Category Archives: Glute Training

Exercises You’ve Never Tried: Hamstring and Glute Edition

Exercises You've Never Tried Before: Hamstring and Glute Edition

I’m a sucker for lower body training, so I’m going to share some cool exercises for you that focus primarily on the lower half of the back side of the body, namely the glutes and hamstrings.
Every-day gym rats often ignore these muscles because they can’t see them in their favorite bathroom mirror cell phone picture. But before you build an 8-day-a-week program devoted to chest, shoulders, arms, and abs, remember that just because you can’t see them, doesn’t mean other people can’t. Nobody likes a flat ass.
To build appreciable muscle mass or just get generally cockstrong, it all starts with the foundation.

The Posterior Chain

The posterior chain begins with deadlifts, Romanian deadlifts (RDL), and glute-ham raises. What if you can’t deadlift due to a back injury? Or if your gym doesn’t have a glute-raise apparatus? What if you’re just flat-out sick of what you’re doing and need a change?
Here are some cool exercises to spice things up.

1. Split Stance RDL

The single-leg RDL is an awesome exercise, but until you get the hang of it and master the balancing aspect, it can feel more like a sobriety test than a viable way to get stronger and add muscle.
Enter the split stance RDL.

I’d classify this as hybrid between a traditional RDL and a true single-leg RDL. If you do these correctly, the front leg should do the majority of the work and handle most of the loading, while the rear leg provides stability so you don’t topple over like an 18-year-old girl on 99-cent shooter night.
You can easily adjust the difficulty of the exercise by altering your setup.

Start with your feet fairly wide and bring in your stance as you feel more comfortable. I like to set up with the toes of the rear foot even with the heel of the front foot. A closer stance also allows for a more natural hip hinge without torqueing the pelvis.
Strive to keep as little weight as possible on the rear leg. You’ll need to be hyper vigilant with yourself at first as you adjust to the movement.
This can be used as a good progression to work towards a true single leg RDL, or as a way to get a unilateral training effect with heavier loads since stability is not as much of an issue.

2. Eccentric One-Leg RDL

Exercises You've Never Tried Before: Hamstring and Glute Edition

This variation requires more stability than the split stance RDL, but still less than a true single-leg RDL. Do a single-leg RDL on the eccentric, then put the other foot down and pick the weight up using either a conventional deadlift or a traditional bilateral RDL, your choice.

Like the split stance RDL, this can be used as a progression to work towards single-leg RDLs. For more advanced lifters, it offers an interesting unilateral training effect by allowing the eccentric component to be overloaded with greater loads than would be possible if you did the entire movement on one leg.
One of the big keys to mastering the single leg RDL is to remember that both legs still need to work. The “non-working” leg shouldn’t just dangle passively; instead, squeeze the glute of the “up” leg and actively reach the foot back as you hinge at the hips, just as you would in a bilateral RDL. This will not only help you stabilize your torso but will also ensure that you maintain a neutral spine.
However, you should only try this variation if you have the hip mobility and hamstring flexibility to descend all the way until the bar reaches the floor without rounding your lower back as it’s awkward and potentially dangerous to transition from one to two legs with the bar in midair. If that’s not possible, it’s probably best to try something else.

3. Single-Leg Barbell RDL/Row Combo

Here’s one on the other end of the stability continuum. Like the name suggests, it’s a single-leg RDL combined with a barbell row.

We could technically call this a Pendlay row since the torso is parallel to the floor and each rep is performed from a dead stop. I’m generally not a fan of barbell rows because they tend to get sloppy and deteriorate into a sort of ballistic row/upright row/shrug mess.
However, in this case, the nature of the exercise helps to keep your form tight because if you try to cheat, you’ll lose your balance. Fact is, because this exercise is so technically demanding, it will immediately expose any form flaws, meaning there’s no way to do it other than correctly.
It certainly ain’t for beginners, but if you can pull it off, it’s an incredibly effective and efficient exercise that allows you to hammer the entire posterior chain at once. Furthermore, if you develop the stability required to do these well, regular single-leg RDLs will feel like a breeze when you go back to them and your numbers should skyrocket.

4. Paused Hip Thrusters

Exercises You've Never Tried Before: Hamstring and Glute Edition

My good friend and fellow T Nation contributor, Bret “The Glute Guy” Contreras, has already written extensively about the hip thrust on this site, so I won’t rehash what he’s already said. If you want to learn more about it, read this.
I have to admit, when Bret first introduced this exercise, I wasn’t sure if he was being serious or if it was some sort of sick joke. I resisted trying them for a while because they looked a little ridiculous and I figured my glutes were getting enough work from squats, deadlifts, and single-leg work anyway.
That said, I’m a big believer in the adage, “don’t knock it til you try it,” so eventually I broke down and gave it a shot. Right away I could see what all the hoopla was about. I’ve never felt such a big contraction in my glutes before, and the nice thing is that the following day they don’t leave you feeling like you spent the night in prison the way squats and lunges often do.
The biggest problem I see with this exercise is that many guys try to use too much weight and fail to reach full hip extension at the top, instead opting for lumbar hyperextension. This is not only an ineffective way to work the glutes, it’s also extremely dangerous for the lower back.
To make sure this doesn’t happen, I recommend pausing each rep at the top for 1-3 seconds to keep you honest and ensure the glutes are doing the work. If that’s not possible, the weight is too heavy. You may need to drop it down slightly from what you’re used to, but so what? Last time I checked, there’s no such thing as a hip thrust competition.

You’ll notice in the video I’m using a curved buffalo bar. This isn’t essential by any means, but if you have one already, it’ll make it much easier to roll the bar into position. If you don’t have a buffalo bar, you can also try elevating the plates on small risers.
If you’re worried about looking foolish, get over yourself. You never know, maybe that cute cardio bunny you’ve been eyeing will take notice of your thrusting prowess and start up a conversation.

5. Single-Leg Hip Thrusters

Exercises You've Never Tried Before: Hamstring and Glute Edition

Once you feel comfortable with regular hip thrusts, you can try the single-leg version, which is a great advanced progression to challenge unilateral hip extension and rotary stability.
The downside to this exercise is that it can be tricky to add external load. You can drape chains over your waist or jerry-rig bands to provide some resistance, but at a certain point you’ll need to use a barbell to keep challenging yourself.
The trouble with that is if you set up with the bar centered evenly over your hips like you would in a bilateral hip thrust, the bar will tilt and slide all over the place. Instead, center the bar over the leg you’re trying to work, meaning that if you’re working the left leg, you’ll want to set up with the bar a little left of center.

Even if you’re able to do loaded bilateral hip thrusters, don’t just jump right to loading the single-leg version without mastering it with your bodyweight first because it’s significantly more difficult and has a very different feel to it.

6. Pull-up Inverted Row Hip Thruster Combo

This is an awesome exercise with a sucky name.
I thought long and hard about trying to come up with something catchy to do it justice, like Mega Thrusters, Ladykillers, or Bruno Bootymakers, but in the end I ended up copping out and going with something boring and just calling it exactly what it is: a pull-up, an inverted row, and a hip thruster all rolled into one. If you can think of anything better, I’m open to suggestions.

For those of you big on training economy, it doesn’t get much better than this. No muscles on the back side of your body are left unscathed.
For the upper body, it starts as a vertical pull and finishes as a horizontal pull. I strongly recommend using some sort of suspension training system (TRX, rings, blast straps, etc.) to allow your shoulders to rotate naturally and to increase the contraction in your upper back, but if you don’t have anything, a bar will work just fine.
For the lower body, this works both the glutes and hamstrings through an extremely large range of motion. Through EMG research, Bret Contreras found that increasing the range of motion of a hip thruster by elevating both the feet and shoulders increased both glute and hamstring activation when compared to the floor version.
Bret obviously didn’t test this variation specifically since I just thought it up, but considering the range of motion is greater than anything he tested, it stands to reason that these may be even better. Regardless, after experimenting with them extensively, I don’t need a device to tell me that these totally kick ass (pun intended).
You’ll need to elevate your feet on something higher than a standard bench to get the full effect of the hip thruster portion of the exercise. Ideally you’d start with your feet approximately level with your shoulders and your knees slightly bent so that your torso is parallel to the floor at the top of the rep.
If you’re feeling especially frisky, try doing them one leg at a time. This is my personal favorite.

7. Dumbbell Leg Curls (Hips Off Bench)

Exercises You've Never Tried Before: Hamstring and Glute Edition

I love dumbbell leg curls (essentially a lying leg curl with a dumbbell between your feet). Back in college when I used to lift in an insanely busy school gym, I’d take a bench and a dumbbell out into the stairwell to escape the crowds. I like them more than machine leg curls because they don’t require any specialized equipment, they’re portable, and you have the added challenge of squeezing the dumbbell between your feet, which brings the adductors and calves into play.
To make an already good exercise even better, try setting up with your entire legs hanging off the bench. The goal is to maintain a straight line from your head to your knees and hold that position throughout the entirety of the set.

These may look simple enough, but they’re friggin brutal. The glutes have to kick into overdrive to keep proper alignment and keep the hips from sagging, so you get more bang for your buck than a traditional machine leg curl.
Don’t expect to use much weight on this one. I can handle a 110-pound dumbbell for 15 reps with regular dumbbell leg curls with my thighs on the bench, but once I hang my legs off the bench, I struggle to get even 6-8 reps with just 25 pounds.
Keep your ankles plantarflexed and point your toes while you do these (a good tip for machine leg curls as well). Also, stop just short of full extension at the bottom of each rep to keep constant tension on the hamstrings.
The burn and pump you’ll get from these is diabolical. Consider yourself warned.

8. Single Leg Eccentric Stability Ball Leg Curls

I don’t use the stability ball much, but I like it for leg curls. The beauty of this exercise compared to a machine leg curl is that the glutes must fire to keep the hips extended while the hamstrings work to resist knee extension during the eccentric component and flex the knee during the concentric component.
This simultaneous hip extension and knee flexion also makes it a great progression to work towards doing glute-ham raises.
The problem with stability ball leg curls is that it’s hard to progress since you can’t really add weight. You can switch to the single-leg version, but I’ve never had good luck with that as the heel has a tendency to shift around, which causes the ball to roll awkwardly and kills the rhythm of the set.
Instead, I prefer using two legs for the concentric portion to curl the ball in and one leg for the eccentric. Alternate legs each rep to enhance the rotary stability component.

The key here is to keep your hips raised throughout the entire set. Put another way, you should have a straight line going from your knees to your neck at all times.
If you watch how most people do this exercise, you’ll notice their hips sagging, especially during the concentric phase of the rep. In my mind, that makes the exercise almost useless. If you can’t do it correctly, regress to an easier version of hip lifts without the leg curl and build up your glute strength first.
Once you can knock out six reps on each leg with this variation, you should be all set to rock out glute-ham raises like a boss. If you don’t have a glute-ham raise, this is a good substitute.

It’s On You Now

I don’t want you to go overboard with tweaking things and forget about the basics, but I also realize that after you’ve been training long enough, you start to get bored with doing the same old stuff all the time.
I hope that by showing you some new exercises, it’ll reignite that enthusiasm for working the posterior chain and make training fun again. After all, that is the point, right?
Remember though, I can show you the exercises, but I can’t do the work for you. Now it’s on you to work your ass off. Or better yet, work it on.

