Author: Tom Sheriff

Personal Fitness Trainer, Seattle Athletic Club Downtown

SAC Hiking

with Tom Sheriff

$50 per person | $80 per couple

Join the SAC Outdoor Recreating hiking program; get present with yourself, others and nature while getting a great workout in hiking in the Pacific Northwest.  Here is a list of anticipated hikes the SAC will put on so you can plan your spring and summer weekends:

May 20th Easy/short-ish: Cedar Butte

June 3rd Easy/long: Lime Kiln Trail

June 17th Moderate: Margaret’s Way

July 8th Moderate: Heather Lake

July 29th Hard: Mason Lake

August 6th Very Hard: Granite Mountain

For more information or to sign up for a hike please contact Tom Sheriff (tsheriff@sacdt.com)

Tom’s Strength Tips

Tip #1: Do face-pulls before pressing movements.

  • Warming up with face-pulls before any type of pressing (bench, overhead, dumbbell etc.) gets your entire shoulder girdle warm and activated. This will make pressing feel more stable and the extra pulling will keep your shoulders healthy and injury free.
  • Use light to moderate weight and focus on the range of motion and hard contraction of the upper back muscles.
  • 3-5 sets, 10-20 reps.

Tip #2: Do hamstring curls before squatting movements.

  • Before any squatting movement (back squat, front squat, lunge, etc.) do a few sets of hamstring curls. Getting a good pump in your hamstrings will help stabilize the knee which makes squatting feel much smoother and controlled.
  • Use TRX hamstring curls, Swiss Ball hamstring curls, or a mix of both.
  • 3-5 sets, 8-15 reps.

If you have any questions on these movements or want more strength tips please contact Tom Sheriff at tsheriff@sacdt.com.

STRENGTH TRAINING FOR YOUTH ATHLETES

Most parents know that strength training is an essential component of maximizing their child’s athletic potential but many don’t know when to start said training. When asked this question I like to refer to the ACSM research article that states, “Generally speaking, if children are ready for participation in organized sports or activities — such as Little League baseball, soccer, or gymnastics — then they are ready for some type of strength training.” If you feel your child has the emotional maturity to take part in an organized sport then they are perfectly capable of taking up strength training with a qualified professional.

One concern many have is that strength training will negatively affect bone growth in youth athletes. This is a myth that is taking much too long to go away. There hasn’t been documentation of this actually occurring while there is in fact ample evidence to the contrary. Strength training has been shown to actually increase bone density, peak bone mass and bone strength.

Strength is the only physical attribute that has a direct impact on all other areas of athletic performance and has the highest potential for growth when compared to other qualities such as power and speed. In an article from the Mayo Clinic the author states that when done properly, strength training can:

  • Increase your child’s muscle strength and endurance
  • Help protect your child’s muscles and joints from sports-related injuries
  • Improve your child’s performance in nearly any sport, from dancing and figure skating to football and soccer
  • Develop proper techniques that your child can continue to use as he or she grows older
  • Strengthen your child’s bones

A properly designed program for a youth athlete must be created and executed by a qualified coach and of course I am partial to myself because of my education, credentials, and experience. Currently my youngest client is a 12 year old basketball/football player whose performance has skyrocketed since he started strength training. I have also worked with the Skyline High School Girls Basketball team, the Bellevue High School Track team, and many individual youth athletes from around the area competing in lacrosse, football, basketball, baseball, soccer, and even cheerleading.

 
I have seen over and over again what strength training can do for a young athlete and have come up with some guidelines that can serve any coach or parent working with young athletes.

General Guidelines for Strength Training Youth Athletes:

1. Master the basics while focusing on proper movement patterns. With young athletes it is best to first master general movement patterns and body weight exercises before moving on to more advanced strength training modalities. Great exercises include: jumping/landing, med-ball throwing, body weight squats, push-ups, pull-ups, and sled pushing/pulling.

