Muted Hip Function

Effective exercise can generate powerful  huge forces  if they are initiated controlled and dominated by the hip.

Many untrained athletes  have a muted hip which  creates postures and mechanics that reduce power output, promotes postures and mechanics that are considered by  many  to be unsound.

In simple terms the Muted Hip Function (MHF) results from the legs  compensating for the failed of the hip, in effect using leg extension  to compensate for non existent hip extension.

According to the Crossfit Journal the causes and consequences of MHF include but are not limited to:

• structurally disadvantaged spinal posture

• low glute recruitment

• low hamstring recruitment

• pelvis abandoning the spine and chasing the legs

• centre of gravity shifting dramatically backward

• centre of balance shifting toward toes

• knee experiencing unsound shear force

• leg extension being the only productive effort

• hip extension not being possible with low hip angle

• pelvis rotating the wrong way

The cure is deliberate and focused training. Thats why you probably need a trainer like me. Why not join the mailing list a get useful information

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Do at least 10,000 steps a day

“10000 steps a day. Yep, that’s 10 thousand steps every day . Go and buy a cheap pedometer or look up if its already on your phone,, and record how many steps you take each day. This is your baseline of daily activity. Any gym work or running around is training and is extra . This is the minimum amount of movement you do to keep ticking over.

Frequently I see people work quite hard in the gym for an hour, but are totally sedentary for the rest of the time. The gym session barely compensates for their lack of day today movement.

I also see many sports people, who apart from the weekly football match, are to all intents and purposes, sedentary.  So,  put that pedometer on, check your phone and review your daily count.

Lifestyle IndexSedentaryLow ActiveSomewhat ActiveHighly Active
Steps/day*<50005000 – 75007500 – 10,000>10,000

But don’t worry! slowly build up your activity level if you find yourself in the sedentary box! Get active at work

for some science, look at

Effects of a 10,000 steps per day goal in overweight adults” by Schneider et al (Am J Health Promot. 2006 Nov-Dec;21(2):85-9.)

Some points need to be made

1) the 10,000 steps is a fantastic way to assess basic activity. Ive helped people who could  only manage 3000 steps in a day and the effect was remarkable.

2) 10,000 steps a day is the very least you should be doing.

However,  if you present 10,000 step Versus almost anything else, anything else is probably better: Brisk walking is better, a  fast 400m  run or a Crossfit Workout is better, indeed a  life and death brawl at your local pub really gets the blood pumping. The issue is this: you have to really be sedentary to do less than 10,000 steps a day, so its  a great baseline and target and you should always do more.

3) the message is “do both”.

So, its 10,000 steps each day, plus a workout

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Check Your Oxygen saturations

Lon Kilgore wrote in ‘The Paradox of the Aerobic Fitness Prescription” (Crossfit journal) that improvements in oxygen management could be driven by dropping Oxygen saturation during/after exercise. The logic of the General Adaption Syndrome (Seyle) requires an alarm phase to provoke adaptations.

“In the intermediate trainee and beyond, it is the depression of oxygen saturation as a result of interval training that forces the muscle to adapt to improve its ability to extract and consume oxygen to power exercise. Oxygen saturation is a marker of the specific driving force of VO2max gain*. If a beginner does long-slow-distance work and blood oxygen saturations drop 1% or less to 97%, this is enough to drive adaptation. But intermediate, advanced, and elite trainees need more. They need a drop in oxygen saturation to as low as 91%, maybe even lower for an elite athlete”

This observation was supported by David Lin et al who wrote “Oxygen saturations and heart rate during exercise performance” There is a fascinating write up here This basically showed that at a certain level of work, you can see a  drop in O2 saturations

i

“SpO2% desaturations during maximal performance levels with power bursts into the clusters as revealed in this test could lead to measures of intense interval training providing an important augmentation to sports conditioning. “

This mornings workout was a 15 minute AMRAP of 20 kettlebell swings, 15 double unders 150m sprint . I decided today, I’d take my pulse oximeter down. About half way through, straight after my double unders and during the run I managed to get my pulse ox on and this reading came up.