The Contreras Files: Volume I

Volume I

glute exercises

To say I’m a workaholic is like saying Tiger Woods has commitment issues. Through all the lifting, training, reading, and researching that I do, I’m constantly being exposed to and coming up with new ideas.
This column will introduce T Nation readers to just some of what I happen to stumble upon every day, in no particular order of importance. The typical lifter, athlete, personal trainer, strength coach, or physical therapist is bound to find something useful in this article.

1. Low Load Glute Activation is Legit

One thing I love about T Nation is that often the best coaches in the world are years ahead of the research. You might remember Mike Robertson and Eric Cressey writing about glute activation as early as 2004. I can remember thinking, “Why in the hell would I do some silly Jane Fonda exercises?”
When other top coaches including Mark Verstegen, Mike Boyle, and Martin Rooney started recommending glute activation, I could no longer ignore their advice. I got down on the floor and got my bridge, clam, and bird dog on and immediately recognized the potential in these simple movement patterns.
And thus began a love affair unparalleled by any other. Some guys have pictures of their girlfriend on their nightstand. Me? A picture of some glutes with a bouquet of roses stuck in-between the cheeks.
Kidding. But I do keep my eyes and ears open for new glute research. Case in point:
Australian researchers recently put 22 professional Australian Football League (AFL) players through three different warm-up protocols:

  • Standing on a whole body vibration platform for 45 seconds at 30 Hz.
  • A 5-7 minute, 7-glute exercise routine consisting of glute bridges, side lying clams, quadruped hip extensions, side lying hip abductions, prone single leg hip extensions, fire hydrants, and stability ball wall squats.
  • A control group.

The researchers found that during a countermovement jump, the whole body vibration group fared 2.4% group, while the glute activation group outperformed the control group in peak power by 4.2%, along with outperforming the whole body vibration group by 6.6% (Buttifant et al. 2011.).
glute exercises
My conclusion is that you’d be wise to include some low load glute activation work in your warm-ups. Remember, the purpose of glute activation isn’t to “rep-out” or “max-out,” but to groove proper motor patterns and focus on getting the glutes working efficiently. Ten high-quality repetitions of each exercise is all you need.

2. Cue the Glutes!

glute exercises

Speaking of glute activation, Cara Lewis and Shirley Sahrmann tested the gluteal activation of a prone hip extension exercise (Lewis and Sahrmann 2009). They showed that compared to no cueing, simply uttering the phrase, “Use your glutes to lift your leg while keeping your hamstrings relaxed,” resulted in over double the gluteus maximus activation and caused the gluteus maximus to fire quicker in hip extension.
Based on my experience as a trainer, most beginners suck at using their glutes.

3. Lifters vs. Weaklings – Lumbopelvic Rhythm

glute exercises

After a couple of months of training with me, my clients always tell me that their backs feel stronger and better than ever. Is it due to increased hip mobility, or is it core stability? Maybe it’s just increased glute strength? Perhaps it’s due to improved fundamental movement patterns? Or is it a case of all of the above?
In his book Low Back Disorders, Stu McGill discusses the mythical lumbopelvic rhythm pattern explained in textbooks – supposedly the first 60° of bending is accomplished by flexing the lumbar spine while the remaining flexion takes place at the hips (McGill page 74). While most individuals bend with a blend of spinal, pelvic, and hip motion, weightlifters possess unique movement patterns at the hip. Stu states that:

Of course, Olympic weightlifters are better at hip hinging than normal individuals, but the importance of this information is that the movement patterns developed in the weight room transfer over to everyday life.
Here’s my man Tony Gentilcore demonstrating proper hip hinge patterning with a dowel.

4. Powerlifters vs. Olympic Weightlifters – Hip and Knee Moments During Squatting Tasks

Swedish researchers measured the hip and knee moments of six powerlifters and eight Olympic weightlifters during parallel and deep squats (Wretenberg et al. 1996). The results were intriguing: during deep squats powerlifters exhibited 41% higher hip extension moments and 37% less knee extension moments compared to weighlifters, and during parallel squats the powerlifters exhibited 43% higher hip extension moments and 42% less knee extension moments than weightlifters.
This study shows that during squatting tasks, powerlifters use a low-bar position, sit back more, and use their powerful hips to a greater degree than weightlifters, whereas weightlifters use a high-bar position, stay more upright, and use their powerful knee joints to a greater degree than powerlifters.
Maximum sports performance requires strong hips and knees

5. Bench Press and Lateral Forces on the Bar

Wonder why the bench press elicits more triceps activity than a dumbbell bench press? A new study out of Penn State showed that the lateral forces exerted on the bar equaled roughly 25% of the vertical forces (Duffey and Challis 2011).
Ten men and eight women were tested in the bench press and the total vertical forces totaled on average 187 pounds of force whereas the lateral forces applied to the bar totaled on average 53 pounds of force. With these proportions, a 600-pound bench presser would be exerting around 150 pounds of outward pressure on the bar throughout the movement.
If you’ve listened to Dave Tate over the years and learned to use your triceps while benching, chances are your lateral forces are even higher than 25% of the vertical forces.
This extra work is simply a byproduct of the prime mover’s maximal contractions against the barbell – which isn’t possible with the dumbbell bench press as the dumbbells would split apart and result in a failed lift.

6. Elite Fitness Glute Ham Raise

glute exercises

I’ve traveled the world and performed glute ham raises with over twenty different glute ham developers. In a nutshell, 99% of glute ham developers suck. Instead of feeling smooth, the lift usually feels awkward and unproductive.
That is, . If you’ve never performed a glute ham raise off of an Elifefts model, then you can’t possibly imagine the exercise’s effectiveness, as chances are the one you’re using pales in comparison.
Sometimes I wonder if equipment manufacturers even work out or understand biomechanics. Big props to Elitefts for spending the necessary time getting the design right.

7. Crunch Like This

Research out of Stanford University from 1979 showed that a sit-up exhibited 38 degrees of lumbar flexion, but a crunch where only the scapulae are lifted off the ground exhibited only 3 degrees of lumbar flexion (Halpern and Bleck 1979).
Given that the lumbar spine has between 40-73 degrees of ROM in males and 40-68 degrees of ROM in females (Troke et al. 2005), I think it’s safe to say that this type of crunch remains in the neutral zone for the lumbar spine.
If you limit the lumbar ROM and use a controlled tempo, it makes the exercise much more challenging and you’ll no longer be able to bust out hundreds of repetitions.
Control the tempo and accentuate the negative portion of the exercise. I discuss this further in the video below:

To prevent hyperkyphotic postural adaptations in the thoracic spine, make sure you perform thoracic mobility drills and include plenty of exercises to strengthen the erectors.
For example, some mobility drills include thoracic extensions off a foam roller and quadruped thoracic extension and rotation, while some strength training exercises include squats, deadlifts, bent over rows, and farmer’s walks.

8. Four to Six Weeks to Harden Up

glute exercises

When I was 18 years old, I was in the gym quarter-squatting 275 pounds with a pad around the bar. A giant behemoth of a man walked up behind me and told me to back down to 135 and squat down deep to the floor like a real man and quit using the pussy pad. Thankfully I took his advice and never looked back.
I can remember using the bar pad because squatting freakin’ hurt my back. The pressure was overwhelming. After ditching the bar pad, it took around four weeks to stop hurting.
When I started front squatting, the same scenario occurred – it hurt. But I stuck with it and a month later I could no longer feel any pain. Zercher squats took a bit longer to quit hurting – around six weeks – as did hook grip deadlifts. Just recently I started hip thrusting without a bar pad and it hurt like hell. I’ve been doing this for a month and it no longer hurts.
Just remember, what seems like torture today in a month will feel like a hot oil massage from a pair of busty Asian masseuses. I kid you not.

9. Resistance Training vs. Stretching for Flexibility Gains

Many long-term lifters have noticed that they don’t have to stretch much to maintain their flexibility. Fact is, many of us have noted superior flexibility gains from weight training compared to stretching.
In the past few years, several studies have emerged showing that resistance training increases flexibility (Monteiro et al. 2008; Santos et al. 2010). This isn’t surprising, but some have shown (Aquino et al. 2010, Simao et al. 2010; Morton et al. 2011; Nelson and Bandy 2004).
I’m a fan of doing all sorts of things for improved mobility and soft tissue functioning such as foam rolling and static stretching. But know that full range of motion resistance training is one of the best things you can do to increase and maintain mobility.
Just make sure your programs are well-designed, as structural balance is critical for postural and functional adaptations. To add icing on the cake, make sure you foam roll, stretch, and perform mobility and activation drills.

10. Broz Mentality – The “Shoot Your Family” Scenario

glute exercises

I’m a big John Broz fan. When I met him at his Las Vegas facility he said something that really hit home. He told me to envision someone capturing my family and informing me that they were going to shoot all of them unless I put a hundred pounds on my squat in one month. Then he asked me how often I would squat if this actually happened, and followed up with this gem: “Something tells me you’d squat more than twice per week.”
I like to think of this scenario for a variety of purposes in strength and conditioning. What if you had to put an inch on your arms in one month without gaining any weight? Something tells me you’d perform some curls and triceps extensions. What if you needed your abs to be the strongest they ever were? Something tells me you’d perform dynamic spinal movements and not just core stability exercises.


I hope you enjoyed my ramblings and perhaps picked up something useful you can use in your own training.
In summary:

  • Activate the glutes
  • Learn to sit back and hinge properly at the hips
  • Learn to use the triceps properly for maximum bench press performance
  • Buy an Elitefts glute ham developer if you want a real GHD
  • Limit your lumbar ROM when you crunch
  • Know that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel for dealing with pain from barbell pressure on new movements as they only take a month or so to get accustomed to
  • Perform full ROM resistance training for maximum flexibility
  • Pick a new goal each month and attack it with purpose.

See you next month!


Aquino CF, Fonseca ST, Goncalves GGP, Silva PLP, Ocarino JM, Mancini MC. Stretching versus strength training in lengthened position in subjects with tight hamstring muscles: A randomized controlled trial. Manual Therapy. 15(1) 26-31, 2010.
Buttifant, D, Crow, J, Kearney, S, and Hrysomallis, C. Whole-body vibration vs. gluteal muscle activation: What are the acute eff ects on explosive power? Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 25: S14–S15, 2011.
Duffey, MJ and Challis, JH. Vertical and lateral forces applied to the bar during the bench press in novice lifters. J Strength Cond Res. 2011. 25(9): 2442–2447.
Halpern, AA and Bleck EE. Sit up exercises: an electromyography study. Clin Orthop Relat Res. 1979. 145:172-8.
Lewis CL, Sahrmann SA. Muscle activation and movement patterns during prone hip extension exercise in women. J Athl Train. 2009. 44(3): 238–248.
McGill, S.M. Low back disorders: Evidence based prevention and rehabilitation, Human Kinetics Publishers, Champaign, IL, U.S.A., 2002.
Monteiro WD, Simão R, Polito MD, Santana CA, Chaves RB, Bezerra E, Fleck SJ. Influence of strength training on adult women’s flexibility. J Strength Cond Res. 2008;22(3):672-7.
Morton SK, Whitehead JR, Brinkert RH, Caine DJ. Resistance Training vs. Static Stretching: Effects on Flexibility and Strength. J Strength Cond Res. 2011 Sep 30. [Epub ahead of print]
Nelson RT, Bandy WD. Eccentric Training and Static Stretching Improve Hamstring Flexibility of High School Males. Journal of Athletic Training. 2004;39:254–258.
Santos E, Rhea MR, Simão R, Dias I, de Salles BF, Novaes J, Leite T, Blair JC, Bunker DJ. Influence of moderately intense strength training on flexibility in sedentary young women. J Strength Cond Res. 2010;24(11):3144-9.
Simão R, Lemos A, Salles B, Leite T, Oliveira É, Rhea M, Reis VM. The influence of strength, flexibility, and simultaneous training on flexibility and strength gains. J Strength Cond Res. 2011;25(5):1333-8.
Troke M, Moore AP, Maillardet FJ, Cheek E. A normative database of lumbar spine range of motion. Manual Therapy. 2005. 10:198-206.
Wretenberg P, Feng Y, Arborelius UP. High and low bar squatting techniques during weight-training. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1996. 28(2)218-24.


