While I was travelling around on the Underground train in London in 1998, a time when I was young, carefree and had hair, that moronic voice would repeatedly come over the loud speaker.
“Mind the gap. Please mind the gap.” This almost drove me to the point of insanity while I was riding the train. After all, it was only a very small gap between the platform and the train. Still, it would just take one idiot and well…… let’s not go there.
At times we again (especially guys) need to be reminded of the obvious over and over, like a wife nagging the husband to take out the trash after the act of jamming it down in the can isn’t working anymore.
It can be the same with training. The fundamental human movements that need be performed in the gym never change. Without nagging, they are
- Ground work
Whether you’ve been lifting for a while or you’re just getting started, it’s very easy to get side tracked, especially with all those specialization programs on the internet promising bigger arms, legs, shoulders and sexy and sleek inner thighs in just minutes a day.
Okay, I made the last one up. Or did I?
Even the great coaches admit to getting sidetracked. Take 2 minutes to listen to Dan John as he tells you about what he didn’t do for 10 years – and how it totally changed his body when he did.
(Note– Most of what’s coming next comes from Dan John’s Can You Go? If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it.)
At times we may have gaps in our training because chasing certain exercise goals is fun and challenging. For instance my current goal is to deadlift twice my bodyweight which means certain other things in my training are ignored, like squats. J
On the flipside, you may be starting your weightlifting journey and just need to know where to get started.
The majority of your training time needs to be based on the big three of
- Body composition
There are tons of tests to measure whether you have gaps in the big three, but for the sake of keeping it simple and measurable for the experienced and novice lifters alike, let’s use a couple of Can You Go? Assessments.
After completing these tests, your training gaps will become obvious.
No one goes to the gym thinking “I’m going to get weaker today.” The whole point of picking things up and putting them down is to get stronger. Being stronger makes life easier and so much better.
2 min push up position plank
This one is straight from Stu McGill’s lab to you. Can you hold a plank for 120 seconds? This will challenge your mental and physical capacity. I usually tell my clients to “go to their happy place” during this test. A sunny beach usually works for most people. J
What does not reaching the 2 minute mark tell you? You’re not strong enough. Think about it, to be able to apply force to gravity (lifting weights), you need to be able to resist gravity (isometrics/eccentric) as well. If you can’t, you’re building a house on a very shaky foundation.
The Farmer’s walk will challenge your grip, posture and overall conditioning. This sounds like a perfect recipe for getting stronger in my book. Grip and posture are usually taken for granted but play a big role in your gains and in staying away from the physical therapist.
Loading for this test can be tricky. If you’re little deconditioned or new to this exercise, I like 25%-30% of your bodyweight in each hand. If you’re experienced lifter, use the standards from Dan John’s Mass Made Simple.
- Under 135 pounds- 135 pounds (or 65/70 pound dumbbells)
- 136-185 pounds- 185 pounds (or 90/95 pound dumbbells)
- 186-205 pounds- 205 pounds (or 100 pound dumbbells)
- Over 206 pounds- 225 pounds (or 110 pound dumbbells)
If in doubt, go on the heavier side to really test yourself. If you cannot walk at least 40 yards with your prescribed weight, you definitely need to work of your strength and do more farmer’s walks.
Thisis a much debated subject, but there are a couple of things most fitness professionals do agree on
- You need sufficient mobility through the hips to squat/deadlift without blowing out your spine
- If you cannot get your arms above your head and biceps by your ear without extending your low back or sticking out your ribcage, you have no business lifting anything overhead.
Dean Somerset breaks it down beautifully here in the world’s simplest assessment. Can you touch your hands to the floor? Can you raise your arms above your head without any of the assistance described above? If you can, you’re good to go. If you can’t do one or both, you’ve got some work to do.
However, Dan John takes this a step further with a getting down to the floor and back up test. Stop reading now and sit down to the ground and then stand back up without using your hands or knees. Don’t worry I’ll wait.
It sounds simple but there’s a catch. You will subtract a point from 5 each time you use a hand or your knee during this test. For example
Get down (- 1 for each hand/knee from 5)
Get up (-1 for each hand/knee from 5)
Total (Your score, up to 10)
If you get a score of 8 and above, you’ve got nothing to worry about. If you score 7 or below, mobility and strength work will be your best friend.
3. Body composition
The chart below gives you a guide on how lean you should (or could) be.
This is a great guide; however, for some (particularly those starting out on their weightlifting journey or who don’t have access to body fat testing equipment) there’s an easier way:
Is your waistline half of your height?
Dr. Margaret Ashwell, former director of the British Nutrition Foundation said that “Keeping your waist circumference to less than half your height can help increase life expectancy for every person in the world.” Nice and simple.
Measure around the narrowest part of your abdominal area (you should already know your height) and with a little math you’ll have an answer. For example, a passing grade would be
- 72 inches tall with a 36 inch waistlin
A failing grade is
- 72 inches tall with a 38 inch waistline
Abdominal fat in and around the internal organs spells danger. If your waist line is more than half your height, you need to base you’re training around fat loss with a touch of strength.
If you passed all these tests, congratulations, you’re perfect. 🙂 If not, minding these training gaps will help you become a stronger and more resilient human being.