2. Use proper loading parameters. Strength training doesn’t always mean loading up a squat bar and going as heavy as possible. As a general rule with young athletes it’s best to stick with body weight exercises or exercises with loads that allow the athlete to complete 8 to 20 repetitions each set. As the athlete advances the intensity of exercises can advance as well.

3. Teach proper force absorption. Learning how to properly land and decelerate will be invaluable in preventing future sports injuries for any athlete. Deceleration is also a crucial factor in agility performance.

4. Don’t specialize too early. Young athletes should build as broad an athletic base as possible in order to maximize athletic potential. Performing only exercises that seem “sport specific” is not an effective way to build an athletic base. While this might make for a good basketball or soccer player now, it will actually do them a disservice for their athletic future. Specializing early is also a great way to burn a kid out on a sport.

5. Make it fun! Strength training should be something that the kids look forward to and enjoy. This is an opportunity to set them up to not only maximize their athletic potential but also create life-long healthy habits. If your kid does not enjoy training they won’t reap maximum benefits and will likely discontinue training at the first opportunity they get.

I started seriously strength training for sports at 15 years old and I only wish I would have started sooner. At that time I started working with a strength coach named Mike Seilo, and I am not exaggerating when I say he changed trajectory of my athletic and eventually my professional career. Strength training with a qualified coach dramatically increased my athletic performance and without Mike I don’t think I would have gone on to compete in track and field at the collegiate level. Outside of improving my sport performance Mike influenced me to become strength coach and work with young athletes. Mike’s influence on me went way beyond sport performance and I can only hope to have the same influence on kids during my career.

Under the right supervision strength training can be a huge benefit to any young athlete. Not only will they improve athletically, they may learn some valuable lessons that serve them inside and outside of the gym as well as develop life-long personal relationships. If you have a child involved in athletics I highly recommend you find a qualified coach and get their strength training career underway.

If you have any questions regarding youth strength training please contact PFT Tom Sheriff CSCS (tsheriff@sacdt.com)
206-443-1111 ext. 292.

Powerlifting Meet Recap: Part II

On December 6th I competed in my second powerlifting meet: The Team Phoinix Holiday Classic. This meet was held in Lake Stevens by my friends of Team Phoinix Powerlifting. This was another great meet that was fun, efficient, and humbling. For those of you that are unfamiliar with the sport of powerlifting I suggest you look up my recap of my first meet where I go into more detail about the sport itself.

It had been about a year since my last competition so I came 15 pounds heavier and confident in my strength gains. I weighed in at 250 pounds so that put me in the 275 pound weight-class as the lightest lifter in the group. I expected this and was fine with it since I have no interest in the dehydration and starvation involved in cutting weight to be in a lower class. The only set-back I experienced heading into this meet was an SI Joint issue I suffered about 10 weeks before the meet. This sidelined my training for about two weeks but I was able to recover from it thanks to the help of Dr. Li. Despite this issue I was confident I would hit my meet goals.

Squat:

During the squat everything went exactly to plan and I ended up setting a PR and hitting my goal of 440 lbs (200kg) with plenty of room to spare. I believe I would have been good for at least 460 lbs that day.

1st Attempt: 365 lbs (easy opener, a weight I can do at anytime on any day)

2nd Attempt: 418 lbs (8 pounds above my best gym lift, very easy again)

3rd Attempt: 440 lbs (meet goal, probably left 20 lbs on the platform)

Bench:

I’d been toying with my bench technique and wasn’t quite sure how it would go. My goal was to break my previous meet PR of 298 lbs.

1st Attempt: 265 lbs (easy opener, felt great and explosive)

2nd Attempt: 303 lbs – MISS (big jump but I wanted at least 2 attempts at my goal)

3rd Attempt: 303 lbs – MISS (got the bar about 4 inches off my chest before it drifted

forward and I failed the lift)

Deadlift:

Deadlift had been going quite well in training. My goal was to break the 500 pound mark; my highest training deadlift was 465 lbs.