>Fix Your Front Squat


Fix Your Front Squat

Fix Your Front Squat

When most lifters boast online about their Herculean squat numbers, I’d guess that 80 percent or more are referring to back squats.
It’s the most popular squat variation in the world – and I’ll be the first to give it the credit it deserves – but there are times when it might be advantageous to give your traps a break and incorporate front squats.
So why does the front squat so often get thrown under the bus? For one thing, front squats are hard work, something that many commercial gym heroes tend to avoid like egg yolks and body hair. Since moving heavy weight for the cell phone camera is priority number one for your typical egocentric meathead, most stay in their comfort zone and bang out leg presses, leg extensions, and sordid half-rep back squat perversions, complete with more mid-set grunting and groaning than a porn casting.
After all, they reason, what can you get from front squats that you can’t get from back squats? Good question.

Why Should I Be Doing Front Squats?

Front squats will do three things if you do them correctly:
  • Increase depth achieved
  • Improve core strength
  • Activate glutes
When a barbell is loaded on the front of the body, the pelvis gets to tilt backwards somewhat, which makes the hamstrings less taut. This gives them the freedom to allow a greater ROM at the bottom of the lift. This pelvic tilt also allows the lower abs to contribute to the lift more, and takes the hip flexors away from “blocking” the movement.
So, just like a goblet squat, you get a hell of a lot lower then you do in a back squat. The torso also gets to stay more upright, which requires the obliques to provide stability.
Finally, due to the tremendous knee extension involved, the front squat is rightly seen as a major quad developer. Since the thighs drop far below parallel to the floor, it’s safe to say that hip flexion is greatly increased too, forcing the glutes to assist the concentric half of the lift.
With all of these kick-ass benefits, it seems like a no-brainer that front squats should make a regular appearance in a typical program.

Why You Suck At Front Squats

Other than the obvious (you aren’t doing them enough), there are a few things that limit lifters from achieving a decent front squat.

Your Abs Aren’t Strong Enough

Front squats require considerable core involvement. You’d do well to incorporate some exercises for anti – extension (to prevent overarch) and oblique work so they function well as stabilizers.

Ab wheel rollouts OR Blast Strap fallouts

Fix Your Front Squat

Suitcase deadlift OR Paloff press

Fix Your Front Squat
These are a few of what I consider to be staple movements to improve the function of the abdominals and wake them up for the real stuff.

Your Elbows Won’t Stay High Enough

The goal should be to keep the elbows pointing as far upwards as possible to promote parallel lines between the upper arm and the floor at all times.
If you’ve noticed that every time you front squat your elbows start pointing towards the floor after only two reps, causing you to rack the weight prematurely, there’s a reason for that.
In this case, the first thing to do would be to activate your rotator cuff. If these small muscles aren’t playing their part in externally rotating the upper arm, your elbows will drop faster than Tiger Woods’ “Just Do It” promo.
Luckily, there are a couple of things you can do to remedy that problem.

Face pulls

Seated dumbbell external rotation

You Can’t Stand Tall

Proper thoracic extension is very important for front squats, as the Turtleback syndrome affects many when they have to bear a front load.
Take a barbell and perform a set of five front squats. Do you notice your mid-back rolling like the Andes? Have someone watch you if you have any doubts.
Either way, there are a few simple fixes.
  • PNF intercostal stretch
  • Foam roller extensions
  • Trap – 3 raises
(See this article for examples of all three)
Something to keep in mind though – studies have shown that after the sixth rep of a typical set of front squats or front loaded work, the rhomboids begin fatiguing and can no longer hold a constant isometric. For this reason, try to keep sets of front squats towards the lower end of the repetition continuum.

Getting a Grip

Many lifters will use the “California” style or cross-armed grip on the bar to allow it to rest on the shoulders when performing a front squat. Big mistake. Since one elbow stays higher than the other on a cross-armed grip, under substantial load, it can act against proper structural alignment of the shoulders, and has the potential to refer imbalances right through to the hips and knees.
For this reason, I highly recommend using a clean grip, which also has better carryover to proper techniques involved with any Olympic lifts as well as overhead pressing. It may feel uncomfortable at first, but remember to keep a proud chest and get those elbows up!
It’s okay to remove a finger or two from under the bar (I like to remove my thumb and pinky finger as it helps take stress off the wrists and allows for the elbows to stay up). Otherwise, make sure the lats, triceps, and forearms get a good stretch before beginning. (See picture below.)

Fix Your Front Squat

The Cues

Here are some basic tips to look out for when doing front squats.
  • Keep the toes pointed slightly outwards, and make sure knees track in the direction the toes point
  • Keep the chest up proud
  • Elbows high at all times
  • Hinge from the hips, and let the glutes fire to come back up
  • Press through the full foot, keeping the heel on the ground
  • Breathe deep on the eccentric, and hold full of air at the bottom to increase intra-abdominal pressure
  • Don’t panic – the legs have loads of fight – or – flight in them. You’ll get out of the hole!

Lifters Who Should Be All Over Front Squats

Tall Lifters. It’s asking a lot of someone who’s over six feet to get far below parallel during a back squat. Front loading allows the center of gravity to shift backwards slightly, and unloads the low back and hips enough for them to achieve this depth. Your chicken legs may be due to lack of back squatting depth.
Lifters With Tight Hamstrings. As noted, a front load will make the hamstrings less taut, and therefore promote more range of motion during the negative phase of the squat.

Getting Out of The “Embarrassing” Category

If these pointers alone don’t substantially improve your front squat, I’ve put together a cool quasi-workout that serves as a good tool to bring up your fronts.
Think of this as a “front squat conditioning” workout. The goal is to get the abs firing correctly, get the upper back tight, and start practicing the movement properly and under decent load.
Begin by foam rolling and static stretching hip flexors, hamstrings, glutes, and lats.

Front squat workout

Exercise Reps % 1RM
A Front squat 6 70%
B Ab wheel rollout 12
Foam roller extensions *
C Front squat 5 80%
D Stomach-up pull-ups 6-8
E Front squat 4 80%
F Trap-3 raises 12 per arm
PNF intercostal stretch
G Front squat 4 80%
H DB external rotations 12 per arm
I Front squat 4 80%
This mini-workout will take 20 minutes to get through. You’ll notice reps are kept low, as are intensities. The reason for this is the abdominals and upper back muscles are being hit with direct exercises to mildly fatigue them between each set of front squats. Loading aggressively could be inviting injury. An elevated heart rate – thanks to the 90-second rest interval – will allow practicing keeping the elbows high and chest up while slightly fatigued.
There’s nothing fancy-shmancy about this workout, and it doesn’t even need to replace a real leg workout. Chances are you won’t be too sore the next day, either. This workout can find its home on a supplementary day for a few weeks.

Squatting to Oblivion!

Adding load to the body effectively trains muscle, of course. Contrary to popular belief, though, the answer isn’t always throwing on heavier and heavier weight. You’d be surprised how added ROM, improved technique, or a bit of both can be game-changers for tapping into sleepy motor units or just plain increasing difficulty.
Moreover, they just may be the missing link to make you the guy whose chicken legs flew the coop.


The Texas Method

There are many advantages to being a young man. The problem is that you’re young and you don’t know it, and probably won’t know it until it’s too late to do anything about it.
If I could go back and do it over again, there are several things I’d do differently. I’d spend more time on my calculus homework. I’d drink better beer. I’d spend less time trying to date more women and spend more time trying to get other things accomplished. And I’d apply a few simple things I’ve since learned about training to my own program.
It’s obvious to me now, 35 years removed, that I didn’t take advantage of the simple ability a young man has to physically stress himself hard, recover from it relatively easily, and then stress himself again — and thus rapidly accumulate the effects of training and recovery in a somewhat linear fashion.
If I had this wisdom back then, I’d have just done a simple program of squats, benches, overhead presses, deadlifts, and cleans, going up a little bit every time I trained, three days per week, until I was much bigger and stronger — or until this simple program quit working.
In other words, I would’ve used the program outlined in my book, Starting Strength, for as long as it delivered consistent, significant results. Please keep in mind that I’m not going to describe a program for beginners in this article; quite the contrary, it’s for intermediate to advanced lifters.
However, I need to make some points from Starting Strength.

The Novice Effect

Let’s first review why the simple linear progression described in Starting Strength is the ideal choice for novices.
Young men adapt quickly if they’re stressed, fed, and rested enough. I learned this simple programming fact from running a gym for decades, showing everybody how to use the barbell exercises and watching what happened to them.
It’s called the novice effect: guys who’ve started out with a simple program, approached it diligently and intelligently, and have gained 30-40 pounds of useful bodyweight in just a few months while more than doubling their strength and power.

The Novice Effect In Action

The driving force behind the power of the novice effect is simplicity. Trainees added 10 pounds at first, and then 5 pounds to their squat and deadlift every time they trained the exercise. Similarly, they added 5 pounds at first, and then 1, 2, or 3 pounds to their bench press, overhead press, and power clean every time they trained the exercise.
They didn’t do much else in the beginning; no other exercises except chin-ups and maybe some curls. They didn’t run, they didn’t waste time in front of the dumbbell rack, and they didn’t do a bunch of sit-ups or planks or anything with a cable, wobble board, or Bosu ball.
But the ability to adapt to this quickly and this thoroughly doesn’t last long and begins to slow down the moment you start to get stronger, imperceptibly at first, and then more rapidly as you approach the limits of your capacity to recover from each increasingly difficult workout.
The rotten, irritating, sorry-ass fact is that as you approach your genetically predetermined physical limitations, it becomes harder to make progress. This is the principle of diminishing returns and we observe this throughout nature and throughout our lives.
The first improvements are easy and cheap, and the more improvement you want, the longer it takes and the more it costs. But if you don’t take advantage of the opportunity while you have it, you leave things undone, and perhaps undoable later.
Let’s say that you were wise enough to take advantage of your youth and put in five good months of simple linear progression. You ignored the fools who told you that undulating periodization was “The Way To Go,” and you made the best, most rapid, and most important progress you’ll ever make in the weight room — and now you’re committed enough to the potential of barbell training that you’re willing to do the hard work that comes next.

What’s Next?