After a quick  recovery our workouts always end with a disgusting stair climb to our flat ( to get home and haul the kettlebells back up) At the top it always feels as if you are going to die. As I reached the top I managed to get my pulse ox back on and whilst my heart rate was 160, my O2 saturations were 97. It took me a while to get my phone out so I only got a photo after my heart rate had dropped to 152

My take home conclusion  is that the variation in a Crossfit workout combined with power (in his case jumping in the double unders) really stresses the oxygen system. The requirement to rapidly change from one exercise to another  takes the body by surprise and has it scrabbling around for oxygen like a pandemic government trying to buy PPE. BY comparison the rhythmic stair climb. which felt disgusting, and produced a highish heart rate, didn’t disturb my normal reading of 97%.

Obviously this is an old Pulse oxmimeter, this wasn’t a clinical environment ( no lab rats, no one had a clip board), but it was an in treating bit of citizen science!)

If you have never heard of it *According to wikipedia “Oxygen saturation is the fraction of oxygen-saturated hemoglobin relative to total hemoglobin (unsaturated + saturated) in the blood. The human body requires and regulates a very precise and specific balance of oxygen in the blood. Normal arterial blood oxygen saturation levels in humans are 95–100 percent”

Can you be fit and fat?

 The  answer to this  seemingly obvious question is  often confused by trying to define what  fat  and fit means.

Over the years the measurement of fat and indeed its distribution has raised some interesting  questions. I’m very aware of the muscular athletic awesome looking athlete who comes back from their annual medical having been told they are obese according to their BMI. These are people, who when their body fat is checked (using callipers or some sort of science fiction machine) are down into the enviable category! 

The next interesting “quickie” fat measure came when the discussion of abdominal obesity became fashionable the waist to hip ratio measurement was quick and easy and it certainly measured the tummy fat that showed.

Today, we should all be about visceral fat. But, It’s a hard thing to measure without a CT scan . The problem with visceral fat (the fat inside your visceral cavity, or around your organs) , is that skinny people can have visceral fat and that people with a big tummy don’t necessarily have visceral fat. It can sometimes be all subcutaneous!

Basically we have obvious fat and visceral fat.

Now we need to ask what is healthy or what is metabolically unhealthy According to Ortega (2012) .  If you crave the “metabolically unhealthy” crown, you must have one or more of these readings

  • high blood pressure (≥130/85 mmHg)
  • high blood triglycerides (≥150 mg/dL)
  • low HDL “good” cholesterol (<40 and 50 mg/dL in men and women, respectively)
  • high fasting blood sugar level (≥100 mg/dL)

Since the NHS actually started recording  the prevalence of obesity it was correlated with high blood pressure, high triglycerides, low good cholesterol and poor blood sugar. So it was quickly assumed that any overweight person would have these metabolically unhealthy markers. It wasn’t difficult to imagine the step to saying obesity causes them.

However, this is a great example that causation doesn’t necessarily mean causation.  Is it possible to be visibly overweight ( I know that’s terribly subjective, but work with me) but still have metabolically healthy readings ( good blood pressure, good  blood sugar).  


Ortega et al wrote ”The intriguing metabolically healthy but obese phenotype: cardiovascular prognosis and role of fitness ” 


They ran some tests using BMI and the 4 health markers and noted (i) metabolically healthy but obese individuals have a higher fitness level than their metabolically abnormal and obese peers; (ii) after accounting for fitness, metabolically healthy but obese phenotype is a benign condition, in terms of cardiovascular disease and mortality. this led to these conclusions (i) Higher fitness should be considered a characteristic of metabolically healthy but obese phenotype. (ii) Once fitness is accounted for, the metabolically healthy but obese phenotype is a benign condition, with a better prognosis for mortality and morbidity than metabolically abnormal obese individuals.

