Archives for May 2009

Bench Video

Hello. I just wanted to share an excellent video on bench pressing that I came across on 

T-Nation. It features Dave Tate who is a very respected powerlifter. Watch and learn. Also, be aware that there is some “blue” language in the video. Please don’t be offended.

Mitch Rothbardt
Discover Your Strength

New Article

Hello. Just a quick one today. I wanted everyone to know that there’s a new article in this week’s Castro Valley Forum. Go here and click on page 10. I know I haven’t posted as much lately and I’m sorry for that, but there is more coming. I promise.
Talk to you soon.

Mitch Rothbardt
(coming soon)

Back Handbook

Over the course of our lives over 80% of us will get some sort of lower back pain and, to paraphrase from a joke, the other 20% are lying. With this in mind I thought I would write a little back health handbook, if you will. These are a few little things that you can do over the course of the average day to help keep your back in good shape. Remember, with backs, little things can end up being big things. A good percentage of lower back problems come from small things that happen over and over again. Things like sitting with bad posture or rounding our back as we pick something up. We don’t notice anything until one day we reach for a pencil and … well, you know the rest. What I mean to say is that many of the things I suggest might not seem like a big deal and you might not even notice any difference right away, but give it time. If you have a bad back, these suggestions may eventually help yield a good result and if you don’t have a bad back, these suggestions should help keep it that way.

1. Don’t sit down for at least 30 minutes after you get out of bed.

When we lie flat the vertebral discs in our spine fill up with fluid. This makes the discs swell up, which increases the compressive force on the discs. Sitting puts a very large amount of compressive force on our discs as it is, and combine that with the increased compressive force you get with extra-hydrated discs, what you get is the exact kind of disc trauma that eventually can lead to disc herniation.
2. Try not to do any tasks involving bending over for at least one hour after getting out of bed.

Have you ever noticed that tieing your shoes in the morning seems harder? That’s because it is! For the reasons I mentioned above bending over is much more difficult in the morning. Bending puts a different kind of force on our spine than sitting does. It’s called shearing. To understand the difference between the two, picture a book. Now think of the pages as our vertebral discs. When the pages are all stacked up one on top of the other evenly, as if the book was just sitting on a table, the force is going straight down. That is considered compressive force. If you open the book and the edge of the pages become uneven, the forced would be angled out. That would be considered shearing forces. I hope that makes sense.

In any case, the spine can withstand a much greater amount of compressive force than shearing force and bending over causes a large amount of shearing force.

In short, just try not to bend too much after waking up.

3. Don’t sit for more than 20-30 minutes at a time.

Sitting is, quite literally, one of the worst things we can do to our spine for a few different reasons. For one thing sitting puts a tremendous amount of force on our discs. Dr. Stuart McGill, who is one of the world’s foremost authorities on spine health, has done research on just about every possible area of low back problems. He found in his research that there is literally no good sitting position. Each position he researched uncovered a greater than healthy amount of compressive force on some area of the spine.

Another reason is that sitting tightens up our hips. When we sit we are causing a group of muscles called the hip flexors to flex and tighten. When we sit for long periods of time something called “creep” happens. That is what it’s called when a group of muscles actually shorten. Shortened hip flexors cause tight hips and also cause bad posture, which pulls the back out of alignment. All this adds up to low back pain.

The answer to this is to make sure that you don’t sit for long periods of time. Most computers have some sort of appointment calendar. Set yours to remind you every half hour to get up a take a walk to the water cooler. If you can’t get up for some reason, at least change your sitting position every few minutes. This will spread the force around to different areas. Your back will thank you.

4. Think about your posture.

This really can’t be overstated.

Our spine has natural curves that help spread around the pressure that is felt on our discs.
When we develop bad posture it puts more pressure on certain discs than others and that results in pain.

The Evolution of Bad Posture

There is probably nothing that could help our back health more than improving our posture. Here is an example of some common problems compared to good posture.

<>Can you feel the pain?

The easiest way to maintain posture is to always think about keeping your chest up and your abs tight. This goes double when sitting. It is very easy to look like the guy all the way to the right in the evolution picture. Keep your posture in mind.

