I was back in at Elite Sports Performance for another Strength & Conditioning Coaching session with Coach Todd Carlon this morning, with the focus of training geared towards improving my Squat using the Cambered Bar and also Lactate Buffering using the Powerbands. I am not sure where the Powerband Squat with 6 bands idea came from, however I suspect that S&C coach and owner of Elite Sports Performance Martyn Girvan either developed it or came across it somewhere in his many years of training and experience. It has been an great 6 months training at Elite Sport Performance as I have probably learnt more in this short time than what I would have learnt over the last 3-5 years. As an Osteopath and someone who has a keen interest in exercise prescription and strength and conditioning, I am a big believer in immersing yourself within as many different training modalities and only through trying things out yourself, will you develop a good understanding of the exercises and why they are performed. From a coaching point of view and giving advice to my clients, I am also a big believer that having tried the exercise or approach before will mean that I am more likely to be able to help my client out with regards to their learning of this exercise.
A quick run down on lactate buffering…
As many of you who are reading this would know, lactic acid is produced within the muscle as a response to exercise when we don’t have enough oxygen available to allow for the breakdown of glucose. From a training point of view, this typically occurs when we are training anaerobically for periods of 1-3 minutes and more. An example of this is when we run at a high intensity for 1-3 minutes and we are not able to get enough oxygen into the system. At this point we will often start to feel a burning and fatigue within the muscles and this is often when performance can drop off. To read more about this process and why lactic acid occurs, please check out this article I found on the internet. Please click here.
When we look at various sports performed at the elite level, more and more we are seeing the game intensity and speed increase. This is as a result of both rule changes, athletic performance and also a change in the way the game is coached and played. These days we see many more interchanges due to the high physical demand on players in a short time. Players are subbed off for a quick break before returning to the field. The better the players ability to perform at a high level with lactate, the more likely they will outrun their opponent and hopefully their team wins. This is even more important when players get injured and there are less people available on the bench to rotate out for a rest.
The idea with Lactate Buffering is that we train the individual, we are trying to train them to be able to withstand the physiological demands placed on them during game situations. Often training individuals requires training to either be more intense than the game day or at the very least, similar. This approach can be completed by carrying out “like” type training such as running, match simulations etc or can also be performed by cross training. Depending on the sport, cross training could include running, cycling and swimming etc. We are also able to create this in the gym environment. I have seen the coaches at Elite Sports Performance do this via Kettlebell Ladders (where you perform 10 reps of 12kg all the way up to 62kg and then back down to 12kg – each set taking 7-9 minutes) and then resting before completing the set again as prescribed. The same can be done with pushing the Prowler within the gym where the individual is required to perform as many laps as they can within a certain time frame. Powerband Squats are another way of performing this and I will go into more detail below. From an exercise variables point of view, the duration of the exercise, sets, reps, rest breaks, weight or exercise to be performed can all be varied for lactate buffering training.
Powerband Box Squatting For Lactate Buffering
The idea with this exercise is to get the individual used to the feeling of lactate developing in their lower body and have them exercise with this feeling to develop a better threshold. It is also important to ensure they maintain good form and execute the exercise as it is meant to performed i.e. with powerful explosive movements in order to try and create better carry over.
The great thing about the powerbands is that it is a very safe exercise as there is no weight no loaded on the spine. Belt squatting is a great way to continue to train the legs without loading the spine. This can be done with powerbands, weights attached to a dumbbell or on a belt squat machine as demonstrated by Westside Barbell. Click here to check it out. The exercise can be progressed/regressed by changing the band intensity, number of bands, reps performed within a set, sets performed and rest breaks. Having completed this exercise this morning, I can say that your heart rates certainly increases pretty quickly and remains high as you continue to work through the sets. The build up of lactate also occurs quickly within a couple of minutes and continues to get harder and harder as the sets progress. Even in the sitting position you are having to fight against the pull of the bands. A quick explosive movement out of the box actually feels easier than a slow grind and will also train the body in an explosive way.
Equipment requirements: 6 * 41 inch powerbands (bands on different intensities – I used the yellow, blue and red). These can be purchased in Australia from IronEdge, Squat Box, Lifting belt, Powercage or similar when possible.
Program: 4 sets of 20 reps. 30 seconds rest. This can be varied depending on how hard you want to train.
