Leg Presses, Assessment, and Overhead Squats
If you aren’t using the forums, here’s an example of the kind of dialog and advice people like Greg are getting for free. There are over 500 posts already – you need to join in.
This is an excerpt from the thread http://leanlifters.com/forum/specific-routines/leg-presses-for-a-while/.
I know free weights almost always trumps machines, but I’ve decided to do leg presses for a while, after many months of squats and an abductor pull. Today, I was able to press 300. I know that’s not impressive, but it sure beats my squats after four months of staying under 200.
I’m also doing lunges (which I suck at), front squats (only a set or two), straight-leg deadlift, and on another workout, I do regular deadlifts.
This is all I’m doing for lower body other than a few sets of calf raises every time I go in the gym.
Any comments, questions, or critiques?
July 17, 2010
Well, I’m not physical therapist, but I don’t think that just because your squat has problems that you should be doing leg presses. Somewhere, you’ve got either form issues, or imbalances, or some other issue that is causing problems from the squat. Moving to leg presses may help your mental game (“better than nothing”) but unless you have one of the really new leg press machines that prevents your back from rounding, the leg press may just create more problems. One thing I’ve found when I’ve done leg presses over the past couple years (which is probably only 2 or 3 times) has been to do one-legged leg presses where the non-working leg is planted firmly. That seems to help prevent the rounding of your lower back which you really want to avoid.
Any chance you can see someone about your issues (like a strength-trained physical therapist)?
July 18, 2010
No. I don’t think I can see a physical therapist right now. My insurance has to approve it if I want any help with paying, and without a sustained injury, I wouldn’t feel right trying to get my doctor to recommend PT.
I get your point about the back rounding. I can feel that near the bottom and I’m careful not to go down too far. I’ve made that mistake in the past (although I’ve never consistently done leg presses). If I keep doing leg presses, I’ll do them one leg at a time.
The positive thing with presses is I can feel soreness and pump in my glutes and hamstrings, which makes me think I must be stimulating those areas more than with squats (front or back).
I’ve done a couple of tests with the box squats, which should be guaranteed to work my rear side, but I need lots of work mastering this technique like is shown in one of your links. I don’t think I can keep my balance without a spotter to properly do this lift.
With regards to back squats, when I go heavy, I go forward if I go anywhere near my upper legs being parallel to the floor, and then I feel like it is all on my lower back all the way back up. Scrawny to Brawny suggests this may be due to the fact that I have a short torso relative to my lower body and that I should spread my feet and toes apart further. Making this adjustment should help keep me upright. While this is somewhat true, I’m by no means long legged. With the wide stance, there is a point where my feet are so wide I don’t have the flexibility in my groin area to go down for a full squat. Maybe I need to improve my flexibility in order to go really wide, but then, I don’t see how this type of squat would be much more than a groin area exercise. My groin area seems further developed than my glutes and hams already.
With front squats, I can’t go near the same amount of weight, because I must stay perfectly straight, and I must keep the bar from rolling forward (my legs are stronger than my biceps). Front squats also seem to put stimulus even more to the front of my thighs, which seem to have developed beyond what they should be relative to my back side.
I know now you’ll probably recommend a personal coach. I’m still working on trying to find some personal help. In the mean time, I’d like to keep working my legs hard w/o doing harm. Presses seem to create the same kind of anabolic response as squats, or at least close. Of course, I could just do more deadlifts.
July 18, 2010
“With regards to back squats, when I go heavy, I go forward if I go anywhere near my upper legs being parallel to the floor, and then I feel like it is all on my lower back all the way back up.”
That tells me you have no calf flexibility (see other post I just made regarding your single leg deads). It is EXACTLY what I was talking about. Basically you have no calf flexibility, so you can’t keep your hells on the ground. So in order to that you have to compensate somewhere else, mainly bending at the waist. You should do some VERY light squats as low as you can, keep the chest up, and stretch your calves. Over time it should help, but ti doesn’t happen overnight, that’s for sure…
July 18, 2010
I agree – flexibility is the issue here. I also know from experience that you can get more comfortable with a wide and deep squat. In addition to calf flexibility, you need to “open up” your hips. I could try to shoot a video for the exercise, but Grey Cook must have some. try a search. The stretch is just bodyweight and over a few weeks you’ll be able to go down farther than ever with a wider stance and without rounding your back.