Next comes more progress, of course, but at a slower pace. You’re now strong enough that each workout represents a stress that takes longer to recover from. You’re lifting weights that are heavy enough that your increases in load take place every week instead of every workout, three times per week.
This means that progress is one-third the pace it was previously; it also means that it has the potential to occur for a longer period of time, if you’re diligent.
Balancing the higher stress of the increasing loads is the fact that not only has your strength improved, but your ability to recover has improved with it so that you can use more tonnage at a higher intensity.
The fact is, it’s necessary to subject the body to increasing amounts of stress at a level that challenges recovery ability so that the adaptations continue to occur. But since these are now higher-intensity efforts that more fully tax the system, they require longer periods of time to recover from.
If we design the program correctly, we can plan workouts that place optimum stress in the optimum pattern to continue the adaptive drive of the program for a long time: A high level of tonnage-stress early in the week, a lighter workout in the middle to aid in recovery — “active rest” it’s sometimes called — and then a higher-intensity lower-volume workout at the end of the week.
Stresses of different types and adequate recovery from the stress are in balance if the program is to work for an extended period of time. We call the program The Texas Method, because we are in Texas and it’s a Method — a very good one that has proven itself for years.

Enter The Texas Method

In its basic form, the workout consists of a volume day for the major lifts on Monday, a lighter recovery/variety day on Wednesday, and a high-intensity day on Friday for the major lifts. The days can obviously vary based on your schedule, but the pattern of rest days and work days is important.

Monday — Volume Day

 Sets of 5 reps across (the same weight repeated for the work sets) has proven to be the optimum combination of volume and intensity.
Higher reps require a weight that’s simply too light, while lower reps with a heavier weight don’t have optimum volume and cause too much structural stress. Many people have tweaked the sets and reps, and time after time they come back to 5 sets of 5 across as the best driver of long-term progress.
 The weight should be such that all five sets of all five reps can be finished without more than 8-10 minutes rest between sets. For most people, this works out to about 90% of 5RM.
For example, if your 5-rep max squat is 345, then 315 x 5 x 5 would be Monday’s squat workout. The bench press and the overhead press respond this way also; alternate between one exercise and the other each Monday for 5 x 5 with about 90% of 5RM.
However, deadlifts are another story. There is no volume day for deadlifts, because deadlifts are too hard — you can’t recover from them if you do more than one heavy set. (This is especially true if you’re doing 5 x 5 squats, too.)
Experience with this has shown that it’s best to do just one heavy set of five deadlifts on Monday, after squats and benches or overhead presses are finished. It won’t be a “true” 5RM, since it follows all the squat work, but it should increase every week.
For those of you keeping score, this makes Monday a real bastard of a workout, and that’s the point: it sets up the rest of the week for recovery and a focus on intensity in Friday’s workout.
 If it were up to me, I’d limit any assistance exercises to some briefarm work on Monday. I’d also limit any excessive weekend frivolity that might affect the workout, like staying up all night Saturday chasing pussy with your wingman, Jim Beam.
 It should start right after the last set of the workout. At this level of training intensity, it’s imperative that you eat and sleep with both sufficient quality and quantity — The Texas Method will overtrain your ass very quickly if you don’t pay attention to recovery.
 You don’t get big and strong from lifting weights — you get big and strong from recovering from lifting weights. Don’t fail to pay attention to this, or Monday’s workout will murder the rest of the week and you’ll get stuck.

Wednesday — Recovery Day

Recovery continues with Wednesday’s workout. Squats are 80% of Monday’s work weight for 2 sets of 5. Benches and overhead presses alternate: if you did overhead presses on Monday for 5 x 5, benches are done Wednesday with 3 sets of a little lighter weight than the last 5 x 5 bench press so that you can feel the load but not so much that it taps into recovery.
Recovery day overhead presses done on Wednesday are a little heavier, relative to 5RM, than the recovery-day benches, since their absolute load is lighter anyway. Finish the workout with chin-ups and back extensions; I like 3 sets to failure for chins, with five minutes between sets, and 5 sets of 10 back extensions or glute/ham raises.

Friday — Intensity Day

Friday is intensity day. It focuses the tonnage from Monday into a new 5RM, or within 2% of it to allow for training-quality technique. Do most of your warm-up work light, first with the empty bar and then 135, and then take doubles or singles up to your one work set, the one that should give you a new 5RM.
Make sure that the load is higher than Monday but not so much that form breaks down on the last reps. If it does, you picked the wrong weight.

Friday Options

* Since deadlifts were done on Monday, Friday is power clean/power snatch day. The Olympic lifts are the best way to train explosiveness and athleticism under the bar, while allowing you to increase your power in a way that’s incrementally programmable.
Dynamic Effort work has become popular as another way to do this, and using explosive deadlifts on Friday would be a way to incorporate DE into the Texas Method, but the Olympic weightlifting-derived power clean and power snatch represents a different level of neuromuscular activity.
Keep in mind that deadlifts are pulled fast because you want to pull them fast; power cleans are pulled fast because you have to pull them fast or they won’t rack on the shoulders.
The explosive aspect of a clean is actually minimal since the explosion is inherent in the top of the movement. Cleans and snatches are both lighter and more powerful than deadlifts, and thus are perfect for the Friday workout.
If you want to call yourself a lifter, you need to know how to clean and snatch, even if you don’t intend to compete in Olympic weightlifting. After your warm up, do power cleans for 5 sets of 3 reps across, or power snatches for 6 doubles.

Some Notes

 The Texas Method is still very simple in terms of the number of exercises. Actual progress in the weight room is based on an increase in the loading of the basic structural exercises, not in the number of different ways you can perform a triceps pressdown. Very few successful lifters or bodybuilders confuse complexity with effectiveness.
 The size and strength gains you’ll see on the Texas Method will not be as dramatic as those seen in the novice progression outlined in the introduction because of the fact that the easy gains have already happened. We’re further along on the curve here, or we wouldn’t be using an intermediate-level program.
If five months of novice progression took you from a 95-pound squat at a bodyweight of 140 to a 315 x 5 squat at a bodyweight of 200, the Texas Method will take you to 405 x 5 squat at a bodyweight of 225 in a year. Not as dramatic by any stretch, but this is fine because you’re older now and committed to the project.

A Rap Upside the Head

Your time spent in the gym can be either productive or wasted, and a few seconds spent thinking about this will yield the conclusion that any real progress is a quantifiable improvement in strength.
Strength gains are the basis of an increase in size; in effect, size is a side effect of strength, and an intelligently designed and applied program can drive strength. At any point in your training career, quantifiable progress must be your objective.
It’s easy at first when you’re a novice to the barbell. The Texas Method is a good way to carry you through the next step: maintaining the trend of handling increasingly heavy weight.
The Texas Method doesn’t work forever — nothing does. But it does work well as your introduction to the more complicated programming necessary to continue strength and size gains into the more advanced stages of strength training.The Power Clean — End position

The Power Clean

The Deadlift — One set of five is plenty

The Deadlift — One set of five is plenty

The Squat

The Squat

There are other photos of overhead presses we can run, but why bother?Although it makes for an arresting photo, partner-assisted concentration    curls should not be among your favorite mass building exercises.

Although it makes for an arresting photo, partner-assisted concentration curls should not be among your favorite mass building exercises.

Progress in the weight room is not determined by the number of ways    you can perform triceps pressdowns.

Progress in the weight room is not determined by the number of ways you can perform triceps pressdowns.

© 1998 — 2010 Testosterone, LLC. All Rights Reserved.


A 12-Step Guide to a Flawless Power Clean

Huge Freakin' Legs

The Olympic lifting body — not a bad thing to have.

Terrible Clean

The evidence that most coaches aren’t teaching the Olympic lifts.

Rack Position

The Rack Position.

Receiving Position

The Receiving Position.

Finish Position

The Finish Position.

Hang Position

The Hang Position.

Start Position

The Start Position.