1st Attempt: 425 lbs (easy opener)

2nd Attempt: 475 lbs (this flew off the floor easier than expected but I stuck with the plan

instead of taking a bigger jump)
3rd Attempt: 501 lbs (just as easy as my second attempt, left at least 30 lbs on the

platform)

Overall I hit 2 out of 3 goals, took 2nd place in my weight-class, and left the meet very happy. Now it’s time to continue to get bigger and stronger!

Properly Program Your Assistance Lifts

When developing a proper strength program you need to have lifts that are classified as either main lifts or assistance lifts. Main lifts are what your program is focused around and what takes the most effort. For me and the majority of my clients these main lifts are; squat, deadlift, bench press, and overhead press. Choosing main lifts is relatively straight forward but assistance lifts are usually where people go wrong.

The most common mistake people make with assistance work is simply doing too much. They do too many sets or too many exercises trying to train each muscle individually. Just like the main lifts, assistance lifts should be large multi-joint movements that can be progressed over a long period of time. People also tend to put way too much emphasis on their assistance work, or as strength guru Jim Wendler says it “majoring in the minors.” Simply put, you do not want to work so hard on your assistance lifts that your main lifts suffer.

Assistance lifts should serve to:
1. Increase the main lifts
2. Build muscle mass
3. Provide balance and body symmetry
4. Strengthen weak areas

All of this can be accomplished with a few large assistance lifts each day. The way I like to build a program is to pair the main lift of the day with a corresponding assistance lift. Here is an example:

Main Lift Corresponding Assistance Lift
Squat Hinge Movement (Snatch-Grip Deadlift)
Deadlift Squat Movement (Front Squat)
Bench Press Horizontal Pull (Barbell Row)
Overhead Press Vertical Pull (Pull-ups)

If you pair the main lifts with a corresponding assistance lift all you have to do is fill any gaps in the program or work on weak areas. Generally on lower body days I will program abdominal work and on upper body days I will program some extra upper back and shoulder work.

It may seem too simple but if you are doing the right things there is no reason to have more than 2-3 assistance lifts on a given day of the program.

Here is a list of my favorite assistance exercises in no particular order:
1. Pull-ups/Chin-ups
You can and should use a variety of grips and hand widths when performing pull-ups. You can switch them up every week or even every set. It really doesn’t matter; just pull yourself up to a bar.

2. Dumb Bell Rows
These can be done for straight sets or in “Kroc Row” fashion where you do a couple warm-up sets then perform an all out set of high reps (my favorite way to do rows). These are great for back development as well as grip strength.

3. Barbell Rows
There are many different ways to do these but my preferred method is to let the bar rest on the floor between each rep so you’re pulling from a dead stop each time. When doing these be sure to keep your back level and flat. Use a grip that is the same width as your bench press grip.

4. Front Squats
These are great for building up your squat strength as well as quad size. Whether you use a “clean grip” or cross your arms like a body builder, the bar must be resting on your shoulders just behind your anterior deltoid muscle (weight is not held by your hands). Take a stance slightly narrower than when you back squat and drop your hips straight down until they are below your knees. Keep your elbows high and chest up.

5. Snatch-Grip Deadlift
These are performed exactly like a conventional deadlift only you are using a very wide grip (as you would in a snatch). Your grip should be wide enough that when you finish the movement the bar is at the crease of your hips. These are great for developing the posterior chain and upper back.

6. Close-Grip Bench
Grip the bar with your pointer fingers just inside the smooth part of the bar. Focus on keeping your elbows tucked close to your torso while lowering and pressing the weight. This is one of the premier lifts to improve your triceps strength and bench press.

7. Dips
Great for developing pressing strength and muscle mass. Dips are very straight forward, just be sure you are using a full range of motion. These can be done with bodyweight for high reps or with weight added for strength work.