July 19, 2010
But if this is only a flexibility issue, why is it I can perform these perfectly with lighter weight?
July 19, 2010
Because the load on the back muscles is higher, meaning more tension. I can’t explain it as well as I hoped I could but I’ll try.
It’s the same thing with any exercise. The lighter the load the more range of motion you can do. Your body compensates after a certain point of weight bearing, movement range is one of the first things to go. It may be mental then too… do you have a GOOD spotter with you every time you lift?
July 20, 2010
No spotter. Hard to find one at 5:15 am. I’ve tried p.m workouts several times in the last few years, but I’m just too flat mentally and physically after work.
I’ll work on the flexibility. I’ve got one more workout before I take a break. After the five day break, I’m going to go back to my book reference, Scrawny to Brawny, and return to corrective phase. Before starting this phase, the author has readers measure several areas of flexibility and strength. After the assessment, each reader develops a personal, corrective program that improves areas of poor flexibility and imbalances. Last time I did this, about 15 months ago, I had no issues with calves. I did have to little ham and glute strength for my quads. I have a feeling it may be worse now, but I’m going to go through all the test w/o bias, and see where I fall.
I’m also going to break down and get a couple of books Darrin has recommended. I need to learn more about what’s going on with my body.
July 20, 2010
Buy a physiology book… :) It’s a tough read, but you will learn, I promise… you just have to stay awake. Price shouldn’t be too bad if you buy an older, used one from a couple years ago in paperback.
15 months is a LONG time between corrections. I’d say at max go about 6 months….
BTW, you probably can’t do an overhead squat with very much weight at all can you??? The flexibility would be a huge issue there as well…
July 22, 2010
The overhead squat is one of the tests in my book, but it’s only with a broom stick and there is no mention of doing such a squat with any weight. I do pretty well with little weight. I think I scored one point, which means I had to do a little corrective training, but I was not in too bad of shape. I had no idea that I was supposed to keep tabs on my ability to do such an odd movement as a prerequisite to move up in weight in squats.
It seems as though I need to do alot of reading about things I’ve only recently heard of. Single-limb exercises is new to me. So is corrective training. Becoming more flexible I understand, but I’m not sure what I need to do beyond my daily stretches.
Fifteen months include several months that I didn’t lift. I had two surgeries and a bout of colitis that set me back.
Basically, I started the program prescribed in the book last February. The program begins with a correction/flexibility phase. The length of this phase depends on how many points one scores in the tests. One then moves on to a prep phase and then a strength phase. According to my results in the assessment, my flexibility and imbalances weren’t very bad, and I did this only for about three weeks (as prescribed by my score). I had begun the strength phase when I had my first ear surgery last spring. The strength phase, which focuses mainly on fast-twitch movements, seemed to be wearing me down with all the volume and frequency, even though I was not doing more than what was prescribed, and I had been eating enough to gain eight pounds (February-May). When I started working back out, about a month after my surgery, I started over, but I didn’t go back to that program, because I wasn’t happy with the results.
During the last three months, I have improved my strength and physique much better than on the strength program prescribed in Scrawny to Brawny . I’m stronger now at 149 lbs than I was last spring at 156, but with regards to squats, I’ve come to the same stopping point as before. Before getting this book, I had never even heard of corrective training. Now it’s being suggested that I do some sort of corrective training at least every six months. Now I’m really confused on the type of overall, long-term program I should be on as an ectomorph.
Will a physiology book describe what stretches and movements one needs to become more flexible and balanced?
If not, what is a good reference?
While I’m willing and interested in learning about all this new stuff (new to me), I had no idea that strength and muscle building how any of these odd elements.