5. Wear Your Backpack on Both Shoulders

This one is mostly for you students out there. It’s very simple: when you wear your backpack over one shoulder you bend slightly to the other side to balance. Done long enough this can affect your posture.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. I wanted to just talk about a few simple things that people can do easily to good effect. I, myself, have really decreased my overall back stiffness after simply not sitting down after waking up.

The key for all of this is to be consistent and patient. None of these suggestions is going to have overnight results. If you do have a bad back, it likely took years to get it that way and a few days work isn’t going to get back to perfect condition. It is a start, however, and a good one. Just as a great deal of back problems originate from the sum total of many small things, the treatment of a bad back can start with small changes that eventually add up to to a good deal of spinal stress reduction. In other words, less pain.

Get On Up!

Get On Up!
We all know James Brown was the hardest working man in show business, but did you know that he also dispensed some of the best fitness advice ever given? Get On Up! Those three simple words can solve one of our biggest problems.
I am guessing that the majority of you reading this have a job that keeps you sitting behind a desk most of the day. What does this do to us? It keeps us stationary, for one thing. That means we’re not burning calories. A 185 lb. person burns about 250 calories an hour while walking. That same person burns only about 80 calories while sitting. That’s a big difference. Replace one hour of sitting with walking each work day and you’ve lost a little over a pound per month. Doesn’t sound like much? That’s almost 15 pounds a year!
What else does sitting all day do to us? Well, how’s your back feeling? A little tight? Here’s why.
Sitting puts our hips in a flexed position. This puts a group of muscles known as the hips flexors under constant tension. If you want a comparison, make a muscle with your arm. After you’re done looking at your impressive biceps think about how your arm would feel if you held it that way for eight hours. That’s what happens to our hip flexors. It relates to your back because tight hip flexors pull your spine out of its natural alignment and forces bad posture. This leads to back pain. Also, when we have tight hips our lower back has to move to make up for the fact that our hips can’t. That’s not good. Finally, sitting puts tremendous pressure on our vertebral discs, and I won’t even get into what happens with your shoulders when you type all day.
Luckily, there’s a simple way to help with all of this. GET ON UP! Literally. Just stand up and walk around. Most computers have some sort of appointment calendar. Set yours to alert you every 45 minutes to get up and take a stroll to the water cooler. If you’re too busy to do that, just work standing up for a few minutes.
Here is a quick move you can do. Stand up with room in front of and behind you. Put your hand on something to help you maintain balance and simply swing your leg forward and back. Squeeze your butt when swinging it behind and make sure you don’t arch your back. Try it, I’ll wait. There. Didn’t that feel good!
Simple changes like that can make a huge difference in how we feel. Drop me a line for some more ways to keep moving.

– from the Castro Valley Forum May 13, 2009

Mitch Rothbardt

(coming soon)
Discover Your Strength

New Article

Hello all you readers out there. There’s got to be a couple of you. Sorry I haven’t posted so much lately. Things have been crazy busy. I have been working, training and studying hard.

Anyway the big news today is that I have a new article in the Castro Valley Forum today. Here is the link Click on the Health and Fitness or Page 6 link and let me know what you think.


Mitch Rothbardt
(coming soon)

Small Numbers

Yuck. That’s about all I can say. I finished up the Maximum Strength program over the weekend, and I must say my numbers were very disappointing. My broad jump went from 80″ to 93″ which I thought was an impressive increase and my three rep chin up went from 55lbs. to 70lbs, but my box squat, deadlift and bench press all stayed basically the same. I have my theories as to why this was the case. It certainly wasn’t due to lack of effort. I trained very hard the past four months. I think there were four reasons:

1. Injuries. I suffered two injuries, both while deadlifting. The first one happened about 6 weeks into the program when I messed my back up. You can read about it here but beware, there is some adult language. It definitely set me back.

The other injury was a hamstring pull that I got a couple of weeks ago, also while deadlifting. It felt fine about three or four days later and I didn’t feel it all on Sunday, but it cut my last heavy deadlifting session very short and that certainly didn’t help.

2. Weight loss. I weighed in at the beginning of the program at 185.5 lbs. On Sunday I weighed in exactly 10 lbs. lighter at 175.5 lbs. I wasn’t trying to lose weight, but I have been trying not to sit so much at work and I’ve been taking walks at lunch. I didn’t think about the weight loss much because I felt good, but 10 lbs. can be a lot to lose when you are trying to gain maximal strength. I think this hurt me most in my bench, which has always been a weak lift for me.