The power clean often spreads like a game of Telephone around gyms and garages—the further it moves from the original source, the less it resembles a worthwhile movement and instead becomes a way to get thoroughly jacked up through crappy instruction and even crappier execution.
With the sport of weightlifting being so obscure in the US, it can be extremely difficult for guys to find a qualified coach, which is why many use it as an excuse to replace them with less-than-optimal alternatives.
The power clean, if performed correctly, will provide a unique stimulus for improving hip and knee explosiveness, which will translate to more strength and more muscle. And in my opinion, it can absolutely be learned without a coach.
But like any skilled movement, the power clean will not be mastered quickly. No matter how well you learn, you will never be completely finished. That’s why your goal shouldn’t be immediate mastery, but relatively quick development of safe and effective technique so you can put it to work in your training program.
Meet The Power Clean
A clean brings a barbell from the floor to the lifter’s shoulders. The power qualifier describes the height at which the bar is received and arrested: with the upper legs above horizontal. That is, in a clean, the athlete receives the barbell on the shoulders at some height between standing and squatting, continues into the bottom of a squat position, and finishes the lift by standing again.
In a power clean, the athlete pulls the barbell identically, but must receive it on the shoulders and stop moving downward before sinking past a parallel squat. In other words, the power clean means the athlete must pull the bar higher, get under it quicker, and stop moving immediately.
Check Your Ego, Son
No matter how strong you are, you must start with an unloaded barbell for the initial learning stages. Some of you may even need to use a lighter technique barbell.
Don’t concern yourself with weight at this point—be patient, learn the movement well, and very quickly you’ll be capable of lifting far more than you will if you insist on loading up immediately. Go hide in the corner of the gym if you’re embarrassed. When you re-emerge, you’ll be proud of your power cleaning ability.
The following steps should each be performed until you become comfortable with them and can do them consistently. Keep the number of consecutive repetitions to a maximum of five.
From the Top Down
While it may seem odd to learn the power clean backward, I want to point out that you can’t go to a place that doesn’t exist. Without a receiving position, we can’t pull under the bar. Without a pull under the bar, we can do a power clean. So let’s start there.
Receiving Position
The receiving position for the power clean is the same as the clean, which is (or should be) the same as the front squat—meaning, the bar is on your shoulders. Receiving power cleans in the hands and arms is a great way to set yourself up for hand, wrist, elbow and shoulder injuries.
Also, we want to “receive” the bar rather than catch it. To catch something requires that you’re not contact with it immediately prior. In contrast, we want to maintain a tight connection to the bar throughout the movement until the last possible moment when the bar is finally supported on our shoulders.
Step 1 — Grip the bar with your hands about a fist-width outside your shoulders—your hands should not be in contact with your shoulders at all in the top position. From here, relax your grip, lift your elbows, push your shoulders forward and slightly up, and let the bar roll onto your fingers and into the space between your deltoids and your throat. (If this space doesn’t exist, you’re either not pushing your shoulders forward and up, or you need to work on your scapular mobility.)
If the bar is placing too much pressure on your throat, pull your head straight back—do not tilt it back. If the bar is in contact with your clavicles, you need to shrug your shoulders up a bit more.
To be sure the bar is supported by your shoulders and not your hands, remove your hands from under the bar and extend your arms in front of you. The bar shouldn’t move.
This is the position in which you will be trying to receive the bar.
Pulling Under
One of the most common mistakes is not actively pulling under the bar after accelerating it upward. With lighter weights, you’ll be able to simply drop under the bar in time. As weights get heavier, you will not be able to accelerate the bar as much, and the lower resulting momentum means less time before the bar changes direction, which in turn means you have less time to change direction and position yourself under the bar. In these cases, an active and aggressive pull against the bar is necessary for you to beat the bar.
Step 2 — Standing tall with the bar at arms’ length in front of you, pull your elbows as high as possible, directing them to the sides as they rise. This will bring the bar to about lower chest level. Don’t lean forward over the bar, and don’t try to lift it—lift your elbows instead.
Step 3 — From this scarecrow position, pull your elbows back and whip them around the bar into the receiving position you practiced earlier. Imagine the barbell as the pivot point for your elbows and make sure it stays right up against your body. As your elbows come around, the bar will rise to your shoulders, and you can relax your grip and let it settle into the proper receiving position.
Step 4 — When you can rack the bar smoothly on your shoulders with some consistency from this scarecrow position, begin the drill from arms’ length and perform the entire movement smoothly. Make sure the elbows come up and out, not back. This is the arm movement of the pull under the bar.
Step 5 — When you’re comfortable with this, you can put it to use and move on to actually pulling under the bar. Starting again from the scarecrow position with your feet about hip-width apart, pick up and move your feet quickly to your squat stance as you perform the pull under the bar, pulling yourself into a quarter-depth squat. When you can do this smoothly, begin the drill with the bar at arms’ length.
Accelerating the Bar
Step 6 — With the bar at arms’ length and your feet hip-width and turned out slightly, tighten your glutes to extend your hips through the bar slightly and shift back to your heels as much as possible. This will place you with your legs approximately vertical and the hips slightly hyperextended. This approximates the position you should be in at the top of your pull (although your ankles will be somewhat extended during the real pull).
Step 7 — From this extended position, push the hips back, bend the knees slightly, and let the bar slide down your legs until it reaches your lower thighs. In this position your back should be extended securely, your shins vertical, the bar in light contact with your legs, and your shoulders slightly in front of the bar and your knees. Keep your head up and your eyes forward.
Step 8 — Re-extend slowly into the simulated finish position, making sure to actively pull the bar against yourself with your lats and shoulders, keeping your weight over your heels. Gradually increase the speed at which you go from this thigh position to the extended position, making sure to continue pushing against the floor with your legs as you extend your hips. You will naturally begin rising onto the balls of your feet at the top—just be careful to keep your weight back so you stay balanced in the same position.
Step 9 — When you’ve increased the speed enough, you will feel the bar popping up, and possibly slightly forward. Let it rise, but guide it up close to your body by keeping your elbows traveling up and out like you did when practicing the pull under.
Step 10 — Once you’re comfortable with this controlled pull, it’s time to put the pieces together and perform a power clean from the hang position. Set your thigh position carefully and ensure proper balance before initiating the lift.
Drive your legs against the floor and finish the hip extension completely with the glutes. The moment you’ve reached this finish position with the legs and hips, pick up and move your feet to your squat stance and perform the pull under into a quarter squat—do not try to pull the bar higher by shrugging it up.
Congratulations, you’ve just done a hang power clean.
As you continue practicing, keep in mind that the actual depth at which you receive the bar will increase with the weight because of your decreasing ability to accelerate and elevate the bar. If you perform your pull under correctly, you will always be in the right place to receive the bar because of the connection you’re maintaining.
From the Floor
While the hang power clean itself is an excellent exercise for hip and leg explosiveness, I still like pulling from the floor.
The goal for the pull from the floor is to put you right into the same hang position you’ve been lifting from. We want a photo of you taken at the moment the bar hits the lower thighs during a power clean to look identical to a photo of you in your hang starting position. To do this, your position off the floor may have to deviate a bit from your normal deadlifting position.
Step 11 — With your feet about hip-width apart and turned out slightly, place the bar over the balls of your feet. Get your clean grip, set your back in a complete arch, push your knees out slightly, and drop your hips until your shoulders are directly above the bar. From the side, your arms should be approximately vertical.
Your knees or thighs may be in light contact with the insides of your arms. If you can’t keep your back extended in this position, you need to work on your flexibility and back strength. Keep your head up and your eyes straight ahead. The bar does not need to be touching your shins.
Step 12 — Break the bar from the floor without jerking and shift to your heels immediately. As the bar passes your knees, make sure to actively pull it back toward your legs. It should remain in immediate proximity to your thighs, and it should come into contact by mid to upper thigh. As you reach the thigh position from which you lifted previously, accelerate aggressively to the top of the pull.
Initially, the pull from the floor to the hang position can be done very slowly to ensure proper positioning. You can even perform partial lifts from the floor to the thighs with a pause in the hang position. As you get more comfortable and consistent, the speed of this pull can be increased. At any speed, there should never be a point at which the bar slows or pauses.
Like Your Momma Always Told Ya: Practice Makes Perfect
As you continue performing power cleans, don’t hesitate to return to any of these drills to practice elements of the lift that are giving you trouble. In fact, it’s not a bad idea to run through several reps of each drill as part of your warm-up.
If you decide to include power cleans in your training program (and why wouldn’t you after learning all the steps?) make the commitment to continue improving your execution.
Because the better your power clean, the better your body will look and perform.

The Dirty Dozen: 12 Tips for Heavier Pulls

“Any healthy male under the age of 50 should be able to deadlift at least 400 pounds within two years of proper training.”
Not surprisingly, my business partner and fellow TMUSCLE contributor Eric Cressey caught a lot of flack in the fitness community a few years ago for making that bold statement. But it’s true. If you’ve been training for a couple of years, you should be able to deadlift at least 400 pounds.
I understand you may be upset if you can’t yet pull the big four-oh-oh. It’s human nature to get mad when someone questions your manhood. But what are you going to do about it? You can stop reading here, go to the discussion thread, and leave a nasty comment, or you can sack up and learn how to pull eight plates (or more) off the ground.
All you need to do is follow the Dirty Dozen.

Tip #1: If you want to improve your deadlift, you should have perfect form.

First, a story of what’s possible: When Cressey Performance business director Pete Dupuis started training last year, he started with 88 pounds on the trap bar. Fast-forward 364 days and Pete deadlifted 400 pounds for an easy personal record. So we’re not bullshitting here.
With that in mind, here are eight steps to the perfect deadlift:

The Set Up

1. Your feet should be slightly narrower than shoulder-width apart, and the bar should be against your shins.
2. Keep your chest “tall,” get your air (make yourself fat, brace your abs as if you were going to get punched) and sit back into position, arching your lower back as hard as possible while keeping your shoulder blades retracted. I tell my guys to push their hips back until they can grab the bar. Do not squat down.
3. Grab the bar and squeeze the hell out of it while pulling your shoulders back and down to engage your lats. This will also activate the thoraco-lumbar fascia and stabilize the spine. You should feel a fair amount of tension in the hamstrings and glutes at this point.
4. Keep your chin tucked and find a spot roughly 10-15 feet ahead of you on the floor and fixate on it throughout the entire movement.

The Pull

5. Drive through your heels, and keep your elbows locked. Pull the bar, making sure that your hips and shoulders move simultaneously. (I’ll often see the hips come up first; this is just asking for trouble.)
6. As you approach the lock out, make sure to “finish” the movement by firing your glutes and getting those hips through. Many fail to accomplish this last point, and it ends up looking something like the first of the two lockout videos at right.

The Descent

7. This is the part that tends to be a bit tricky for some. Don’t break with your knees, but rather the hips. You want to sit back (think sitting back into the heels), while sliding the bar down your thighs the entire time.
8. Remember to maintain a hard arch in your lower back, and don’t allow your shoulders to round forward.
Also, think of each rep as its’ own set. A lot of guys tend to rush and end up bouncing the bar off the ground. As a result, each rep gets progressively worse, and my spine starts hurting. It’s called a deadlift for a reason. Once you get the bar back to the ground, get your air back (brace those abs), re-adjust your spinal position, get your chest tall, pull those shoulder blades back and down, tuck your chin, repeat, and be awesome.

Tip #2: Pull frequently and heavy

No, I’m not talking every day. But if you want to get good at the deadlift you should probably, you know, deadlift.
I’d suggest pulling at least once per week, usually on a Monday since you’ll be fresher. Moreover, you need to use low(er) rep training. Strength, at least in the very beginning, has more to do with CNS development than anything else, which is why most guys will see drastic increases in strength before they see a six-pack.
I rarely program more than five reps when it comes to deadlifts. Anything above that usually results in abysmal form, particularly for beginners and intermediates. It’s also been well established in the literature that low(er) rep training improves the body’s ability to recruit high threshold motor units, improve rate coding, as well as increase inter/intra muscular coordination.

Three-Month Deadlift Program

When it comes to programming, I feel that individualization is crucial. Still, a simple breakdown would look something like this:

Month One: Trap Bar Deadlift

Week 1: 
Week 2: 
Week 3: 
Week 4: 

Month Two: Sumo Deadlift

Week 1: 
Week 2: 
Week 3: 
Week 4: Pull-Throughs, 

Month Three: Conventional Deadlift

Week 1:  (or )
Week 2: 
Week 3: 
Week 4: 
After 12 weeks straight, I’d suggest taking a week or two off from deadlifting altogether. Focus on some single-leg work (more on this below), throw in some biceps curls for the hell of it, and eat lots of dead animal flesh.

Tip #3: Rotate your movements (just not every week)

While I think it’s important to rotate movements, especially movements you suck at, you don’t need to do it every week. I like to use three to four week cycles, rotating movements every month or so.

Tip # 4: Fix your weaknesses

Some people (such as myself) are woefully slow off the floor. Others are able to rip the bar from the platform, but have a hard time locking the weight out above the knees. Regardless, it’s important to find where you’re weak and fix it.
A lot of this will depend on your leverages. Those with long limbs tend to have a mechanical advantage towards deadlifting, but they’ll oftentimes have a hard time locking the weight out. If this sounds like you, some dedicated speed work or heavy rack pulls will do you good.
For those with long(er) torsos who have trouble with speed off the floor, try pulling from a deficit (feet elevated 1-4 inches off the ground). As a result, when you revert back to pulling from the floor, it’ll feel better. Also, sumo variations would be a superb alternative as it shortens the distance the bar has to travel.

Tip #5: Take off your shoes

Anyone who’s read Christopher McDougal’s phenomenal book, Born to Run, knows by now that the shoe industry is essentially a 20 billion dollar per year sham. Any deadlift variation done within Cressey Performance is done barefoot.
Without shoes, you’re 1-2 inches closer to the ground, which is 1-2 inches lessdistance the bar has to travel. Also, by taking your shoes off you’re now able to pull through your heels, which will allow you to recruit your glutes and hamstrings more efficiently.
For those of you who train at lame gyms that frown on people training barefoot, I’d suggest purchasing flat shoes such as Chuck Taylors or Nike Frees and getting rid of the cement blocks you’re wearing.

Tip #6: Don’t use straps

I’m a bit torn on this one. On one hand, I think far too many people use straps as crutches. I mean, lat pull-downs? Really? On the other hand, I realize grip strength is a limiting factor for many, and sometimes it’s beneficial to permit straps if for no other reason than it allows someone to actually use heavier weight. We’ll let guys use straps for snatch grip variations, but that’s about it.
Use a mixed-grip, alternating hand positions with every set, and get some chalk. If your gym doesn’t allow chalk, either find a new gym or sneak it in. Keep it in a plastic container in your gym bag, lightly rub some chalk on your hands, and have at it. Also, don’t be an asshole—clean the bar when you’re done.