  • “Metabolically healthy” obese participants had a better baseline fitness level on the treadmill test compared with “metabolically abnormal” obese participants (adjusting for age, sex, examination year, smoking and alcohol consumption, and when using either BMI or body fat percentage to define obesity). The difference was the same for men and women.
  • “Metabolically abnormal” obese participants had significantly increased risk of dying from any cause during follow-up compared with “metabolically healthy” obese participants (adjusting for confounders and using either BMI or body fat percentage to define obesity).
  • When looking at cardiovascular disease outcomes, “metabolically abnormal” obese participants only had increased risk of a fatal or non-fatal cardiovascular disease event compared with “metabolically healthy” obese participants when using body fat percentage to define obesity. There was no difference in risk when using standard BMI definitions.
  • “Metabolically healthy” obese participants had no difference in risk of dying from any cause, or of fatal or non-fatal cardiovascular disease events compared with “metabolically healthy” normal-weight or fat participants.

On a narrow set of  health criteria and dubious “obesity’ assessments it’s quite possible to argue that you can be fat and fit!  However, over the years more concern has been raised about where your fat is . Research has indicated,visceral fat may be doing something  far more nasty. 

 “Visceral Fat Adipokine Secretion Is Associated With Systemic Inflammation in Obese Humans” 2007 concluded “that visceral fat is an important site for IL-6 secretion ( an inflammation causing thing) and provide a potential mechanistic link between visceral fat and systemic inflammation in people with abdominal obesity”. So there is an interesting line of experiments that indicate that visceral fat could be there, releasing nasty stuff.

The interesting thing is that you can be quite skinny and still have visceral fat and you can be obese and have no visceral fat. So based on some current evidence and where you fat is  you can be both  visibly fat and fit and skinny and ill!

(Update added 4th August 2020) However, it seems that science gallops on on! There are an increasing number of reports that suggest any sort of obesity is bad for your health. The above article looked at the narrow proposition that you can have “markers” of fitness and still be overweight. The clear answer is yes.

However there are other markers. Things like Adipokines, (which can be either pro or anti inflammatory ) It seems that the fatter you are, the more pro inflammatory they become. Which is bad.

So watch out for the next article in this series that will probably be “Can you be fat and healthy”

Before you start that diet: ask yourself some questions

I’m not really that into navel gazing. I came from a  religious family so I’ve had my fill of sitting quietly. On top of my christian praying and reflecting  experience, my mother and brother even  fell for that 1970’s transcendental meditation craze. So I had to put up with that too. Being 14 and being made to meditate wasn’t fun.

Never the less  there are some lessons to be learned from “sitting with yourself”  or  as Socrates said,  “the unexamined life is not worth living”. To sensibly ask yourself questions is actually a good idea. To actually listen to the answers is probably better!!

So you’ve decided, once again to lose weight. This time, rather than just jumping on the first weird diet you can think of, why not ask yourself some questions. Here are some useful ones.

Spend a bit of time thinking about the past ( both recent and longer term). Not too much, otherwise you can lose yourself in the mists of time. But get a handle of your history. 

Are you  overweight now?

Why are you overweight? (This is  a very stark, rude question, but was it illness, unhealthy eating, too much food, not enough exercise etc).

Have you ever lost weight before?

If so, what helped?

and what hindered?

Ok, so you have lost weight in the past! What made you put the weight back on?

Ok, thats your past, or as much as you realistically need to consider, what are your views and targets now?

Are you looking for a  short term  fix (a wedding in 2 weeks), or are you prepared to have a long term target

To be successful you need to change your approach to food, weigh and measure, change choices, record your eating habits, and exercise, and all this will no doubt make you feel uncomfortable. So, on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 is high)  answer these questions.

Be honest, as we can all want to lose weight but not have much motivation because we know it’s hard work?

How motivated are you to lose weight?

How motivated are you to change your eating habits?

How motivated are you to increase your physical activity?

Will you try new strategies/techniques for changing your eating, exercise, and other behaviours?

