you have the chance to properly layer in mobility, stability, strength, and conditioning.
Travis Mash has spent decades studying the barbell. He is one of the few people — if not the only one — to bridge the worlds of powerlifting, Olympic weightlifting, and athletic strength and conditioning.
Travis was a World Champion in powerlifting. He competed in a world-class level in Olympic weightlifting. He has coached professional Olympic weightlifters alongside Don McCauley and Glenn Pendlay at Team MDUSA and now coaches the most successful weightlifting team in America.
He has coached 8-year-olds, high school athletes landing D-1 scholarships, NFL players, elite powerlifters, average Joes wanting to get in shape, Olympic hopefuls, and even middle-aged mothers who struggled to do a weightless squat.
We enjoyed recording this episode with our friend Dr. Andy Galpin at the 2017 IWF World Weightlifting Championships in Anaheim, CA.
Training Weightlifting Champions
Travis started his path as a weightlifter, he was also a World Champion in powerlifting, breaking the world records twice, with huge total numbers: 2410 lb. and 2414 lb. Nowadays, Travis coaches lots of weightlifters and this year (2017), he had the team with the most weightlifters in the world championships:
In this episode, we covered weightlifting drug testing, olympic rivalries (USA vs. Russia vs. China), American Youth World Champions: Harrison Maurus and CJ Cummings, Bulgarian Weightlifting training, self-love, and much more.
Coaching top-level athletes — Listen first. When Travis starts working with experienced top-level athletes, he makes sure to first listen. He likes to hear from the athlete what’s going on, what’s his opinion on his training, etc. After getting feedback from the athlete, he does a muscular balance test, and compares weightliftings ratios: squat, snatch, clean and jerk, etc.
Weightlifting ratios — Snatch should be 60% of back squat, C&J should be 70% of back squat, and deadlift and squat should be the same or close to one another as possible.
If you want to learn a new topic, write a book about it! — When Travis is interested in a new topic, he makes himself write a book about it. That gets him motivated to conduct deep in research and learn a topic well.
Bar speed —When you are training you should strive for fast bar speed. Don’t just stick to percentage work because it was programmed. Figure out if the bar is moving fast, even it doesn’t, you are better off working technique with lighter weights. Usually, bar speed should be between 0.5 m/s — 0.75 m/s. For speed work, 0.8 m/s is optimal.
Use accessory work for muscle balance —Not all training approaches appreciate accessory work. Some favor higher repetition of competition movements. Travis finds accessory work useful because it helps create muscle balance, which leads to better lifting.
Bob Takano is a highly respected weightlifting coach who was inducted into the USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame in 2007 for his contributions to coaching. He has been the coach of four national champions, two national record holders, and 27 top ten nationally ranked lifters. Bob has been on the coaching staffs of 17 U.S. National teams to international competitions, five of those being World Championships and the Summer Olympics. His lifters have competed in seven Olympic Trials with one, Albert Hood, the third American to snatch double bodyweight, earning a berth on the 1984 team.
Bob is also on the teaching staff for the USAW Weightlifting Coaching Education program and presents his own seminars as well. He also has his own gym, Takano Athletics, at 6036 Variel Ave., Woodland Hills, CA 91367.
Bob Takano grew up as the only Asian kid in a Mexican neighborhood. He got into weightlifting because he was small and weak, and he needed to get strong and big to gain respect and maintain a certain status in the community. Takano was one of the first Asian-Americans pro athletes, and today he’s excited about teaching and coaching weightlifters thanks to never ending problem solving opportunities.
To fix your butt wink when you squat — Try weighted straight legged good mornings with light-moderate weight at the end of your workouts. That should help increase your hamstrings range of motion.
Favorite accessory exercises for weightlifters — Weighted single leg jumps, consecutive frog jumps, and split snatches and cleans. Those exercises are great for learning how to stretch out and contract efficiently, increase foot speed, and how to break under load with feet apart.
Power snatches and cleans are recommended for kids instead of full snatches and cleans. It’s safer for kids to strengthen their ligaments at full range doing squats instead of super explosive movements.
Communicating the meaning and importance of the type of training, programming, and exercises is crucial for getting athletes motivated.
Cultivating confidence and courage in athletes comes from thinking how to lift the weight, not what’s under the bar.
The little things are important and they go a long way. Being on time, registering for competitions, etc. all influence an athlete’s character and performance.
“What’s under the bar is a distraction. The meet is a distraction. Your competition is a distraction. Where you’re going to place in the meet is a distraction. The only thing that is going to help you lift the weight is thinking about lifting the weight.” — Bob Takano