Category Archives: Eric Cressey

>My Top 5 Single-Leg Exercises


Single-leg work has been a pretty controversial topic lately.
Some folks say that it’s the only safe way to train the lower body for the long haul and that bilateral exercise is the devil. Others insist that you can’t possibly build size relying on unilateral lower body exercises and that they’re a cop-out for those who don’t want to squat and deadlift heavy.
What’s my take?
The truth is that I think single-leg work is fantastic and I include it in a ton of the programs that I write. I experienced great improvements in some of my bilateral lifts when I made a dedicated effort to improving my single-leg strength. I’m also convinced that including unilateral lower-body lifts in my programs has helped me to stay healthy. These are benefits I’ve seen in our athletes and clients as well (and Mike Robertson covered these benefits in great detail in Single-Leg Supplements).
That said, unless we’re talking about an individual who has some injury history that renders squatting and deadlifting dangerous, I think it’s a mistake to build programs purely around single-leg exercises. In other words, the bilateral work will always be the meat, but the single-leg stuff is the potatoes.
In other words, for most lifters, single-leg work tends to be the first or second lower-body exercise in a training session. For those with some type of injury that makes that heavier bilateral work a problem, we do our single-leg work first and follow it up with whatever bilateral exercise (e.g., pull-throughs, glute-ham raises) they can handle.
With all that in mind, not all single-leg exercises are created equal, so I thought I’d use today to outline my top five.

1. Barbell Reverse Lunge – Front Squat Grip

This is an awesome exercise to help educate folks on how to stay upright during just about any lower body exercise, as the front squat grip forces good posture during the drill. Conversely, it’s much easier to “slump” when holding dumbbells – and the last thing you want to do is execute the entire set with the shoulders rounded.
Using the front squat grip during a the barbell reverse lunge also works well with athletes dealing with shoulder problems (excluding AC joint pain), as it keeps the shoulders in a pain-free position while still offering the benefits of axial loading. It’s also more knee-friendly than forward lunging variations, as there isn’t a whole lot of deceleration taking place with the athletes stepping back rather than forward.

2. Barbell Forward Lunges

This strength exercise might be the granddaddy of all single-leg drills for me simply because it’s the one that allows for an appreciable amount of loading, but is also combined with two factors that make it especially effective. First, lunging forward increases deceleration demands and, in turn, eccentric strength. Second, positioning the bar on the upper back raises the center of gravity farther away from the base of support, which adds to the stability challenge.
The only people for whom it isn’t a good fit are those with poor shoulder mobility and/or with anterior knee pain. If you’ve got stiff shoulders, stick with the front squat positioning. If you’ve got knee pain, find a drill with less deceleration demands.

3. DB Reverse Lunge to 1-Leg RDL

This exercise actually looks pretty “foo-foo,” but the truth is that it will likely make you sorer than any movement you’ve ever done before in your training career. And, because each rep takes longer to do, those whose spines may not handle compressive loading very well can still get a great training effect without lugging really heavy weights around. I’ve seen guys with squats over 400 pounds humbled with 3×8/side using 50-pound dumbbells on the reverse lunge to 1-leg RDL.
Additionally, this is a great addition to metabolic resistance training medleys because of the minimal loading needed and larger excursion of movement. The only people who may want to stay away from it are beginners whose form may break down as the set goes on and fatigue accumulates.

4. 1-Arm DB Bulgarian Split Squats from Deficit

When I see this exercise in my program, I usually just want to cry. Then, after I wind up doing it, I feel a hell of a lot better about myself. Here’s the scoop…
When you hold the dumbbell on the same side of the trailing leg, you have weight pulling your support leg into adduction and internal rotation (as your hip flexes). In other words, positioning the weight in this fashion forces your hip external rotators, abductors, and extensors to work harder eccentrically.
What externally rotates, abducts, and extends the hip? The gluteus maximus.
What do most people suck at using? The gluteus maximus.
Great exercise.
Try it without shoes to increase the difficulty and work on ankle mobility and function of the muscles of the lower leg and feet.