Are you prepared to spend time studying reading materials  about nutrition ?

Will you record your exercise  and everything you eat and drink,?

Will  you  change your eating habits?

 Will  you be able to work regular physical activity into your daily schedule?

Will  you be able to exercise  and be active most, if not everyday?.

If you make a mistake, have  a lazy day, or give into temptation, can you forgive yourself, and “get back on the programme”?

Do you have an emotional connection with food?

Do you eat more when you are upset, annoyed or miserable?

Do you eat to celebrate?

If you have  confrontation, do you seek comfort in food to calm down?

A SERIOUS BIT

Think about this question carefully?

Have you ever purged (used laxatives, diuretics, or  vomiting) to control your weight?

If yes,  is this “often” (About once a month  A few times a month  About once a week  About three times a week  Daily.)

If purging is part of your present weight loss strategy, and you feel unable to stop, you probably need to chat to your doctor who could get you some  one to one support to deal with this issue

Thats just the tip of the iceberg. If you’d like more help or thoughts on managing your weight, do join the mailing list of email me directly on Andrew@andrewstemer.com

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Foot exercises

Try and do the foot exercises below. Your feet will love you, and you will also learn to love your feet. This type of activities are also helpful in your battle against plantar fasciitis.

Towel curls

Scrunch your toes, with or without a towel. Just think about the position you leave them in normally. Straight and  locked in your shoes like prisoners. To paraphrase Marie Antoinette “Let them scrunch air” or treat them to a  scrunch festival on a towel! Give them some manoeuvering room.

Toe splays

Splay your toes: see if you can  splay them.

It was a bit of a battle for me to learn how to do this ( as, like you I’ve locked my feet into shoes for the last  years, so I alternate the splay with using my fingers to pull them apart ( you can do it en-mass as shown here or individually )

Big Toe stretch

Slowly stretch and pull the toe backward toward your shin. Go as far as is comfortable.

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What predicts your performance in the Crossfit open?

Among a batch of reports studying the Crossfit method, you’ll find “physiological Predictors of Competition Performance athletes” by Martinez-Gomez et al worth a read ( or a quick skim).

In reality any attempt to predict an athletes performance in a specific wod is always a bit speculative as different wod’s can have massively different outputs and can focus on specific “modal domains”that can bring specialists to their knees. Wod’s can be as wide ranging as “run 5k” or “deadlift 1,1,1,1,1,1,1”.

Nevertheless this study took the 5 wods of the Crossfit Open in 2019 and evaluated the performance of 15 athletes who were also assessed against various laboratory tests: incremental load test for deep full squat and bench press; squat, countermovement and drop jump tests; and incremental running and Wingate tests. It would be a fairly safe bet to say that the athlete who scores high on all of these tests would also score highly in the Wod’s.

In 2019 the “open” wods were

19.1 Complete as many rounds as possible in 15 minutes of

  • 19 wall-ball shots
  • 19-cal. row

19.2 Beginning on an 8-minute clock, complete as many reps as possible of:

  • 25 toes-to-bars
  • 50 double-unders
  • 15 squat cleans, 135 / 85 lb.
  • 25 toes-to-bars
  • 50 double-unders
  • 13 squat cleans, 185 / 115 lb.

If completed before 8 minutes, add 4 minutes to the clock and proceed to:

  • 25 toes-to-bars
  • 50 double-unders
  • 11 squat cleans, 225 / 145 lb.

If completed before 12 minutes, add 4 minutes to the clock and proceed to:

  • 25 toes-to-bars
  • 50 double-unders
  • 9 squat cleans, 275 / 175 lb.

If completed before 16 minutes, add 4 minutes to the clock and proceed to:

  • 25 toes-to-bars
  • 50 double-unders
  • 7 squat cleans, 315 / 205 lb.