Getting Set Up:
- You will need an additional person or training partner for this exercise to set it up.
- You will need to sit the box behind you at a height which allows for correct box squatting position – generally bum and thighs at parallel to the ground and shins vertical to the ground. This is same as the traditional box squat.
- Put one 41 inch band under each foot and across to the other shoulder. This tension forces the individual to work hard when in an upright position.
- Put one 41 inch band double wrapped around thighs. This tension forces the individual to resist agains adduction and therefore creates constant tension through the glutes.
- Put one 41 inch band double wrapped through the lifting belt and each end to the foot.
- Tie one 41 inch band to the powercage and then place it across the body to the opposite hip. This forces tension onto the hips and requires the individual to work hard against snapping the hips out into extension at the top range of the squat.
- Train power endurance into the core and lower limb and improve tolerance to lactate build up.
- The powerband box squat is great because unlike squatting with a bar, there is no spinal load compression. So this is a great exercise for those who might be suffering from spinal or shoulder issues.
- The powerband box squat is great because very little equipment is required. A power rack is not necessary.
- The powerband squat can be progressed by increasing the band tension and can be regressed by reducing the band tension and also reducing the number of bands used.
If you are looking to try out a lactate buffering session, I would recommend trying the above exercise or perhaps a kettlebell ladder or prowler session. I would highly recommend that you do this under the guidance of a qualified strength and conditioning coach if you have not performed this before. For those of you who will try this, be prepared for some soreness in the days following. I cannot recommend more highly the guys at Elite Sports Performance. All of the coaches have a great deal of experience training themselves, the general population and the elite. Check them out at www.elitesportsperformance.com.au/
Taking A Look At The Cambered Bar Squat
The cambered bar is quite different to that of the olympic bar. The bar shaped is very different (see image below) and sits across the shoulders like a conventional bar. Gripping the bar is slight different as you will grip it lower. This type of bar would work well for those individuals wanting to train legs but have poor shoulder mobility.
The unique thing about the cambered bar is that it has the potential to swing in the sagittal plane as you move through the squat. Therefore you are required to work hard to maintain a steady bar position. The weight direction that is pushing down with gravity is also quite different to the olympic bar. As the bar has the potential to move through the squat, the direction of force can change and therefore the body has to work to adjust to this.
Like any exercise or training approach, it is important to look at varying your exercises so that you force your body to have to adapt. Too much one of thing over and over again can mean the body gets used to it, stops adapting and gains can be slow. Using the cambered bar is one way to vary up the squat exercise. Other bars worth trialling include the safety squat barbell and other equipment such as kettlebells for goblet squats, trap bar/hexlite bar etc.
Trialling a number of different bars requires you to adapt to the squat exercise and also increases the number of variations that you can make. Typical variations of squat exercises can include stance, sets, reps, rest etc.
I have attached an image below that was sourced from http://www.westside-barbell.com/products/?c=14&p=125.
Below is a video sourced from Westside Barbell on Youtube which demonstrates the Cambered bar in action. In this video you will see that the individuals are also squatting with powerband resistance. The idea of this being that the band tension increases as they move out of the bottom range of the squat. The box squat with wide stance is a commonly adopted squat performed in many training circles. The idea with any of these squats from a power training point of view is to perform the movement as fast as possible when moving out of the squat without compromising any technique or stability.
Next time you are in the gym and wanting to squat, I would highly recommend trialling other bars if available to see how it changes the squat movement pattern and also works the muscles in a different method. The SAID (specific adaptation to imposed demand) principle and Overload is something that we should always be thinking about when it comes to training and performance. If we continue to train the same thing all the time without changing it up, we are likely to 1. Get bored 2. Slow in our progress and development and 3. Possibly lead to overuse and fatigue of the body and mind by doing the same thing.
Osteopath Heath Williams is owner and director of Principle Four Osteopathy, one of Melbourne City CBD 3000 leading Osteopathic clinics. The clinic is located at 29 Somerset Place, Melbourne City CBD 3000 (near the corner of Little Bourke & Elizabeth St). The clinic is open Monday – Fridays and appointments can be made by calling 03 9670 9290 or booking online at www.principlefourosteopathy.com. Heath has a special interest in exercise prescription and conditioning and is currently teaching Rehabilitation at Vic Uni Osteopathic School and has a Level 1 in S&C.