5. Sled Pushing (or pulling, or dragging, or side-stepping, or whatever)

I know what you’re thinking: sled pushing isn’t a lunge, split-squat, pistol squat, 1-leg RDL, or step-up – so it can’t be a single-leg exercise, can it?
Well, watch someone push a sled and – as is the case with sprinting – there are always points in time where only one leg is in contact with the ground.
So you could make the argument that sled pushing is the most basic, stupid-proof single-leg exercise out there, yet it’s still quite effective.
It teaches hip separation (one hip extends while the other flexes).
It allows you to load someone without making them sore, as there’s no eccentric stress.
It’s so basic that anybody can do it – no matter how uncoordinated they are.
It can be used for everything from metabolic conditioning, to speed training, to strength work.
You can push it (high or low setting), drag it backwards, or do side sled-drags. You can do farmer’s walks and pull it with a harness behind you. The options are near limitless – but regardless of what you do, you’ll still be in single-leg stance. It’s a beautiful thing.


These five options might be my favorites, but they’re really just the tip of the iceberg. We use 1-leg RDLs to increase our posterior chain emphasis and allow those with anterior knee pain to still improve their balance. We use step-ups with beginners who need extra practice in single-leg stance without getting ridiculous soreness. The options are limitless, but the message is clear: single-leg training is a valuable tool in your toolbox, even if it isn’t top dog in your strength and conditioning program.