19.3 For time:

  • 200-ft. dumbbell overhead lunge
  • 50 dumbbell box step-ups
  • 50 strict handstand push-ups
  • 200-ft. handstand walk

Men 50-lb. dumbbell / 24-in. box
Women 35-lb. dumbbell / 20-in. box

19.4

For total time:

3 rounds of:

  • 10 snatches
  • 12 bar-facing burpees

Rest 3 minutes

Then, 3 rounds of:

  • 10 bar muscle-ups
  • 12 bar-facing burpees

Men 95 lb.
Women 65 lb.

19.5

33-27-21-15-9 reps for time of:

  • Thrusters
  • Chest-to-bar pull-ups

Men 95 lb.
Women 65 lb.

“CrossFit performance (i.e., final ranking considering the sum of all WODs, as assessed by number of repetitions, time spent in exercises or weight lifted) was significantly related to jump ability, mean and peak power output during the Wingate test, relative maximum strength for the deep full squat and the bench press, and maximum oxygen uptake (VO2max) and speed during the incremental test”. However the relationship varied depending on the wod analysed. No surprise there.

However, the authors by using “multiple linear regression analysis” suggest that the two crucial factors were lower body muscular power (especially jump ability) and VO2 max.

You can do your own VO2 max here

Stretching your quads

It’s impossible to get fit without someone reminding you to “stretch your quads”. The quads, or quadriceps ( quad for four) run up the top of the front of your leg. Three of them go from the knee cap to below your hip. One goes across the knee and then across the hip. Here is a useful graphic from wikipedia

Stretching these muscles is important as they are the ones most likely to become short if you sit too much. We all sit too much.

Here is the standing quad stretch that I think everyone must have seen at some stage

But this is just the start of your quad journey. Get on a bed (or anything comfy) and kneel down

Put your hands behind you and lean back. Some may find this hard. Don’t worry, just keep on getting used to it. Just incase you get stuck, it maybe as well to have someone around to pull you back up again if you cannot get back up again.

Once you build your confidence, get a cushion pile and slowly take a cushion away each time you try

Eventually you’ll simply lie down. you’ll notice my hips are fairly high, so to be a quad stretching master, eventually you need to pull your hips down.

Unfortunately, you probably need to build this up to 3 minutes. If your ankles are very tight you may need a small roll (a towel) under them, as the initial stretch can be quite intense! Enjoy. Slowly build up your time and tolerance. In the early stages, it’s just about getting used to it.

Olympic lifts as a percentage of your back squat

It’s a big, big, sweep of the arm, but most of your lifts can be (could be) compared to your back squat. If you back squat 100kg, the chances are you can snatch up to 60kg, and clean 75kg. Bear in mind these figures could vary by as much as 15%

Front Squat Snatch Clean
 87.5%  60%  75%
Overhead Squat
Power Snatch Power Clean
 67.5%
55%
 65%
Deadlift Snatch Pull Clean Pull
 125%  90% 100%
Christian Thibaudeau adds extra ratios and insights  here
Waxman’s gym has a fascinating “Weightlifting Lift Calculator” here
Box Rox also has a nice assessment tool here
My take home message is this: once you start struggling with your olympic lifts, and your technique is quite good, start to consider improving your strength.

Relative intensity

In this article we visit the basic language of weightlifting and how it relates to the concept of relative intensity.

When it comes to using weight; in simple terms, people think this: lift the heaviest weight you can, that’s your 1 rep max; then based on that you can lift 90% of it 3 times (3reps), 85% of it 5 times, 75% 10 times. If you do 3 rounds of 3 reps, that’s 3 sets.

So weight lifting is a mix of percentages, sets and reps, all based on a one rep max. Simples!

This is a great place to start, but to develop your strength head,  you need to develop your knowledge and insights into the strength game.

Some time ago, Zatsiorsky pointed out there are two types of  one rep maxes you can have: a competition 1 rep max, and a training 1 rep max.

A) A competition max is  where you get hyped up and get a PB  and scream a lot.

B) A training 1 rep max

Marvellous.

However, often people skip the full definition of a 1 rep training max.