If you have any questions about programming your assistance lifts please contact:

Boost Your Endurance Training Program

One of the most popular modes of exercise inside and outside of the gym is endurance training. Whether you enjoy running, rowing, stair-stepping or any other endurance training machine available in the SAC, chances are your training program could use a boost. Varying your endurance training program not only breaks up the monotony of working out but will also lead to improved performance. Utilize these types of aerobic endurance training to boost your workouts and performance.

 

Types of Aerobic Endurance Training:

 

  1. 1.    Long, Slow Distance Training (LSD)

This is generally what people do when they “go for a run.” The intensity should be about 80% of maximum heart rate or, if you don’t have a HR monitor, simply test if you can talk without undue respiratory distress while running; if so you are most likely at the correct intensity. The distance should be greater than race distance, or the duration should be at least 30 minutes to 2 hours. Frequency should be 1-2 times per week (NSCA).

 

  1. 2.    Pace/Tempo Training

For this type of training you need to be at an intensity at or slightly higher than race competition intensity. Duration should be ~20-30 minutes performed 1-2 times per week. This can also be referred to as threshold training. You should not be able to talk comfortably during this training (NSCA).

 

  1. 3.    Interval Training (Aerobic)

Interval training involves exercise at intensity close to your VO2max or maximum heart rate. Your work intervals should last between 3 and 5 minutes with rest intervals equal to work intervals (1:1 work to rest ratio). With this type of training you are basically working at an intensity you can only sustain for the prescribed work interval. Interval training should be used sparingly as it is very stressful, about once per week (NSCA).

 

  1. 4.    Repetition Training

Intensity for repetition training should be greater than VO2max, with work intervals lasting between 30 and 90 seconds. Longer rest periods are needed for this type of training so a work: rest ratio of about 1:5 is recommended. If you don’t have a way to accurately measure your intensity, simply work at a pace you can only sustain for the prescribed work interval. This technique will greatly improve your final kick or push at the end of a race (NSCA).

 

  1. 5.    Fartlek Training

This is a combination of several types of previously mentioned training. A Fartlek run involves easy running combined with either hill work or short, fast bursts of running for short time periods. Fartlek training challenges all systems of the body and helps reduce the boredom and monotony of training. This can be done once a week for ~20-60 minutes (NSCA).

 

For questions about designing your endurance training program please contact;

Squat Problems: Depth

The squat is a lift that I firmly believe everyone should do. For me it is the king of lifts. Not only does it build enormous physical strength but it is a true test of mental toughness. Something changes in a person when they fight with everything they have to stand up with a bar across their back despite the oppressive and lung-crushing weight. I’ve seen this change in every client or athlete I work with. After a set of eye-bulging squats nothing else seems so bad, you feel like you can take on anything.

 

Squats will give you strength, speed, quickness and power. They increase bone density and mobility.  Squats don’t care who you are or how your day was, just un-rack the bar, sit down and stand up.

 

There are many different variations of the squat therefore just about everybody can do them. Despite the many variations there is a mistake that I see over and over again:

 

Not squatting to proper depth.

This is by far the most common mistake I see in the squat. I see numerous people everyday loading up the squat bar with the best of intentions only to perform something I wouldn’t even classify as a squat. For a squat to be a squat, you must sit down until the tops of your thighs are AT LEAST parallel to the floor. In powerlifting this is judged by the crease of your hips dropping below the level of your knee.

 

I can hear it now; “But Tom, going deep on squats is bad for your knees!” No it’s not, stop it. By reaching full depth you are allowing your quads and hamstrings to work equally and balance the force acting on the anterior and posterior sides of your knees, therefore making it much healthier than a partial squat. During a partial squat the majority of the force comes from the quads extending the knee through the patella tendon. This combined with the fact that you can use more weight on a partial squat means more force is acting through your patella tendon and therefore results in the familiar anterior knee pain associated with squatting.

