Physical Preparation Muscle Assessment and Training

When the warm-up is insufficient, the athletes work sets never feel quite "right" (athletes don t feel "warmed up" until the workout is nearly over). When the warm-up is too extensive, the work sets starts hard, and they get more difficult as the workout progresses. When the warm-up is optimal, the "middle" work sets are the easiest to perform (in a six work set, the third and fourth sets). Look for these tendencies during workouts and learn to recognize the need for longer or shorter warm-ups.

Q: What about the use of "spotters" during strength workouts?

A: Fitness trainers frequently spot their clients too closely. Occasionally, a competent coach or trainer will employ tactile cuing in order to teach the athlete how to engage the appropriate muscles. Also, during heavy squats or bench presses, or difficult exercises such as ball crunches, always employ a good spotter. Otherwise, unwarranted close proximity to the athlete is distracting and even dangerous.

The following section identifies some keys to perform an effective spot. The squat and bench press are good examples since these two lifts require spotting most frequently. Guidelines for spotting an athlete who is squatting include these six factors.

1) As the athlete is warming up, look at his technique. Does he lean forward excessively? If so, it will be difficult to extricate him out of a failed attempt.

2) How experienced is the athlete? Novices are more prone to misjudging their abilities, and may fail unexpectedly. Experienced lifters can almost always judge their current maximal abilities, however.

3) The spotter should be in a position that maintains good leverage in the event that considerable force is needed to help the athlete. For example, a short, weak person may not be capable of spotting a tall, strong person during the squat.

4) Spotters must "stay on their toes." Unfortunately, many lifters failing with a weight receive no help from the spotter, who is distracted by something at the other end of the gym! A partner's well-being depends on the spotter's vigilance!

5) Stay close, but not too close. When lifting a challenging weight, its easy to become distracted by a partner who is only inches away. Give the lifter enough room to breathe!

6) Communicate! A man asked for a spot on incline dumbbell presses. He must have weighed 160 pounds at the most, and he was preparing a pair of 120 pound dumbbells! In reality, he didn't want a spot. He wanted someone to lift the dumbbells for him. The "spotter'ended up lifting more than half the weight right from the first rep. So, find out exactly what the lifter wants before the set begins.

A good power rack (a favorite is made by Atlantis Fitness Equipment) can eliminate the need for spotters in most cases. Simply set the safety pins at a level slightly below the lowest point the bar will travel during the lift, and if one fails, just lower the bar until it hits the pins. First, however, make sure to set the pins properly by testing with an empty bar.

Q; Should I use equipment such as belts, wraps, and so on?

A: The judicious use of belts, wraps, straps, and other equipment can be useful, but what tends to happen is that athletes gradually become dependent on these items. The use of weightlifting belts is particularly controversial among strength professionals. Belts may potentially help stabilize and protect the spine during heavy lifting but not in the way that most people think. During a heavy lift, people instinctively hold their breath and "bear down" with the abdominal muscles. This creates what is called "intra-abdominal pressure" which can

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