An Interview with Eric Cressey Part I

by Chad Waterbury on September 20, 2010

I first learned about Eric Cressey back in 2004 when he wrote a cool article on rotator cuff training for T-nation. Since that time Eric has quickly climbed to the top in the fitness industry. His knowledge of strength training and performance development is awesome (Cressey has a monstrous deadlift). But his techniques for corrective exercise – especially the shoulder – is what really sets him apart. In fact, when my brother recently injured his rotator cuff, Eric Cressey is the first person that came to mind to help him. Cressey Performance in Massachusetts has become one of the most sought-after training facilities in the country for everyone from professional athletes to weekend warriors.
When Cressey talks, I listen, because over the last 7 years he’s spent more time in the trenches than just about anyone I know. And that’s why I’m happy to have him as a guest this week.
So let’s get to it!
CW: First off, thanks for taking time out of your schedule to chat. Here’s my first question: Since you work with a lot of high-performance athletes, what are three principles that apply equally to athletes as well as non-athletes?
EC: I think people would be surprised to realize just how similar the Average Joe or Jane is to a  professional athlete – both socially and physically.
The lay population often sits in front of a computer for 8-10 hours a day, but many pro athletes have 4-8 hour flights or 10+ hour bus rides where they’re sitting – and because they’re taller, sitting is even more uncomfortable and problematic.  Like everyone else, they spend time surfing the internet, Skyping, playing video games, and goofing around on Facebook/Twitter.  The advances in technology have hurt everyone from a physical fitness standpoint – but brought the “Pros and the Joes” closer together, believe it or not.
They’re also very similar in that they want the most bang for their buck.  Most pro athletes are no different than anyone else in that they want to get in their training, and then go to visit their families, relax, play golf, or whatever else.  They really don’t have interest in putting in six hours per day in training outside of the times when they have to do so (especially during the in-season).
With that in mind, three principles that are crucial to the success of both populations are:
1.  Realize that consistency is everything. I always tell our clients from all walks of life that the best strength and conditioning programs are ones that are sustainable.  It’s not about working hard for three months and making great progress – only to fall off the bandwagon for a month.  This is absolutely huge for professional athletes who need to maximize progress in the off-season; they just can’t afford to have unplanned breaks in training if they want to improve from year to year.
If a program isn’t conducive to your goals and lifestyle, then it isn’t a good program.  That’s why, when I created Show and Go I went out of my way to create 2x/week, 3x/week, and 4x/week strength training options – plus five supplemental conditioning options and a host of exercise modifications. I wanted it to be a very versatile resource.
Likewise, I wanted it to be safe; a program isn’t good if it injures you and prevents you from exercising.  Solid programs include targeted efforts to reduce the likelihood of injury via means like mobility warm-ups, supplemental stretching recommendations, specific progressions, fluctuations in training stress, and alternative exercises (“plan B”) in case you aren’t quite ready to execute “Plan A.”
2. You must balance competing demands, and prioritize the ones that are the most pressing at a given time. Using our professional baseball pitchers as an example, their training consists of strength training, mobility work, medicine ball throws, movement training, and the throwing program (which is near daily in nature).  In the Cressey Performance system, when the throwing program ramps up, the medicine ball work must come down substantially, and the strength training tapers off just a bit.  You simply can’t keep adding without subtracting something else and making a tradeoff, as athletes only have a certain amount of recovery capacity, and it’s hard to fine-tune an exact movement like throwing a baseball if you’re fatigued from everything else.
Managing competing demands is arguably more challenging in the general population, as their jobs outside the gym are usually more stressful than those that face many professional athletes – meaning that the Joes and the Janes have less recovery capacity with which to work.  It seems logical that when you add something to a program, you have to subtract something else – but I’m constantly amazed at how many people decide to just tack on more volume when they can’t lose fat or gain muscle mass fast enough.  Sometimes, you just need to change the composition of the program, not add more and more, thereby creating three-hour marathon training sessions. This leads to my next point…
3. The success comes from the overall program, not just the individual parts. In other words, synergy is everything.
The aforementioned pitchers can’t just go out and start a throwing program after doing nothing for three months.  Rather, they need to work to enhance their mobility and get stronger, more reactive, and more powerful first.  If they skip these important steps, they increase their likelihood of injury, make it harder to re-acquire a skilled movement, and reduce the likelihood of improvement.
In the general population, a good strength and conditioning program consists of tremendous interdependencies.  How well you deadlift depends on the training you’ve done in the previous month, week, and day – and how thorough and targeted your mobility warm-up (or lack thereof, in many unfortunate cases) was prior to that day’s training session.  Those trainees who have the best results are the ones that line everything up – from nutrition, to strength training, to mobility work, to movement training, to metabolic conditioning, to recovery protocols.
CW: I agree. It’s common for people to think they’re advanced when they’re really not. Can you mention a few things a pro athlete typically does that a weekend warrior shouldn’t do?

EC: I would strongly discourage non-professional athletes from holding shirtless press conferences in their driveways while exercising during contract holdouts.
Then again, I wouldn’t really recommend that to Terrell Owens or any professional athlete, for that matter, but I digress…
To be honest, in the context of resistance training, a lot of professional athletes aren’t really as advanced as you might think, especially after a long season that’s taken its toll on them.  Many of them have a ton of similarities with our general fitness clients – but just have different exercise contraindications and energy systems needs.


An Interview with Eric Cressey Part II

by Chad Waterbury on September 22, 2010

Eric Cressey is one of the few people I keep in my circle of advisors. He’s been training, studying, lifting and writing with passion and enthusiasm that’s rare in this field. Cressey Performance is definitely a place to check out if you’re in the Massachusetts area. So if you missed part I of my interview with him, be sure to check it out here.
Now we’ll pick up the rest of his interview where Eric discusses his awesome new training manual, Show and Go, for a bigger, stronger, healthier body.
CW: I got a good laugh reading your statement in the introduction of Show and Go. You said, “This book is for people who give a sh*t.” Care to elaborate?

EC: I was actually pretty excited to be able to swear whenever I wanted; I guess that’s the beauty of self-publishing!  Rather than reinvent the wheel, I’ll share a little excerpt from the text that I think will answer the question:
““…you’ll find that the tone of this manual is much less conversational and entertaining, and much more “troubleshooting” and “do this and get diesel.” Fortunately, just as you’re more tolerant to cursing, you’re also more tolerant to training programs that will challenge, educate, and motivate you to all news levels of strength, performance, and health. My feeling is that you didn’t purchase this e-book to be entertained; you purchased it to get direction and results.