Tip #7: If you want to get strong you need to train with strong people

Much like if you want to get better at accounting, you hang out with accountants. Or, if you want to get better at not getting laid, you go to Star Trek conventions.
Now, I don’t have any scientific evidence to back this up, but I’m pretty sure testosterone levels drop by 144.37% every time Miley Cyrus is played over the radio. How do you expect to get fired up for a training session when you have walking bags of douche curling in the squat rack, and you’re surrounded by housewives on the treadmills?
A general rule of thumb: if your gym has more Smith machines than power racks, you have a better shot at winning the lottery than getting super-strong.

Tip # 8: Do accessory work

If you want to get better at the deadlift, you need to train the posterior chain hard. Sorry, leg presses, leg extensions, and leg curls won’t cut it. When I hammer my goodmornings, my deadlift always skyrockets. It almost serves as a “marker” so-to-speak—when my goodmornings are going up consistently, it’s a safe bet that my deadlift is going to go up as well.
For you, it may be box squats. For someone else, it may be Romanian deadlifts. The point is, you should have another exercise that you can use to “gauge” where you’re at.
Things like glute ham raises, slideboard leg curls, hip thrusters, and pull-throughs (in my opinion, one of the most under-rated exercise out there) should make up the bulk of your lower body accessory work.

Tip #9: Perform single-leg work

Single-leg work equals bigger lifts. If I get someone better and more proficient with their single-leg training, they see a vast improvement in their deadlift and squat.
As Mike Boyle has stated on numerous occasions, single-leg movements force us to activate the lateral sub-system, which consists of the adductor complex, glute medius, as well as the quadtratus lumborum on the contra-lateral leg.
From low-back and knee health perspectives, this is huge since in a two-legged stance these muscles aren’t necessarily “activated.” However, in a single-leg stance, this same system of muscles is forced to “fire,” which then work to stabilize the hip and knee joint.
In short, if you’re jacked up all the time, you won’t be lifting anything heavy. Do your single-leg work and thank me later.

Tip # 10: Get those glutes firing!

We all know (or at least we should) the importance of the warm-up prior to training. Furthermore, I’ve written in the past how I’m a big fan of fillers—low grade stretches or activation work done in between sets. So, instead of watching Sports Center highlights, or hitting on the hot chick you don’t have a shot in hell with, you might as well do something productive while you rest between sets.
For most of us, one area that undoubtedly needs a lot of work is the glutes. Because we sit on them for 8 to 12 hours per day, the glutes tend to be weak and inhibited. Given that they’re the body’s strongest hip extensor, it stands to reason that they may affect how much weight you’ll be able to deadlift. Put another way, many of you are short changing yourself by not paying closer attention to glute activation.
I recommend you do some simple glute activation between sets of deadlifts. You’ll see a big change in how much weight you can add to the bar.
Here, you lean against a wall and flex one leg up (without hyper-extending the lumbar spine) and drive the heel of the standing leg into the ground. Hold for a 2-second count, and squeeze the glute of the standing leg. Alternate legs and repeat for a total of five repetitions per leg.
Lie supine on the floor, drive both heels into the floor and raise your hips slightly off the ground. Squeeze your glutes. From there, simply elevate the heel of one foot 1 to 2 inches, and keep your pelvis square (it shouldn’t dip). Hold for a one-second count, bring back to the floor, and repeat the same sequence on the opposite side for a total of five repetitions for each leg.

Tip #11: Don’t make a habit of missing lifts.

One of my biggest pet peeves as a strength coach is guys missing lifts. Granted, I understand it happens, but it shouldn’t be a weekly thing.
I think there’s a lot to be said about grinding out a set here and there, but missing lifts on a regular basis will do nothing except fry your nervous system and lead to a world of frustration.

Tip #12: Do speed work (but not that kind!)

Most guys are familiar with the conjugate approach to training, as popularized by Louie Simmons and Westside Barbell. This is where you take multiple strength qualities (max strength, speed strength, etc.) and train them simultaneously in an effort to improve performance in the “big three” (squat, bench press, and deadlift). One day is dedicated to the max-effort method (lifting heavy shit), and one day is dedicated to the dynamic-effort method (lifting less heavy shit quickly).
I’ve already touched on the former (see Tip # 2), but I’d like to talk about the dynamic-effort method. Research shows that guys can see significant strength gains using 40 percent of their one-rep max, which is why it’s often recommended that you use anywhere from 40-65 percent of your 1RM when using this method.
That said, I have a hard time programming speed work for an un-trained 35-year-old—let alone any of the high school or college kids I train—when they’re barely deadlifting 225 for reps. Still, we do need to find some way to get guys more explosive.
Enter the kettlebell swing.
I’ll admit that up to a few months ago, I was a bit reluctant about the whole kettlebell thing. To me, it just seemed like the latest fitness fad that everyone was doing, and thought it would fizzle out sooner or later. However, after spending some time with Mike Robertson last year, and more recently, listening to Dan John speak, I quickly changed my mind.
Without getting into all the details, Dan described a continuum where on one end, you have a squat pattern, and at the other, you have a hip snap. With respect to the deadlift (a hip dominant movement), the kettlebell swing is a fantastic way to learn how to get more explosive, not to mention improving technique!
Thing is, most people end up butchering the movement to the point where it looks more like a squat swing.
It’s not uncommon for many to experience significant lower back pain when performing it this way. Go figure! As such, when coaching the swing, you’ll often see the same mistakes made time and time again. Rather than re-invent the wheel, I’ll just steal a few pointers courtesy of Mike Robertson.

6 Ways You’re Screwing Up the Kettlebell Swing

What Will the Dirty Dozen Do For You?

Isn’t it about time you hit a new PR on the deadlift? Use the Dirty Dozen above, check your form, and work hard, and I bet you’ll be surprised with how much progress you make in a matter of months.

The Dirty Dozen: 12 Tips for Heavier Pulls

Deadlift Set-Up

Lockouts: Bad and Good

Glute Bridge Plank Lifts

Kettlebell Swings: Bad and Good

The Dirty Dozen: 12 Tips for Heavier PullsOne good-lookin’ deadlift
The Dirty Dozen: 12 Tips for Heavier PullsDitch the shoes (and hair gel) for a better pull.

About Tony Gentilcore
Tony Gentilcore is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association, and co-founder of Cressey Performance. Recognized as one of the premier trainers in New England, Tony has established an outstanding reputation due to his no-nonsense approach to training, unique perspective on program design and corrective exercise experience. For more information, check out his website. (He also pulls 550 pounds at a bodyweight of 195 pounds.)

© 1998 — 2010 Testosterone, LLC. All Rights Reserved.


TRAINING:Year in Review: 2009

Holy crap, it’s 2010! Aren’t we supposed to be living in condos on Mars and buzzing around in jetpacks by now? Wait, we have iPhones, hard-on pills, and a black president? Oh well, that’s progress too, but we’re really hoping 2010 brings us one of those Minority Report jetpacks.

Truthfully, almost everything seems to be moving along at warp speed. TMUSCLE is no exception. In case you missed 2009 because you were too busy being consumed with teenage vampire love triangles and watching the Gosselins implode, we ran over 260 pieces about muscle building, fat loss, athletic improvement, and anything else remotely related to those three endeavors.

Along with that, TMUSCLE and Biotest launched video projects, a couple of Super Programs, nine spankin’ new forum categories, and six cutting-edge supplements.

And we’re just getting started.

Before we dive into 2010, let’s take a look back at the year that was.

The Videos

In 2009 Tim Patterson got serious about adding video to TMUSCLE. These documentary-style films are very high quality, hardcore, and guaranteed to make you want to hit the gym and tear shit up.

I, BODYBUILDER: Radical Strategy for Radical Hypertrophy

A glimpse into a new style of “black ops” training and nutrition strategery. You might be skeptical, until you try it!

The Perfect Rep

This video and accompanying article may just change the way you build muscle forever!

Death Squat

Our cameras pay a visit to Dave Tate and his private powerlifting gym. Take a rare peek into one of his exclusive underground strength sessions, capped off with Dave himself doing battle with a 35-rep box squat!

You will want to train after watching this!

Christian Thibaudeau’s Experimental Arm Workout

“Blast isometrics.” “Twitch reps.” Hypertrophy guru Christian Thibaudeau and bodybuilder Kevin Nobert show you how to use them to add massive amounts of, well, mass to your biceps.

New 2009 Forums

Sometime in 2002, TMUSCLE launched its discussion forum. Back then there were no categories at all, just a big hodgepodge of people discussing everything from our latest articles to training and nutrition and sex and politics. The forum got so popular we had to categorize things a little.

Today our forums officially get bajillions of hits. And that’s bajillion with a “b”, folks! This year we tried to further organize all that wonderful chaos by adding several new forum categories for you to browse when you should be working:

Check ’em out if you haven’t yet! Just don’t let the boss see you visiting Sex and the Male Animal.

The Supplements

Biotest cranked out some amazing stuff this past year. Check it out:

Curcumin 500

Dr. Jonny Bowden includes turmeric in his best-selling book, The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth. He notes that turmeric has an “almost encyclopedic list of health benefits.” These include: alleviating inflammation, anti-cancer properties, improving heart health, an anti-oxidant effect, liver protection, and a host of others.

The secret to this super substance is the curcumin and other curcuminoid compounds it contains. And that’s exactly what’s in Biotest’s Curcumin 500 (and a bit of piperine, which helps with absorption).

The main reason most of us lifter types use it, though, is to combat pain. Banged up from lifting? Banged up from living? Curcumin 500’s remarkable pain-fighting abilities will fix what ails you, along with being good for you.


You’d have to be a dope not to take your omega-3 supplements like Flameout, which is a super-concentrated and ultra-pure fish oil (EPA/DHA) formulation that also includes just the right amount of CLA. But what about the other fatty acids that can help you to optimize body composition and hormone production?

Well, if you’re eating lots of organic virgin coconut oil, organic olive oil, and borage oil every single day, then you probably have your other fatty acids covered. If you’re not, you should be taking FA3™, a precise blend of pristine, high quality lauric acid, oleic acid, and gamma-linolenic acid (GLA).

If you’d like to be leaner, more muscular, more energetic, and healthier, then FA3™ should be part of your daily supplement arsenal. If you don’t want to be any of those things, then, um, why the heck are you here at TMUSCLE?

Oh, you’re here because of the Figure Athletes? Okay, we can understand that. But they’d like you better if you took supplements and, ya know, worked out and stuff.

Alpha-GPC: Fast-Acting Liquid Formula

An increase in peak force during training. Double your growth hormone (GH) levels post training, the time you need it the most. In short, make faster and greater gains in muscle, strength, and overall body composition.

Take it before training and you’ll lift more.

How? By using alpha-glycerylphosphorylcholine, a precursor to the neurotransmitter acetylcholine.

Alpha-GPC is one supplement that’s becoming a fast favorite of both powerlifters and bodybuilders. Apparently, we can all get along!

GROW!™ Bioactive Whey Protein

We’ve offered a high-quality but less expensive protein product for a while now: Grow!™ Whey. But this year Grow!™ got an update and a price drop!

Basically, the update has to do with extracting high levels of the muscle-buildingbioactive fractions from whey. These bioactive fractions, in addition to supplying a rich source of protein, play a big role in enhancing muscular growth, immune function, and nutrient absorption.

Well, Biotest discovered the best extraction approach for pulling out the highest concentrations of these bioactive fractions, and they developed a whole new approach to manufacturing whey protein.