 

So why do people perform partial squats? I’ve found that the majority of partial squats are ego driven. Everyone wants to look cool in the weight room, and the best way to look cool is to lift a lot of weight, right? So in the quest of cool a person will prematurely add weight to the squat bar each workout and turn into Joe Half-Squat, or even worse, Joe Quarter-Squat. Partial squats build the ego not the legs. Despite moving more weight, if you are not going through a full range of motion you are not building the same strength (physical and mental) as you would with a full squat.

 

The Fix:

 

  1. Lower the weight! Every client I have starts with bodyweight squats and once they can consistently hit full depth we add the empty barbell. Then we slowly increase the weight on the barbell, ensuring depth on each rep as the weight increases. This requires you to check your ego at the door, but given some time your full squat will soon equal and surpass your previous partial squat.
  2. Check your stance. Your feet should be about shoulder width apart or wider if necessary. Your toes are then angled out between 10 and 45 degrees (this will vary person to person). Find a foot angle that is comfortable and allows your femurs to get out of the way of your hip bones when reaching full depth.
  3. Work on hip mobility. I have numerous hip mobility drills I like to use but two staples are static squat holds (sit in a full squat then push on the inside of your knees with your elbows, hold for 10 seconds, release and repeat) and step-through on the smith machine or hurdles (place the smith machine bar or hurdle at about mid-torso height, squat down, step through to the other side of the bar and stand up).
  4. Improve ankle mobility.  A simple drill to improve ankle mobility is to stand in front of a wall with your toes a few inches from the base. Keeping your heel on the ground, push your knee forward until it touches the wall. Hold for 10-20 seconds then back your foot up a bit and repeat. Keep moving your foot back until you can no longer reach the wall with your heel on the floor.

 

I am always happy to help people improve their squat so do not hesitate to ask. In the meantime, go forth and SQUAT!

 

Boost Your Endurance Training Program

One of the most popular modes of exercise inside and outside of the gym is endurance training. Whether you enjoy running, rowing, stair-stepping or any other endurance training machine available in the SAC, chances are your training program could use a boost. Varying your endurance-training program not only breaks up the monotony of working out but will also lead to improved performance. Utilize these types of aerobic endurance training to boost your workouts and performance.

 

Types of Aerobic Endurance Training:

1.     Long, Slow Distance Training (LSD)

This is generally what people do when they “go for a run.” The intensity should be about 80% of maximum heart rate or, if you don’t have a HR monitor, simply test if you can talk without undue respiratory distress while running; if so you are most likely at the correct intensity. The distance should be greater than race distance, or the duration should be at least 30 minutes to 2 hours. Frequency should be 1-2 times per week (NSCA).

2.     Pace/Tempo Training

For this type of training you need to be at an intensity at or slightly higher than race competition intensity. Duration should be ~20-30 minutes performed 1-2 times per week. This can also be referred to as threshold training. You should not be able to talk comfortably during this training (NSCA).

3.     Interval Training (Aerobic)

Interval training involves exercise at an intensity close to your VO2max or maximum heart rate. Your work intervals should last between 3 and 5 minutes with rest intervals equal to work intervals (1:1 work to rest ratio). With this type of training you are basically working at an intensity you can only sustain for the prescribed work interval. Interval training should be used sparingly as it is very stressful, about once per week (NSCA).

4.     Repetition Training

Intensity for repetition training should be greater than VO2max, with work intervals lasting between 30 and 90 seconds. Longer rest periods are needed for this type of training so a work/rest ratio of about 1:5 is recommended. If you don’t have a way to accurately measure your intensity, simply work at a pace you can only sustain for the prescribed work interval. This technique will greatly improve your final kick or push at the end of a race (NSCA).

5.     Fartlek Training

This is a combination of several types of previously mentioned training. A Fartlek run involves easy running combined with either hill work or short, fast bursts of running for short time periods. Fartlek training challenges all systems of the body and helps reduce the boredom and monotony of training. This can be done once a week for ~20-60 minutes (NSCA).