“In the program that follows, I can do a lot more in terms of exercise variety, at least within the confines of what “typical” gyms’ equipment selections allow. I can build more “on the fly” strength tests into the programs on top of the already-challenging loading protocols. I can include both 3- and 4-day-a-week training programs to accommodate your unique schedule. I can provide exercise alternatives if you lift somewhere that doesn’t have all the equipment you’d need to perform the program as-written. And, I can create an online video library to make it easier for you to see the exercises and learn some of the exact coaching cues we use with our athletes at Cressey Performance.
“Additionally, self-publishing affords me several luxuries; most notably, I have no restrictions on the length of the text. I can write as much or as little as I want – and basically do whatever is required to make the program exactly what I want it to be. Exercise descriptions aren’t limited to a certain number of sentences, and if I want to include seven exercises in a specific day’s session instead of six, for instance, it’s okay. I can also include ready-to-use templates that you can print out and take with you to the gym to record weights used, whereas traditional books are never conducive to this. Rather than do just one chapter on nutrition, I (thanks to the help of Brian St. Pierre) can have an entire supplemental product that could be an exhaustive resource in itself.
“And, on perhaps the most badass note, instead of just exercise photos for demonstrations, you’ll find an entire video library where you can view the proper technique for every single exercise in the Show and Go program. That’s about 175 exercises – which constitutes just enough on-camera time to qualify me for an Oscar in the “Best Performance by a Balding Meathead Strength Coach” category. Assuming an average of 12-15 seconds per video, you’ve essentially gotten yourself the equivalent of a 35-45 minute DVD on top of all this programming and my charming wit and personality.”
CW: Ha! Well said. So what kind of results can guys expect on this program? Is Show and Go for females, too?

EC: We put a big group of “guinea pigs” through the program with some outstanding results.  It wasn’t uncommon to see increases of 80 pounds and more on the squat and deadlift, with improvements about half those amounts on bench pressing and chin-up totals (understandably smaller, given the smaller window of adaptation for upper body strength).  We had people drop more than 25 pounds and 5% body fat while on the program, and we had scrawny guys who gained as much as 24 pounds in the four months.  It came down to what their starting goals were, and how they attacked things nutritionally on the side.  We even had many athletes who used this program in conjunction with their sports training – from endurance competitors to rugby players – with excellent improvements.
The cool thing is that literally every single one of these “guinea pigs” made a point of noting how much better they felt; they improved mobility and moved more fluently by the end of the program.  This is a stark contrast to the aches and pains you normally see with programs geared toward performance improvements; the program not only improved performance and made people bigger, stronger, and leaner; it also helped set the stage for healthy future training.
It’s definitely a good fit for females looking to take things to the next level.  We had several females go through the program with outstanding results – and in particular, we saw a lot of girls banging out a lot of chin-ups! Here’s a testimonial.
“My fiance, Mathew, and I completed Eric’s 16-week Show and Go program in June.  We were both extremely pleased with our results. I increased my squat by 55lb, my deadlift by 33lb, my 3-rep maximum chin-up by 12lb, my bench press by 8lb and my standing jump by 7.5”- great results in just 16 weeks.
This is the first intensive strength program I have undertaken. The program will produce amazing results if you are completely committed, determined and motivated for the 16 weeks. I even managed to complete my training with international travel and demanding work pressures. Mathew was an ongoing source of support and this program highlighted the importance and value of a committed and motivated training partner.
As a female who up to three years ago focused their entire fitness regime on cardio, I highly recommend Eric’s program and his strength and conditioning expertise for maximizing strength gains and sculpting a lean physique.”

