Interview With a Chiropractor

By Tucker Loken

I’ve been going to see Craig Liebenson at LA Sports and Spine for a couple weeks now. So far it’s been an awesome experience, and there are a few really good lessons I’ve learned, both from putting the exercises into practice, and listening to Craig’s advice as we are working together 


I think about this one every time I’m putting weight on the bar lately. “I can do more, but can I do it competently? Am I just muscling through and skipping any real stimulus or a motor pattern that’s worth teaching my body?” Not only is it brilliant in its simplicity, it’s also a very healthy approach. Yes, we need to learn to grind because your best PR will never be as pretty as an 80% lift, but grinding isn’t something to aim for each time. If you always practice the grinding, imperfect motion, you’re never giving yourself a chance to create the muscle memory of the perfect movement.

Another way to conceptualize it; have you ever forgotten someone’s phone number, but your hand remembers how to dial it on a key pad, and you air type it out and remember their number that way? That should be your goal for your squat, bench and deadlift. It shouldn’t be a mystery each time you go in, it should be as programmed as that friend’s number, and that only comes from staying in that zone of competence to create progress, rather than just pushing to your limits of capability. 

We convince our coaches to give us more, because we are those people who are always trying to do too much:

Convincing your coach to give you more is such an interesting way of painting the picture. Rather than the athlete being yelled at by the coach to do more, it’s the athlete tempting the coach to give them more and more. Many athletes will be tempted to downplay their injury or pain so they can talk the coach into giving them more playing time, or get assigned more sets and reps because they think more means better. This kind of “I can take it coach, give me more” mentality can be what makes the difference between good and great, and who’s mentally strong enough to keep pushing, but it can also be the difference between something being sore or tight, and a real injury coming around the corner. 

Doing those extra sets even though something hurts that shouldn’t, or going in on that day that you’re dead tired when you should just rest and come back for a real workout tomorrow can eventually spell disaster for the athlete. It’s all these things the overachiever does to self sabotage without knowing it, not knowing that they are the ones tempting themselves and their coaches for more volume and intensity, rather than backing off when needed.  

Often in powerlifting and bodybuilding, it’s just you against you. And when you’re coaching yourself, and chasing an image of yourself that you can never beat, it can be even harder to control this desire to do more when that’s your personality. The patience and self-control to not do too much can be the toughest part for some people, but arguable the most important.

Strength is from stability and technique, not just muscle:

Stability is something that comes from practice just like strength or muscle growth, it’s just not nearly as fun and it’s tough to measure, but it tends to happen pretty quickly, and when you look for it you can see the improvements. The problem is that because it’s inherently boring we usually do a little something for it sporadically and then don’t have any measurable results. No matter your muscle size though, there’s strength potential locked in the muscle fibers, tendons and nerves in your body, you just need to set them up for success. By creating a stable base in the ground, and having that go up the chain you can do incredible things…. you can leg press more weight than you can squat. Why? Because the weight is fixed and stable. Just like you can’t one leg press 50% of what you would leg press with both legs, the stability factor contributes more than we think to your strength output. 

This concept helped me a lot because it put my mind at ease as far as why I’ve had some lifts that haven’t progressed much in the last couple years.  I think a lot of people can take something from this. They have a degree of success early on to pat themselves on the back for, but they haven’t been able to get past it and they’re not sure why. From learning and experiencing how rapid the improvements can be when you start addressing the problem correctly, I can tell you there is a way to get past your plateau or pain, you just need to seek out the right help.

The time to rest is not the time to show off: 

He threw out an interesting factoid about how an unreasonably high percentage of high school baseball players who can throw a top level fast ball have had Tommy John’s surgery for their elbows. The reason being is that because of their enormous talent, their coaches and they themselves want to demonstrate just how good they really are. However, there is a reason Brian Carroll, Jonathan Byrd and the other big squatters on Team PRS only touch 1000lbs on squats a couple times a year. It’s because a maximal output that is so extra ordinary can take a tremendous toll on the body, and it’s not something to be taken lightly. Poor knowledge, coupled with a desire to flaunt their ability ends up with these kids on the surgeons table, when if they had just reserved their talent for when it counted, in the games, they could have either made it out surgery free, or at least extended the time they had on their own tendons and ligaments without having to get it replaced.

As far as what I can say from doing the exercises he’s given me, I’ve learned even better that everything is connected, and when you just teach your body to function right, everything happens smoothly. My elbows are getting healthier, and I felt an immediate improvement in how much they pop and crack when I started doing the plank variations he’s given me that help get my lats firing. The other muscles are now helping to provide some stability and take the weight from being isolated around the joint and disperses the force around a little better so nothing gets over worked. My knees and hips are feeling better just from moving more naturally and getting the muscles that weren’t working to start doing their job, and the muscles that were over taxed are getting a chance to rest.  When we think core work, we usually think protecting the lower back, but it’s all interconnected. Who would have thought that better core stability and thoracic mobility would be helping my elbows? It’s been a huge help so far, and everything in my body just feels so much more capable and durable so far.

A big thanks for Craig for helping me so much and taking me under his wing. I don’t think he realizes how much his monologues have helped, but every time he starts on another soliloquy, my ears perk up and I try to absorb everything I can, because they all end up being valuable diamonds of knowledge when I apply them.

Want to learn more? Register NOW for the seminar with Brian Carroll and Craig Leibenson, DC taking place August 20, 2017 at UCLA in Los Angeles, CA.

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Tucker Loken is a Bodybuilder turned Powerlifter turned Powerbuilder from Eugene, Oregon. He did his first bodybuilding show when he was still in high school, and has been training male and female competitors for shows since 2011. Several years ago he decided to take a step away from his normal routine and learn how to get strong. He worked with Brian for 9 months, added 200 pounds to his raw total and qualified as an Elite lifter in the 220 pound weight class. He returned back to bodybuilding much stronger and now incorporates the 10/20/Life philosophy into his training to keep himself healthy and making continual progress in the Big 3 as well as adding size and shaping his physique. Now part of Team PRS, he brings his unique expertise of nutritional knowledge and how to balance Bodybuilding with Powerlifting to help athletes achieve their best potential.
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