End result? A whey extract containing the richest concentration of muscle-building bioactive fractions. Then they jacked the price up to cover R&D and bought candy-apple red Porches!

No, no, just kidding. Actually Biotest dropped the price to only 18 bucks a bottle (when you buy two or more). The price of ingredients dropped, so instead of shoving the money in our pockets, we passed the savings on to you. Cool deal.

ANACONDA® Anabolic Load

This year the “mystery formula” was finally unleashed. After sneaking its way into the underground gyms of bodybuilders, powerlifters, and athletes for over a year, ANACONDA® was finally made available to the public.

ANACONDA® is actually a combo of two formulas, MAG-10® Anabolic Pulse and MAG-10® Anaerobic Fuel, along with a Superhydration Catalyst. (MAG-10® Anabolic Pulse is also offered as a stand-alone formula.)

You can read all the details HERE but it basically comes down to this: these formulas, assuming you’re not being a little pansy in the gym, will help you gain muscle faster than you ever have before, even if you’re an experienced gym veteran.

FINiBAR™ Dark Chocolate

FINiBAR, designed to be consumed before competitions and your toughest workouts, is the elite athlete’s secret to increased energy, hydration, recovery, and digestion during intense exercise and sports. It’s also part of the all-powerfulANACONDA® Protocol Package.

This year we released the dark chocolate version of FINiBAR to go along with the peanut butter. And here’s a quick tip: Stack a PB flavored bar with a dark chocolate FINiBAR for a taste experience that’ll make you want to train more often just so you can eat more of them!

NEW Testosterone T-Shirts

And oh yeah, we also made some new T-shirts featuring the Testosterone logo and “T” symbol. These are athletic cut and made of 100% combed ring-spun cotton. We really don’t know what that is, but it feels nice and lasts forever.

Placebo-controlled, double-blind studies have shown our T’s to be 400% more anabolic than wearing a regular T-shirt.

Okay, not really. But still, they’re snazzy.

The Superprograms

The Velocity Diet

It’s radical. It’s insanely strict. It’s a little frickin’ insane. The kicker? It strips off more body fat in 28 days than any diet program we’ve seen, without sacrificing muscle tissue. As a bonus, it violently breaks your bad dietary habits for you while helping to instill new ones that’ll last a lifetime.

The Anaconda Protocol

What the V-Diet is for rapid fat loss, the Anaconda Protocol is for unadulterated muscle gains. From training to the crucial peri-workout period, this protocol gives you the secrets to sustained gains in lean body mass!

Our Favorite Articles of ’09

With around 260 articles to choose from this was really an impossible task, so here’s what we did (it was very, very scientific)… we asked around.

Yep, we just asked our bevy of editors and writers to list their favorite “high impact” articles. So, rather than saying these are the “best” articles of ’09, we’ll just say that these are some of our personal favorites.

The Body Shop Series

Gather up some TMUSCLE readers, take their pics, and let an NPC bodybuilding judge evaluate their physiques and give them tips for improving it. It’s practical, useful, and unlike anything else out there.

Dispelling the Glute Myth

Completely changed the way we look at asses! An encyclopedia of the posterior that contains some funky new exercises that’ll give you a powerful (and purdy) set of glutes!

“D” is for Doping

Believe it or not, simple and inexpensive Vitamin D, when “mega-dosed”, may be the secret to better performance, fat loss, strength increases, enhanced mood, and even a longer life!

Specialized Training: One Bodypart at a Time

For advanced gym rats, a specialized program that focuses on one major muscle group at a time may be the key to bodybuilding success. This article will show you how to do it.

How to Build Pure Strength

Powerlifter Jim Wendler describes his oh-so effective 5/3/1 system for putting up big weights.

Steroids in the Sand: Making Muscle in the Middle East

In Dubai, pornography is illegal, as are recreational drugs. Steroids, however, are an altogether different matter.

The Drug Coach

We pulled back the curtain on an aspect of bodybuilding and figure competitions that the mainstream mags refuse to acknowledge.

An Interview With Dave Tate

We turned on a recorder and let Tate go off. You’ll laugh, you’ll learn, you’ll pee your pants a little.

How to Pull 1008 Pounds and Make it Look Easy

The first man to break the 1,000 pound deadlift barrier describes how he did it.

The “Best of” Series

This past year we decided to put together a list of our favorite routines and exercises for every major muscle in your body. The results? The “Best of” series. Check ’em out:

Best of Back

Best of Chest

Best of Shoulders

Best of Biceps

Best of Triceps

Best of Hamstrings

Best of Quads

Best of Calves

Best of Abs

Coming in 2010, Best of Bulbocavernosus!

Pauline Nordin Exposed

Controversial, irreverent, and in your face. “I’m hot, look at me, fuck you!” Raised our Testosterone 98.76%.

Dr. Hyght’s “Building” Series

Sure, we write about athletic performance, powerlifting, and just about everything else that involves barbells and dumbbells, but at our hearts we’re bodybuilders.

That’s why we like Dr. Clay Hyght’s “Building” series. It’s pure, aesthetic, unapologetic muscle-building. And we kinda dig that. Check out what he’s written so far and tune in this year as the series continues.

Building a Bodybuilder Back

Building a Bodybuilder Chest

Building Bodybuilder Triceps

The A-Dog

TC’s Atomic Dog column has been with us practically since the beginning ofTestosterone. In a lot of ways, it’s responsible for the zeitgeist of the entire site. Heck, it’s even taught us to use words like zeitgeist.

Anyhow, a lot of people love it and probably just as many hate it. The latter can’t figure out what it’s got to do with bodybuilding.

The column intro probably explains it best:

With that in mind, here are just a few of this year’s best columns.

12 Manliness Guidelines

Who would’ve thought that an innocent little tongue-in-cheek piece about the 2009 guy’s guide to manliness would spark such spirited debate? And a follow-up interview the next week with it’s misunderstood, beleaguered author?

“7. Walking to a Public Restroom Carrying a Newspaper

Walking to public bathroom with a newspaper rolled up under your arm automatically sends every bed-able female the mental image of you sitting on the can, leisurely reading the sports section, periodically making the tiles ring with a blast worthy of Heimdal’s Asgardian horn.

It’s not manly to let a woman know you’re going to take a shit. It’ll also do very little to help you get laid.”

The Computer as Pimp

TC leaves the comfy confines of his home office to go undercover at the weirdest social group you’ve never heard of, members of which include “Frisky Whiskey,” who provides full body sexual massage with “release” but not “full service”.

In the Belly of a Dead Horse

Is fidelity really like eating dry toast for the rest of your life? Millions were appalled when former senator and Democratic darling John Edwards cheated on his ailing wife. But TC understands Edwards’ plight and suffers the slings and arrows on behalf of all married men.

“After all, how can a man who sticks his thing into the vagina of a woman who is not his wife until some stuff comes out have any sincere interest in the public’s welfare? How can a man who sticks his thing into the vagina of a woman who is not his wife until some stuff comes out have anything to contribute at all?”

My Speech to the Graduates 2009

Newsflash, youth of today—you’re not nearly as interesting or important as your parents have built you up to believe. Now get off my lawn!

“You ever hear of the Greatest Generation? They grew up during the Great Depression, contributed to the war effort either by fighting in it or making materiel contributions to it, and then went on to build America.”

The Embarrassment of Bodybuilding

TC used to be embarrassed to say he was a weight lifter, or worse, a bodybuilder.

Not anymore.

“Saying I was a bodybuilder used to embarrass me when I was immature; saying I was a bodybuilder used to embarrass me when bodybuilding was immature.

The caricature of bodybuilding still exists to some extent, but a few things have changed. For one thing, I don’t give a rat’s ass what lay people think about it, but mainly, bodybuilding has largely morphed into something else altogether: it’s left the stage and the pages of silly magazines to go back to where it started, to the dimly-lit garages and back-alley gyms.

It’s back to being about preparing yourself for some battle that may never come. It’s back to battling the weights; to feeling the pleasant ‘uncomfortableness’ of having trained your ass off. It’s back to being connected to your body in a way the normal people can’t imagine; of being acutely conscious of how the tightness of your shirt, which, hot damn, is just a little tighter than the last time you wore it.”

The Bikini Contest

WANTED: White male seeks new friend or friends to engage in occasional debauchery with women folk.

Every man deserves a wingman of some sorts. Maverick had Goose, Kirk had Spock, Turner had Hooch, and even Joe The Master Blaster had an assortment of muscular, tanned, fresh-faced boys who really needed the money.

So what kind of world are we living in today when you can’t find a friend who’ll go to a bikini contest with you?

A Fine Swine

TC says we need to go back, way back, all the way to September 1918, when ships full of soldiers returning from the Great War brought with them a deadly stowaway — the Spanish Flu, that would kill more people in 24 weeks than AIDS would later kill in 24 years.

Only by doing that, going back in history, can we get a perspective on the Swine flu. Unfortunately, this perspective kinda’ sorta’ suggests that the Swine flue vaccine doesn’t work.

You Don’t Know Dick About Manhood

TC says that most men, if asked to define manhood, would stammer something inane about not crying, not asking for directions, or refusing to wear anything in Adam Lambert’s leather and lace filled closet.

Unfortunately, they don’t know dick about manhood.

Coming in 2010…

What can you look forward to this year? Well, we can’t let the proverbial cat out of the bag just yet, but we can promise you this: We at TMUSCLE and Biotest will push ourselves to bring you the best training programs, the fastest diets, and the most powerful and effective supplements on the planet.

And, if we’re all very lucky, The MAG-10® Jetpack.

Year in Review: 2009

The MAG-10® Jetpack. Coming in 2010!

Year in Review: 2009

Pauline Nordin: Because God is a man.

Year in Review: 2009

Dave Tate taught us a lot this year. That’s him above. The one in black. The bald one in black. Yeah, we didn’t notice him at first either.

From the bodybuilding pretty boys to the powerlifing beasts, the TMUSCLE experts had your goals covered in 2009!

It does exist! And in ’09 it was unleashed on the anxious public (that would be you bastards).

Year in Review: 2009

Men have glutes. Women have asses. We learned a lot about both last year!

Year in Review: 2009

In 2010 we’re giving this guy his own forum!

Year in Review: 2009

Young Nate Green garnered much respect from his peers in 2009.

© 1998 — 2010 Testosterone, LLC. All Rights Reserved.


Lumberjack Squat

Floor Flye

“I’m a lumberjack and I’m okay. I sleep all night and I squat all day…” Okay, so maybe that’s not really how the classic tune goes, but it would be one way to change up your lower body training.

The lumberjack squat is one squat variation you’ll want to try for a bunch of reasons. Because the load is kept off your back, your lower back isn’t put under compressive stress. It’s also perfect for home gym lifters who don’t have access to a squat rack and still want a big basic leg exercise.

Plus, if you’re introducing a newbie to the gym, it’s a great way to learn proper squatting form without having to steal a 12-pound Body Bar from the step class. The movement just won’t feel right unless you keep your chest puffed out and your lower back arched — exactly like a textbook, athletic back squat.

Simply wedge one end of a bar in a corner of the room, or inside a Landmine-type unit, load up the free end with a bit of weight, grab the bar with both hands at chin level, and get squattin’.

As far as the sets and reps, it’s as versatile as any squat variation. For beginners, try using 4×6-8 to learn the proper squat technique and body positioning. More experienced lifters with a mean streak could also use 1-2×15-25 as a brutal finisher after any leg session.