3. Core strength. I think this is related to my back injury, but I think I really need to focus on core strength. I think, overall, that’s what let me down in my squat and deadlift.

4. Lack of heavy singles. I have tremendous respect for Eric Cressey. I do my best to read everything that he writes and listen to any interview that he does, even though sometimes his thought process and knowledge are over my head. That being said I would like to know the reasons for the exercise selection in the last phase of the program. I am sure he has excellent, thought out reasons, but for me I felt like I needed more heavy singles with the primary lifts as opposed to the variations on those lifts, particularly deadlifts. If I get the chance to ask him that question, I am sure that he will give me a reason that will shoot down anything I think I may know about powerlifting program design, but I would like to know all the same.

Well, for posterity sake, here are the final numbers:

Bodyweight 175.5 lbs.
Broad Jump 93″
Box Squat 385 lbs. (Blew 405 lbs. Probably had 395 lbs.)
Bench Press 255 lbs. (I did 265 lbs. two months ago, but couldn’t get it Sunday)
Deadlift 365 lb. (Couldn’t get 385 lbs. but the 365 lb. lift was very strong. Probably had 375 or 380, although I was too tired to try it after blowing the 385 lift.)
3-Rep Chin 70 lbs. (This is a three rep chin-up test with additional weight hanging from a weight belt.)

Well, that’s about it. A few updates, I have a new article coming out in the Castro Valley Forum/San Leandro Times next week. I will post the link when it comes out.
I am also training clients at Medina’s Gym in Hayward. I like it there. Give me a call if you interested. Let me know what you want to get out of our sessions and I will put together a package for you. Call me at 510-754-7113 or email me at We can work on everything from general fitness to fat loss to size and strength gain. Just let me know. I’ll talk to you soon.

Mitchell Rothbardt
(coming soon)

Paralysis By Analysis

Paralysis by analysis. That is what happens when you are so bombarded by information that you have trouble choosing what information you need or even what to pay attention to. This is what happens when you are looking into cell phone plans or new computers and, boy, does this ever happen when trying to research an exercise program. You see so many methods, each promising the best results, whether it’s gaining the most muscle, losing the most fat or looking like the guy in the Bowflex ad in 10 minutes a week. It’s all very confusing, especially if you’re just trying to get started and aren’t really sure of the best way to go about it. Here’s the thing, though: It’s really not that hard.

All you really have to do to get started is…something.

To be sure, certain programs are better than others, but doing a bad program is almost always better than doing no program. Doing something and giving a good honest effort almost always gets results at first. Don’t worry about six months from now (yet). Just worry about working exercise into your daily life. That’s the most important thing. Remember, you are changing the habits of your life and you need to get started! Once you have gotten into the habit of exercising you can then go from doing something to doing something better.

I’ve seen a video where former pro football player Herschel Walker talks about how in his youth he didn’t know what to do for exercise, so he would just do push-ups and crunches during TV commercials. If you don’t think this laid a foundation for him you’ve never seen Herschel Walker. Even as a pro football player he would do 100 crunches every hour on the hour.
If you are still wondering how to get started, here’s a very simple program you can do at home in your living room with no equipment:
1 set of squats for 8 reps
1 set of lunges for 8 reps
1 set of pushups for 6 reps
Hold a plank position for 20 seconds

The basic instructions for all of these exercises can be found on YouTube or you can drop me a line. Do these sets back-to-back with no rest in between. This is called a complex. As you get better, add sets with a 90-120 second rest period in between. As you get better from there, add a few reps and do shorter rest periods eventually going down to a 45 second rest period. Do this three times a week. If you can’t do the pushups or planks from the floor, do them from your knees or with your hands on a chair.

There you go! You have just gone from doing nothing to doing a program that works your legs, hips, chest, shoulders, butt, arms and abs. One round should only take a couple of minutes. Perfect for those long commercial breaks when you’re anxious to find out who got voted off “American Idol”.

Hopefully you’ll find that doing this makes you feel and look better and makes you want to do some more advanced stuff. Most of all I hope that this makes you realize that it’s not hard to get started and I don’t know anyone who hasn’t felt better once they did.

from the Castro Valley Forum  – April 22, 2009

Mitchell Rothbardt
(coming soon)
Discover Your Strength