Before last year, I always thought that body building was about doing the “Big Seven”, some cardio, some stretching, plenty of nutrition, enough rest, and periodic breaks. Now I’m learning I’ve been missing out on alot of information.
July 22, 2010
A overhead squat assessment shouldn’t be done with much, if any weight. It’s VERY hard to judge yourself though. You really need to record it or something so you can watch from the outside in.(and around) A corrective phase should be about a month or so at least, it takes your body that long to adjust. Surgeries will change a LOT in between that time you assessed and now too. Scar tissue= tightness that isn’t supposed to be there.
An ectomorph should be doing the same program in regards to strength a any other body type, just like women should lift like men. Physiology books won’t go over that stuff, it’;s more of the body’s inner workings. A kinesioly book most definitely do it though. BTW, this is pretty in depth stuff. Not really anyone without a certification or training in this of some type will know about it…
July 23, 2010
Greg – don’t get all freaked out. You are learning about things most people never get to. Essentially, assessments are important before starting and again any time a problem or plateau arises, or after recovery from a surgery or a period of time off. Essentially, any time something isn’t quite right, do an assessment. But that doesn’t always mean you need to do 1 month of nothing but corrective training. Usually, there’s just a few things to work on and you can work in corrective training with your regular routines.
When working with a good trainer, he/she is assessing you all the time. From the way you walk into the gym that first day, to the way you sit, and of course the way you lift. But self-assessment can become psychotic – you don’t want to constantly be worrying about your imbalances, flexibility, etc. Honestly, trying to do this yourself is really really hard. You’re already afraid you are missing out on a lot of info and on one level that’s true: there is an infinite amount of info out there. But you can’t obsess about it. Even if you take some of the more famous strength coaches of today – Mike Boyle, Todd Durkin, Mike Robertson, Eric Cressey, etc. – and pooled all their knowledge they would not even know 1/10th of all there is to know. And what they “know” contradicts each other.
So take a deep breath, bite the bullet, and see someone who knows how to do proper assessments (I personally favor people who know Cook’s FMS – functional movement screen, but that’s not the only one).
Last thing – everyone has imbalances and flexibility limitations. Everyone. Pro athletes. Fitness models. And even the strength coaches (I won’t mention anyone by name but I was in a hands-on session with one of the “gurus” and his movement sucks in terms of flexibility.) Perfection is not the goal. Functioning to achieve your goals (strength, fat loss, whatever) without injury is the goal. So don’t worry if you have slight imbalances or slight flexibility limits here and there. You want to fix the big problems, not all the small problems.
July 23, 2010
Thanks for the encouragement Darrin. I guess the reason I’m a little freaked is this whole hip injury thing. I’ve been trying to go really intense on leg workouts and it’s frustrating to have not gotten anywhere with respect to gaining mass in my legs or squat strength.
But I guess I should look at the positives:
(1) I’m as strong as I’ve ever been and that’s without weighing the most I ever have. I’ve recently done pullups and chinups with more weight than I ever imagined doing; dips too.
(2) I have very little low back issues, which have plagued me since my early twenties (not injuries just a lot of stiffness and some pain). I learned in therapy to stretches that arch my spine rearward. That seems to have fixed my low back problem.
(3)I’ve stayed pretty defined while gaining some weight. I give Darrin’s preaching on deadlifts and my commitment to doing them credit for this. Deadlifts just simply rule for keeping one’s whole body in shape and keeping one strong too.
(4)I’ve been healthy and I feel good most days.
(5)I’ve not had any colitis flare ups and have stayed really regular since discovering pro biotics
(6)I’ve got a supportive wife and you guys guiding me along.
I am going to pause though and do an assessment, and try to get some help (if there is any in this rural area). I’m also going to give you guys a break on my issues and read some of the books and articles you have eluded to.
Thanks Darrin for what you do. I’ll still be reading and commenting, but I’m going to quit inquiring so much for a while. I was hoping that my post would have sparked some more members to these discussions, but maybe I’ve been running them off.
Now you should head over to the free discussion forum and ask some questions of your own!