Cassandra Lees
Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea

CW: Thanks for the interview!
I give Show and Go my highest rating. It’s one of the most complete programs I’ve seen in years. If you’re ready to take your body to the next level, and fix a nagging joint or two, be sure to check out his program at $50 off HERE.
Stay Focused,


Favorite Supersets


by Eric Cressey
Supersets can help you gain more muscle in less time, but only if you know how to pair the perfect exercises.
I’ve come to realize that over the past ten years, I’ve gotten a little spoiled. Of course, there are a variety of reasons: TMUSCLE readers are some of the more educated weight-training consumers on the ‘Net; I’ve been around Division 1 athletes who have four years of strength and conditioning continuity in their lives; I’ve lifted alongside world-class powerlifters; I have a host of athletes who are completely “indoctrinated” with my training philosophies, as it’s the only thing they’ve ever known.
Yeah, I guess you could say that I’ve become a bit of a lifting snob; I’m always surrounded by people who know how to interpret my programs, leaving me to just program, coach technique, help select weights, and turn up the volume on the stereo.
I realized I was in Fantasyland, though, when my second book, Maximum Strength, was published in June of 2008.  This book, which had a bit more “mass market” flavor than the overwhelming majority of my work, was being sold online and in bookstores from Idaho to Thailand, and many of the people buying it were Average Joes who didn’t know how to interpret the programs I’d written. One question I received sticks out in my mind:
“I see the “A1 and A2” / “B1 and B2″ designations, but am not sure I understand if I’m supposed to alternate the exercises that day (for example, do a set of one-arm DB push press and then do a set of close-grip chin-up and cycle through to complete 3 sets each) or am I supposed to pick one exercise for week 1 and then choose the other exercise in week 2?”
The answer, as the overwhelming majority of TMUSCLE readers knows, is that A1 and A2 indicates a superset. You go back and forth between the two (in all weeks), and once you’ve completed A1 and A2, you move on to B1 and B2, then C1 and C2, and so on.  So, you do all the exercises in all the weeks.
The idea is pretty simple: you’re making your training more efficient.  So, rather than doing a set of bench presses and then standing around for two minutes before the next set, you superset the bench presses with a variation of rows or a flexibility exercise, for instance. You increase training density and can use the pairings to bring up weak areas.
We know supersets work; in fact, it might be one of the few things that the overwhelming majority of strength coaches and personal trainers agree on!
However, a lot of guys make poor choices (yes, even you). For instance, you’ll often see people pairing walking dumbbell lunges and chin-ups, both of which are pretty grip-intensive. As such, I thought it’d be a good time to share some of my favorite supersets so you can use them in your programs immediately.

1.  The Regular Ol’ Push-Pull Superset

This is probably where we’ve come to recognize the value of supersets more than anywhere else. Do a set of presses, and instead of just waiting 2-3 minutes to go back to another set of presses, we go to a pull in the middle of the rest period. Let’s look at what this works out to over the course of five sets, assuming a two-minute rest between sets and a set duration of thirty seconds:
Option A — Just press ‘n wait
30s set
120s rest
30s set
120s rest
30s set
120s rest
30s set
120s rest
30s set
Total Time: 10 minutes, 30 seconds
Option B — Pairing a press and a pull with a “moderate” rest between push and pull
30s set (press)
60s rest
30s set (pull)
60s rest
30s set (press)
60s rest
30s set (pull)
60s rest
30s set (press)
60s rest
30s set (pull)
60s rest
30s set (press)
60s rest
30s set (pull)
60s rest
30s set (press)
60s rest
30s set (pull)
Total Time: 14 minutes
Effectively, you’ve doubled your training density while only investing 33% more time.  And, if you cut the rest intervals down to 45s between the end of a press set and the start of the pull set, you actually keep the rest between sets of presses the same as you did in Option 1 and your total time will be down to 11 minutes, 45 seconds.  You don’t have to be an economist—or even a graduate of the 6th grade—to know that this is a wise training investment.  “More work in less time” holds merit in lifting heavy stuff just like it does in the business world.
The logical next question is, of course, what kind of “pushes” and “pulls?”  It’s a pretty easy division to make, via four categories:
1. Vertical Push (overhead pressing)
2. Vertical Pull (chin-up/pull-up variations, lat pulldowns)
3. Horizontal Push (bench press and push-up variations)
4. Horizontal (rowing variations)
Pair the vertical pushes with the vertical pulls, and horizontal pushes with the horizontal pulls.  And, if you’re feeling frisky, you can pair horizontal pushes with vertical pulls, or horizontal pulls with vertical pushes. Your imagination is the only limit.
A word of advice: you’ll never get completely perfect antagonist relationships. For example, the long head of the triceps is going to be at least somewhat active in every one of these variations because it’s both a shoulder extensor (pull-ups and rows) and an elbow extensor (all presses).
The long head of the biceps flexes both the shoulder (all presses) and elbow (pull-ups and rows) on top of contributing to shoulder joint stability in all tasks. Your rotator cuff is going crazy in all these movements. In short, consider gross movement schemes and try to avoid blatantly obvious overlap in muscle recruitment. But don’t get bogged down in minutia when selecting your pairings.