 

For questions about designing your endurance training program please contact Personal Fitness Trainer

Tom Sheriff CSCS.

Powerlifting Meet Recap

For those of you unfamiliar with the sport of powerlifting, it is a sport in which competitor’s squat, bench press and deadlift as much weight of they can for one repetition (1-rep Max). Each athlete gets three attempts at each lift and chooses how much weight they will try to lift on each attempt. Placing is decided by taking the sum of all three lifts to get the athlete’s “total” and the athlete with the highest total in their respective weight class wins the event.

 

On October 12th I competed in my very first powerlifting meet. I’ve always enjoyed training for strength but after completing my collegiate track career I found I still had the desire to compete and have a real purpose behind my training. I’d been training with powerlifting principles for quite some time but hadn’t done any meets because I thought I needed to get much stronger before competing. That’s when my good friend and amazing amputee power lifter Ali McWeeny informed me that her team (Team Phoenix) would be hosting a local powerlifting meet and I decided to jump in.

 

Training:

The meet was four months away when I signed up so I had some solid time to prepare. I had been on the same basic plan for the past 6 months and was seeing constant strength gains so I decided not to stray from the program that was working for me.

 

My training includes four lifting days per week with one day dedicated to bench press, squat, deadlift and overhead press. I included an overhead press day because shoulder strength and stability is extremely important for bench press. The main lift is performed first each day using a rep-max method where I work up to one main set of as many repetitions as possible at varying intensities depending on the phase (usually 3-8 reps at 85-95% 1RM). The main lift is then followed by assistance exercises designed to; increase the main lift, build muscle mass, provide balance and reduce risk of injury.

 

As the meet approached I started implementing paused bench press and heavy singles after completing my main “rep-max” set.

 

Meet Prep:

Two weeks out from the meet marked the final countdown of my meet preparation. During this time I had my last hard workouts where I worked up to 105-110% of my training max on bench, squat and deadlift while backing off slightly on overhead press. I really focused on getting in the mindset of the meet and attacking the weight as I would in competition. While increasing the intensities of the main lifts I decreased the volume of the assistance lifts by 20-30% while maintaining the intensity.

 

One week out from the meet I started my official “deload” in order to recover fully for the meet. In a normal deload I will decrease volume and intensity significantly (40-60%) but in preparation for the meet I did a high intensity deload where performed singles at 90-100% of my training max on the main lifts but almost completely dropped assistance work. The meet was on a Saturday so I performed my high intensity deload on Monday and Tuesday, rested Wednesday, did a dynamic warm-up and short workout Thursday (just got a light sweat), and rested completely Friday. Many competitors have to cut weight before a meet in order to compete in a lower weight class but since I was in the 242-pound class and weighed a solid 235 lbs I didn’t need to worry about that.

 

Meet Day:

I had received all kinds of advice about my first meet day from fellow power lifters but the two most common pieces of advice were;

  1. Bring food
  2. Triple check that you have all your equipment (shoes, singlet, belt, deadlift socks)

So I showed up to the gym with a cooler full of food and my triple checked gym bag bright and early and proceeded to wait two hours for the meet to start.

 

During this time I met a ton of the other lifters and introduced myself to all the referees, spotters, plate loaders and administrators. Doing this really helped calm my nerves because I had no idea what to expect and these people were more than willing to help. I was amazed with how receptive and genuinely excited all these people were to hear that this was my first meet and I was taking the plunge into powerlifting. While many of them looked the part, these people were far from the screaming meatheads outsiders tend to associate with powerlifting. I had great conversations about training, the inner workings of a meet and the powerlifting community. I went from feeling like an isolated competitor to feeling that all these people were on my side and wanted to see me succeed.