A maximum training weight  is the heaviest  weight you can lift  without substantial  emotional stress.

Damn. No screaming.

For athletes, the difference between the two is great. The example Zatsiorsky cites is that for athletes who lift  200 kg during a competition, a 180kg is typically above their maximum training weight. As a possible indicator, if your heart rate increases before your lift, that’s a sign of emotional engagement. Weightlifting is meant to stress your body, not your mind.

That’s the job of your partner and employer.

In short, if you screamed it up – it’s too heavy to use as a basis for regular training.

So, if you are calculating reps and sets using a 1 rep max, please, please use the right one; otherwise you’ll break. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon… If you want to properly test your 1 rep max, book a PT session with one of the training team.

If you have been lifting regularly for a while, you have probably begun to review strength literature and you are probably aware that lifting 80% of your 1 rep max provokes strength gain.

So, when lifting sets of 5, you’d probably like to put 80% of your 1 rep max on the bar. Everyone does that, but think about what it is you’d are actually be doing.

Let’s forget weightlifting for a moment, and talk about bricks. Imagine you are a labourer on a building site. Lets say we run a test to see how many bricks you can move in a day. For argument’s sake, let’s  say you can move 1000.

Normally in training we wouldn’t want to move the 1000, we would do 800 ( 80%) but many people want to set 5 reps of that. So there you are, lifting 5 x 800 =4000.

If you tried to do that in a day, you’d probably die.

Back to the weight room. So you can lift 100kg calmly as your 1 rep max. You’ve been told if you lift 80% and over of this figure, you are strength training. So, to keep the maths easy, if you lift 80kg, you are strength training. But do you lift that 80% five times?

As you see from my poor labourer example, the first 800 was probably easy, but the next 800, isn’t easy, the 3rd 800 is getting you to breaking point.

In short, 80% lifted multiple times, isn’t perceived by the body as 80%. It sees it as much, much heavier because of the volume. The bricklayer, is of course a silly example – but try and get the message rather than be sidetracked in the endurance aspect of the example.

In simple terms, because you are lifting in sets of multiple reps, a load of 67% of your 1 rep max lifted 5 times has a relative intensity of 79%. It feels like 79%, your body thinks it’s 79%. It is 79%

Putting 76% of you 1 rep max on your bar for 5, has the effect of being 88%.

70% feels like  =82%,

73% feels like  =  85%.

80% on the bar for 5, is like lifting 91%.

Relative intensity is the simple observation that volume, load and rest effects how your body feels and adapts to weight.

here is a nice chart to explain

Remember your muscles are dumb, they don’t know or care about percentages. They just know what feels heavy.

According to Mike Tuchscherer; “The body responds to things like the force of the muscle’s contraction, how long the contraction lasts, and how many contractions there were. A percentage isn’t necessarily a precise way to describe this, as different lifters will perform differently.”

In take-home terms, if today you went to CrossFit London or CrossFit SE11, and during the strength session, you only got to 68% of your (proper) 1 rep Training max for 5; you actually hit the 80% in relative intensity. That’s the 80% you need to nudge your strength along.

For now, in our general programme, we are not obsessing about percentages; but those who do know their lifts, I hope will be grateful for this insight. For the rest of you, simply work to a set of 5 that you can comfortably lift, bearing in mind these RPE (rates of perceived exertion) as guidance.

On a scale from 1 to 10:

9: Heavy Effort. Could have done one more rep.
8: Could have done two or three more reps, but glad you didn’t have to.
7: Bar speed is “snappy” if maximal force is applied
6: Bar speed is “snappy” with moderate effort

After a while, I suspect a “five” you can do in class will be at an RPE between 7 and 8.

Once you bedded this concept of relative intensity into your head, you can look forward to many years of safe, effective lifting.

More insights coming soon.

Grateful thanks to Coach Chet Morjaria @  Strength Education and to Coach Anthony Waller @ CrossFit London for the numerous corrections  and observations they supplied