2. The “True Mark of Your Common Sense” Superset

A1) Deadlift variation
A2) Heavy panting!
I throw this in here simply because I want people to realize that not everything in your training needs to be supersetted with another exercise.  Sometimes standing around—or at the very most, doing an unrelated stretch or easy mobilization—is exactly what you want. I once heard about a trainer who supersetted back squats with stiff-leg deadlifts.  This less-than-enlightened trainer overlooked the fact that:
a) Both exercises heavily tax the posterior chain
b) Both movements absolutely destroy you  which, you know, just might compromise technique
c) Intervertebral discs—and not just muscles and the nervous system—are relaxing between sets, too
There are, however, a few ways to make the downtime between deadlift sets more productive.

3. The Stiff Ankle Superset

A1) Deadlift variation
A2) Ankle Mobilization
We do all our deadlifting variations without shoes at Cressey Performance, as this allows athletes to keep the weight on the heels to better activate the posterior chain. It also brings the lifter closer to the ground, so hip mobility deficits can’t interfere with getting down to the bar without a rounded back.
Being shoeless also lends itself well to working on some ankle mobility, as being in sneakers typically gives us a false sense of good range of motion at this joint.  Wall ankle mobilizations are one option.  Here, the goal is to keep the heel down while going into dorsiflexion (knee over toe); don’t allow the knee to deviate inward, though.

4. The Front Squat/Vertical Pull Superset

It’s a bit easier to superset squats with other movements than deadlifts, but only in specific cases like this:
A1) Front Squat Variation
A2) Vertical Pull Variation
The lats are anatomically less effective as spinal stabilizers during the front squat, which accounts for some of the discrepancy between one’s front squat and back squat.  If we’re not using them as much in stabilization for the front squat, we might as well use them for actually generating movement.
For variation, you can squat to various depths, from pins or a box, or against bands/chains.  With the vertical pull, you have several grip choices (neutral/supinated/pronated/alternate, plus different grip widths).
As you get stronger and stronger, though, pairing anything with a squat can get to be a pain in the butt.  With that in mind, one substitute we’ve used is pairing reverse lunges with a front squat grip with any of the vertical pulling variations, and just extended the rest time a bit.
You can also use any lunge variation that uses a bar (dumbbells won’t work because of the grip challenge). We use the giant cambered bar a lot.

5. The Unilateral Superset

I get quite a few questions about how to plug single-leg exercises into supersets.
A1) Single-leg Exercise — side #1
A2) Single-leg Exercise — side #2
I structure programs this way because I want people to rest between sides on these movements.  Grips falter, scapular stabilizers get fatigued, and there’s always a bit of overlap from side to side on these movements.  As such, I like to shoot for 30-45 seconds between sides, during which time people can regroup and focus on the quality of the next set instead of rushing right into it.
That said, we generally pair our lower-body work with some kind of core stability or mobility drill.  So, I guess it would technically be treated like a triset (or quad-set, if one of these drills is performed on each side).

