Prepping for Upcoming November Programming

November represents an interesting month, as it’s the time frame when we usually see one of two noticeable behaviors begin to take place in the gym. Some folks bare down to focus on 2017 goals, while some tend to go to the other way, throttling back and focusing on 2018. The holidays arrive, there are opportunities to be a fat bastard around every corner, holiday parties, maybe their gym’s Prom, work events, maybe a new donut shop opened up across from the gym and won’t stop bringing in donuts. Who knows. There are reasons not to care cropping up nearly every week. So this season begins to take some willpower and some effort.

The good thing is that it’s 91 freaking degrees out in San Diego right now, so hopefully the mentality of Summer goals are still fresh in folks mind. Regardless of where your intensity levels fall over the course of the next few months, November will be a great opportunity to get better and will present some new challenges.

It will also feature our last barbell cycle until 2018 as December will be a fun, varied de-load.

Main DC Movements

DB Jerks

Get ready to be uncomfortable this month if you’ve only focused on putting a barbell overhead. If we can learn to harness and propel power with a dumbbell, it will be simple once we return to an evenly loaded barbell. The reason we’re going to jerk heavy dumbbells is to challenge our strength under stabilizing duress. A heavy dumbbell will cause the lats and the supporting musculature of the shoulder/scapulae to have to work substantially harder than with a barbell (where the deltoids and torso frame do all the work), creating a bit more lateral contribution than we otherwise get from the sagittal plan.

A couple of areas to focus:

  1. Load the Deltoid

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  2. The Eccentric – Lowering the dumbbell in a controlled manner back down, not letting it crash back down to the shoulder.

It will also free up some mobility for those who get average results from the barbell due to shoulder immobility. Don’t be so fast to rush into a potentially dysfunctional movement for yourself.

Barbell Jerks

Remember that Jerks are first and foremost a speed movement. Understand the Absolute Strength to Absolute Speed Continuum for a sec.

  • Absolute Strength – Slow, max load lifts (ie. Powerlifting)
  • Strength Speed – Fast, near max load lifts (ie. Weightlifting
  • Speed Strength – Faster, lighter load movements (ie. Box Jumps)
  • Absolute Speed – Sprints

Jerks fall squarely into the Speed-Strength category, so if you try and treat them like a slower, grinding Absolute Strength category, you will fail at the purpose of it’s training and train yourself to be less athletic. Check your ego at the door and train yourself to move fast, not heavy. Place a priority on:

  1. Chest Upright. Your grip should be wide enough so that the chest stays upright and remains so on the dip. If the chest collapses, the elbows will follow and your momentum will be thrown forward. We want upward momentum.
  2. Foot and Toe Angle. This is a big one. When you dip, make sure the toes are pointed outward a bit and your knees dip over the same angle. If the knees and toes go forward, we lose the upright positioning of our torso.
  3. Weight in the Heels on the Dip. Point number one will help facilitate that.
  4. Drive with Your Glutes. Aim the bar upward with your shoulders, and propel it with your glutes.
  5. Speed of your split. Think shuffle, not jump.
  6. Speed of your elbow extension. You should be dropping under the bar and extending quickly. We never want to “press out” jerks. This will be a change in mentality from October Strict Press, but pay attention to the difference when performing.

Lowering the Bar
Focus on absorbing the bar on the deltoids with your hips, knees and ankles acting as shock absorbers similar to how you’d land when jumping. Keep the elbows up to build strength/rigidity in the torso that transfers to the dip. Keep the chest upright and don’t lean backwards to catch the bar.

Multi-Plane Movement

We’ll be seeing a lot of multi-planar movement on Tuesdays in November. If can continue to stress and pester you about the importance of anything in fitness, it’s that you must move in all three planes. Some of you are hearing this for the first time, some of you are probably rolling your eyes, but so long as the message is being absorbed, we’re all good here.

Here’s why it matters so much. Let’s paint the following picture.

  1. Frank loves the main barbell lifts and applies 80% of his attendance to those days.
  2. Frank gets super strong, makes clubs, changes his body composition, feels great. 
  3. Frank keeps this up for a while. Maybe a year. Maybe six months. Maybe two years.
  4. Eventually, Frank’s lateral muscles forget how to work. Sagittal plane lifts have trained his prime movers to be very strong (quads, hams, glute max), but suddenly, his lateral stabilizers are gone (glute medius, obliques).
  5. Frank slowly begins to overcompensate in areas he shouldn’t (shoulder, knee, low back) because those muscles are turned off. 
  6. Frank starts to not feel so great with little nicks and dings popping up. Frank’s progress slows and he wonders why he is plateaued. 
  7. Maybe Franks nicks and dings turn into a serious injury. 

We have muscles on our side, don’t forget that. The muscles of the human body are meant to operate as system of interdependency. One works with the help of another. If you start turning off links in that chain, you start causing more stress on the links that are involved. Multi-plane movement is there to keep you healthy, is there to keep all the links engaged, and it’s there to keep you human.

If you get too caught up in one plane of movement, it’s a safe bet you’ll have issue in your chain down the line.


The most consistent faults that we see in the gym are:

  1. Bar starts too far away. Get the metal in on your shins to ensure the barbell stays close on lift off. If you let it drift, the stress moves away from your hamstrings and into your low back.
  2. Shoulders are past the barbell. Make sure that your hands fall directly underneath your shoulders prior to lifting the barbell off the ground.
  3. Drive the heels into the ground as you pull. If the barbell were to slip out of your hands, you’d want your weight to be falling backwards. Never lean forward into the toes because it’s a sure bet your lumbar is over stressed.
  4. Don’t lean back excessively at the top of the rep. As you lockout and complete hip and knee extension at the top of the rep, do not shrug. And do not lean back. You are causing unnecessary stress on the lumbar spine when you do so. Stand straight up, extend the hips.

Check out Coach Julianne’s video on how to execute the proper deadlift set-up:

Low Back Pain?
If you find that the deadlift always give you issue in your low back, talk to your coach about troubleshooting the technique, then perhaps including one of the following movements in place of it:

  • Sumo Stance Deadlift – For those who pull Sumo, pay attention to your knees and make sure that they track over the toes. Otherwise, you’re creating a sort of internal rotation at the knee when the foot is planted outward. It’s not a strong or comfortable position for the knee.
  • Bulgarian Split Squat
  • Front Rack Lunges
  • DB Lunges

Front Squat

Bottom position is more important than weight on the bar. Understand that in the front squat, the knees will travel forward quite a bit. Keep a focus on always keeping your hips centered under the bar. If the knees don’t go forward, then the hips are back behind the bar and we are not in a strong position.

Maintaining proper front rack position is all about strength of the anterior core, obliques, and the lats, as well as proper breathing to get your core into place to sustain load.

Place your emphasis on keeping your chest upright so that your elbows will remain up as you descend, and especially as you ascend. Remember the cue that “The elbows drive the bus.” Your elbows can only contribute from a position of guidance if your chest is strong and upright and your upper back tight and tense.

Box Jumps

We’ll be rolling our out new padded plyo boxes for you guys, so for those who have been holding back on challenging their jump pattern as a result of shin fear, you may rejoice. However, this isn’t a green light to be sloppy as we still want clean reps. A soft landing where the focus is on keeping a flex knee upon impact, and landing on the midfoot and heels. We do not want to land on the toes, otherwise we will turn the small bones of the feet into shock absorbers, a role for which they are not design.

You can read more about landing in Tuesday’s post from earlier in the week.

Have a great month.