 

With my nervousness subdued it was finally time to begin the competition. Coming from a track and field background I expected an excruciatingly long and tedious meet with ample time between each lifter but I was very mistaken. I could not have been more impressed with the efficiency in which the meet was run. As soon as a lifter completed a lift (or didn’t) workers sprung into action to load the bar with the next weight to be attempted, adjusted the rack height and cleaned excess chalk off the bar. To my shock, downtime between each lifter only lasted about 30 seconds, resulting in a meet of 40 lifters only lasting 3.5 hours (less than half the time I expected).

 

Meet Results:

Coming into my first meet my goal was to simply compete. I had numbers that I wanted to hit but had no real aspirations of winning or placing but to my surprise I ended up placing 2nd in my weight class (242 lbs).

Numbers:

  • Squat: 402.5 lbs
  • Bench: 298 lbs
  • Deadlift: 463 lbs

I attribute my relative success to being solid in all three lifts while others had one lift that was especially good at the cost of the other two lifts.

 

Improvements:

My biggest downfall of the meet was my performance in the bench press. The difference between benching in competition and what you normally see in the gym is that the bar has to come to a complete stop (pause) on the lifter’s chest before being lifted. This pause will significantly reduce the amount of weight a person can bench press and this technique requires a lot of practice. I know now that I did not practice this skill often or early enough in my meet preparation. Adding more paused bench press work will be the biggest change to my program for my next meet.

 

Overall my first meet was an incredibly positive experience and I encourage anyone who wants to add purpose to their training to consider powerlifting. The feeling of putting all those hours of training on the line in competition is an amazing feeling that will surely add fuel to your training fire.

Audit Your Training Program

By Tom Sheriff, Personal Fitness Trainer Seattle Athletic Club Downtown

More and more frequently I am asked by coaches, friends and fellow gym-rats to review their strength training program. I am always happy to do so because I feel that most programs lack a simple evaluation, monthly or yearly, to ensure effective and efficient progress is being made. The following is an explanation of how to perform a simple audit of your training program.

The first question you need to answer is “Am I following a program, or am I wondering around doing whatever I feel like doing?” If you are just doing whatever you feel like, simply proceed as usual but for the next two weeks record what you are doing each day. At the end of the two weeks you can apply my auditing techniques to your workouts and go from there.

Once you have your program laid out, the first and most important step to auditing a program is to look for “gaps.” Make sure you are doing the fundamental human movements:

• Push (Bench press, military, dips etc.)

• Pull (Pull-ups, rows etc.)

• Squat (Back squat, front squat, overhead etc.)

• Hinge (Dead lifts, good-mornings, RDL’s, etc.)

If any of the mentioned movements are missing, there are gaps in your program.

Next I look for the push to pull ratio. To do this simply count the number of reps you do for each movement in a week then find the ratio of pushes to pulls.
Example:

Push: 300 reps/week

Pull: 100 reps/week

In this example the push to pull ratio of 3:1 is way off (but very common). A ratio of 1:1 would be better and ideally you would have a 1:2 ratio of pushes to pulls. The correct ratio ensures balance and promotes good posture.

I also look for balance top to bottom because people tend to slack in the leg department. If you bench press 315 pounds but shudder at the thought of a body weight squat you need to check your priorities.

Thirdly I look at how these movements are being accomplished. The main lifts of all my athletes and clients are considered core and structural lifts. This means they recruit one or more large muscle areas, involve two or more primary joints, and emphasize loading the spine directly or indirectly. If you perform all your exercises sitting or laying on a machine you are not getting the real-world application that exercises should give you.
A back squat will do a whole lot more for you than a leg press or leg extension because it more closely replicates movements you perform throughout the day.

Lastly I look for the purpose and progression of each exercise. If you cannot think of the real reason you are doing an exercise, there is good chance there isn’t one. Program progression is a topic that warrants a separate discussion but you need to make sure there is some rhyme and reason to how your program is moving forward.

I hope you take the time to really evaluate your workouts because you deserve to make progress. Just remember to look for the gaps! If you would like your training program audited please contact Tom Sheriff.