6. The “Miserable Lower Body Experience” Superset

As I noted above, one of the problems I see with a ton of lower body supersets is that they combine complex exercises like squats and deadlifts with other fatiguing exercises and as a result, the squat and/or deadlift form becomes absolutely atrocious and potentially injurious. From my perspective, effective lower body pairings are safe, but sufficiently compound and functional enough to activate enough muscle mass and have some functional carryover to the real world.
I know most of you won’t have a sled or a glute-ham raise at your disposal, but I’m throwing this out there anyway, as it makes for a great finisher at the end of a lower body day:
A1) Reverse Sled Drags
A2) Glute-Ham Raises
The reverse sled drags are about as quad dominant as you can go, and the glute-ham raises crush the posterior chain.
Don’t have a sled or glute-ham raise set-up?  All you’ll need are a bench, a lat pulldown or seated calf raise, a pair of balls, and a good stomach. That way you can pair DB Bulgarian split squats with natural glute-ham raises.  For the latter, just set up in reverse and lock your ankles under the pads, controlling yourself down slowly and (most likely) giving yourself a push off with your arms to get back to the top.

7. The “Tony Gentilcore is a Royal A**hole” Superset

Our entire staff trains together at Cressey Performance. Usually, we take one general program and modify it individually to suit our needs. Recently, it was Tony Gentilcore’s turn to write up the monthly program, and our first superset on a Thursday lift was as follows:
A1) Bench Press Clusters: 4 x (4×2) — 10s
A2) Farmer’s Walk: 4x80yds, going as far as you can on the last set
For those of you who aren’t familiar with clusters, for 4 x (4×2) — 10s, this would be four total clusters. Each cluster consists of 4 sets of 2 reps with 10 seconds rest between sets.  The idea is that by putting these “mini-rests” between sets of 2, you can use a heavier weight for your sets than if you’d just done eight straight reps. So, training is more dense. All told, you might wind up doing 32 reps with as much as 85% of your 1-rep max.
After the cluster, of course, we went to A2, nearly vomited, and then came back to do another cluster.  There was a 25% attrition rate after the second round, and the remaining three of us made it through all four, but couldn’t lift our arms for about three days without yelping like a chihuahua giving birth.
To the naked eye (and stomach), this would just seem like torture, but whether he recognized it or not, Tony was on to something. Bench presses are a push and require some lower trap activation for a good “tucked” upper body positioning. Farmer’s walks are more of a pull and rely heavily on the upper traps.  Lower traps depress the scapula, and upper traps elevate it. Smart move.
I still hated him for it, though.

Supersetting My Closing Thoughts

A1) Your imagination is the limit to designing your own supersets. Just stick to the basics and don’t get cute.
A2) Remember that good pairings are both safe and appropriate in light of your goals (e.g., not pairing two grip intensive exercises).
B1) Don’t forget that there is absolutely a time and place for rest, and it’s usually better to “casually alternate” between sets, as opposed to racing back and forth.
B2) Just because I am showing you a way to make your training more dense and efficient does not mean that you should go ahead and start doing 50 sets per training session just so that you can continue to spend three hours in the gym. Keep it short and sweet.
C1) Good luck.
C2) Thanks for reading.
Supersetting a bench press with some kind of horizontal pull will increase your training density.

Jim Wendler Talks Big Weights

A word to the wise: don’t pair back squats with stiff-leg deadlifts.

Jim Wendler Talks Big Weights

Holding back vomit: a good way to end your set of clusters.

About the Author

Jim Wendler Talks Big Weights

Eric Cressey is a highly sought-after strength and conditioning coach and owner of Cressey Performance, just west of Boston.  Eric has worked with athletes of all levels, from youth sports to the professional and Olympic levels.  He publishes a free weekly newsletter and daily blog at
Eric’s products are available in the T-Nation store, and you can pick up a copy of his new DVD set, Optimal Shoulder Performance, at

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