Glute Boy Speaks — An Interview With Bret Contreras

Bret Contreras wants you to know he’s read every single article TMUSCLE has ever published. (That’s online and print, buddy.)

Passionate about training? You bet your ass.

Speaking of asses, Bret also wants you to know that yours is weak and ugly, and he means that in the nicest way possible. But you should still do something about it. (He also wants you to know he regularly massages the ass of one of his clients who just happens to be a figure competitor.)

Bret wants you to know a lot of things, but that’s just because he wants to know a lot of things, too. That’s why he received his Masters degree from ASU, his CSCS from NSCA, took a full year off to conduct EMG research, wrote a book about glutes, and is planning to head back to school for his Ph.D.

In fact, Bret’s so eager to share his knowledge about bodybuilding, speed, new exercises, and sports training, that he’ll start ranting immediately after answering the phone for your interview.

But I guess you really didn’t need to know that.

Hello? You there? Hold on. Shit. Let me turn this thing on.

Bret Contreras:

TM: Nah, it’s cool. We’re recording now. What were you getting all pissed about? Something about being “anti-bodybuilding?”

TM: Good point. I’ve also noticed a lot of guys shitting on the bodybuilding philosophy in the past couple of years, but I think it’s making a comeback.

TM: That’s going to piss some people off.

TM: Let’s forget about the trainers for a minute and talk about the guys who are in the gym busting their ass. You wrote me an email a few days ago and said they were married to the methods. What did you mean?

TM: But what if a particular method has been working great. Are you saying we should change it up even if we’re consistently making gains?

TM: Wait, what? That’s weirdest threat I’ve ever received.

TM: Good point.

TM: All right, man, I gotta ask. Why the glute fetish?

TM: You told me earlier you actually massage your clients’ glutes. What’s up with that?

TM: Fair enough. I also heard you don’t like to get sore from training. What are you, a wuss?

TM: But would that one set still give you a training effect?

TM: Something about the nine days…

TM: After seeing your glute bridge variations, I’m crowning you King of the crazy-ass exercises. You got any others for us?

TM: Okay, but where are you going with this?

TM: I’ll have to try that one. Let’s wrap up. Is there anything else pissing you off?

TM: However, how long does this take?

TM: Sounds good to us. Thanks, man.

Nate Green writes about muscle, girls, and lifestyle at his blog.

Glue Boy Speak

Bodybuilders know a thing or two about the mind/muscle connection.

Glue Boy Speak

Where’s explosive glute strength when you need it?

Glue Boy Speak

Figure competitor Katie Cole’s ass.

Glue Boy Speak

The only glute bridge picture we ever want to see again…

Glue Boy Speak

…except for this one.

Glue Boy Speak

Glue Boy Speak

Glue Boy Speak

Glue Boy Speak

You should always loofah yourself after a hard workout.

© 1998 — 2009 Testosterone, LLC. All Rights Reserved.


Advanced Glute Training

Let’s cut the BS. A strong, powerful gluteus maximus is what separates the elite athlete from the average athlete, the average bodybuilder from the professional, and the guy who builds the ultimate body from the dude who can’t gain weight or strength no matter what he tries.

Most guys have no junk in their respective trunks, and are seriously limiting their potential. Don’t think you’re one of the afflicted ass-less? Go find a mirror, turn around, and give your nether regions a good once-over. Flex the hell out of ’em while you’re at it. Chances are pretty good you you’re not even filling out your Dockers. And if by chance you do have nicely rounded glutes, I bet they’re one of your weakest body parts.

Whether your goal is to increase your squat and deadlift, your sprinting speed, or to simply to look better naked, the info presented here will help you tremendously.

I’m not gonna lie; I get a bit heavy on the science-speak. But if you can spend the next fifteen minutes reading this article, your knowledge of hip extension exercises will be greater than that of 99 percent of all trainers and coaches.

But the best part is applying what you learn and building some serious lower body muscles with serious power. Sound good?

Let’s get our asses in gear.

Hip to the Basics. What Exactly is Hip Extension?

Hip extension is involved in running, jumping, squatting, lunging, bending, climbing, and thrusting. (Insert your own sex joke here.)

The hip is the juncture between the head of the femur and the acetabulum of the pelvis and hip extension occurs in the sagittal plane and involves straightening the hip when it’s bent forward (flexed). The key to understanding hip extension is to focus on the angle created by the linear approximations of the spine and femur, which create the hip angle.

In anatomical position, the hip angle is a straight line, or a 180 degree angle. Hip flexion decreases the hip angle and brings the knee closer to the shoulders while hip extension increases the hip angle and brings the knee back to 180 degrees. If the angle increases past 180 degrees, the action is referred to as hyperextension, since the hip joint extends past anatomical position. Got it? If not, here’s a quick chart:

There are many types of hip extension exercises, including squatting movements, deadlifting movements, lunging movements, bent and straight leg bridging movements, quadruped movements, straight leg hyperextension movements, and movements that combine hip extension and knee flexion. This article will examine the differences between these exercises and the benefits of each.

All in the Family — the Hip Extensors

There are five primary hip extensors and possibly fifteen secondary hip extensors. The five main hip extensors are the gluteus maximus, the hamstring part of the adductor magnus, the long head of the biceps femoris, the semimembranosus, and the semitendinosus.

Each primary and secondary hip extensor belongs to the adductor, hamstring, gluteal, deep hip rotator, or hip flexor group. Here’s a complete list of potential hip extensors, all of which are supported by at least one literary source. (See how many you can pronounce.)

Varying Hip Extensor Contribution

It’s futile to guess which hip extensor muscle or muscle part is the strongest or most important in a certain exercise or sport action, as the proportion of hip extensor recruitment varies depending on the load vector, knee action, hip angle, and numerous other factors.

For example, at a certain position in a certain exercise, the long head of the biceps femoris might be the most powerful hip extensor, while thirty degrees later into extension during the same exercise, the gluteus maximus might become the most powerful hip extensor at that moment.

During hip extension exercises, a certain hip extensor muscle can be highly involved at a particular range of motion only to die off later in the movement. Conversely, a certain hip extensor muscle can be dormant at a particular range of motion only to become the prime mover later in the movement.

Classification of muscles that act on the hip into functional groups only holds true for a particular joint position, because the axis of motion changes relative to the muscles as the joint reorients itself dynamically, causing muscles to have opposite roles (for example abductors as adductors). This is referred to as “inversion of muscular action.” A muscle of a joint with three degrees of freedom (such as the hip joint) may have secondary actions that can be altered and even reversed.

The most common example is the dual flexor-extensor role of the adductor muscles depending on their position in the flexion-extension axis. In addition to adducting the hip, the adductors flex the hip early in hip flexion, and then extend the hip early in hip extension when the thigh is significantly flexed forward.

Especially during compound movements and movements that involve a lot of muscle, the same muscles are not dominant during the entire range of movement. For example, the glutes may be highly involved in the deep portion of a squat, yet the gluteal contribution dissipates as the movement rises.

The glutes may be minimally involved in the deep portion of a back extension yet the gluteal contribution increases as the movement rises especially into hip hyperextension. The adductors may contribute heavily to the initial portion of a back extension yet completely die off as the movement rises.

More Than You’ll Ever Need to Know About Your Ass

You still awake? On the right are some nice ass pictures, sort of a reward for just hanging in here with me. Now that we’re refreshed, let’s move on to the thing you’re sitting on right now — your ass.

The average weight of the gluteus maximus is 844 grams, weighing over twice that of the gluteus medius and minimus combined (421 grams). Often the gluteus maximus measures over 1 inch thick and measures over 66 square cm in cross section. The gluteus maximus comprises 12.8% of the total muscle mass of the lower extremity.

On average, the fiber-type composition of the gluteus maximus breaks down into 68 percent slow-twitch and 32 percent fast-twitch. It has a force equivalent to 34 kg and a static power equivalent to 238 kg. Although it’s often stated that the gluteus maximus is the largest and most powerful muscle group in the human body, it’s simply not true for everyone. (Although it’s pretty damn powerful.)

Concentrically, the gluteus maximus accelerates hip extension, hip external rotation, and hip abduction. The upper and lower fibers of the gluteus maximus function differently from one another, with the upper fibers being more involved in hip abduction, hip external rotation, and hip hyperextension.

Eccentrically, the gluteus maximus decelerates hip flexion, hip internal rotation, and hip adduction. Isometrically, the gluteus maximus stabilizes the knee via the iliotibial band (which is taut at 15-20 degrees of flexion) and the sacroiliac joint via the latissimus dorsi and sacrotuberous ligament.

Surprisingly, the fibers of the gluteus maximus that insert into the iliotibial band (approximately 70-85% of the total muscle fibers) can actually produce extension of the knee joint.

The Four Primary Benefits of Gluteal Strengthening

Most guys’ glutes are terribly weak and underpotentialized. Due to the multidirectional action of the gluteus maximus and roles as hip extensors, abductors, and external rotators, increasing the strength of the gluteus maximus can increase and improve:

* This was a non-scientific study, however. Further research may be needed.

A strong, powerful gluteus maximus is often what separate the elite athlete from the average athlete.

As athletes advance, they learn to incorporate their hip and leg musculature into their movements to a much higher degree. For example, beginner shot-putters use predominantly their upper body muscles when throwing, whereas advanced shot putters use predominantly their leg muscles.

The correlation between athletic achievements in beginner athletes’ arm strength is .83, whereas the correlation between athletic achievements in beginner athletes’ leg strength is .37.

That means they’re not using their legs enough!

For advanced athletes, the correlations flip flop to .73 and .87, respectively.

In other words, in order for athletes to advance, they must learn how to derive maximum power from the hips and legs. In order for this advancement to take place, a foundation of adequate core strength and hip mobility is an absolute prerequisite.

Length-Tension Relationships

Length-tension relationships dictate the amount of muscular force that can be produced at a given time. This phenomenon has to do with the number of cross-bridges that can form at a given joint angle. A muscle contracts best when it is at its optimal length, which is either at resting length or slightly stretched at 1.2 times its resting length, depending on the muscle. When a muscle is either shortened or overstretched, it cannot produce its maximum force.

During hip extension exercises, the knee action that occurs while the hips are extending or extended helps determine the muscular activation due to length-tension relationships and various muscle contraction types.

There are five types of knee actions that can occur during hip extension exercises: extension, semi-straight leg, straight leg, bent leg, and flexion. For example, at the bottom of a squat the hamstrings are shortened and can’t contribute as much as they can during a deadlift.

Directional Load Vectors

In the body-planes model (frontal, sagittal, transverse planes), a jump and a sprint are both sagittal plane activities; there is no distinction between the two even though they propel the body in two different directions. I created load vector terminology to more adequately describe movement in sports and the weight room.

When creating the model, I used the direction of the load in the weight room rather than the direction in which we propel the body in sports (they are opposites). Load vectors refer to the direction of the resistance relative to the human body. Since load vectors are relative to the body, one must consider both the position of the human and the direction of the resistance in order to determine the load vector. The following diagrams depict two ways of illustrating the six primary load vectors in sports and strength training:

In sagittal plane hip extension, there are three main types of load vectors; axial, anteroposterior, and a combination of axial and anteroposterior. In axial hip extension exercises, the direction of the resistance comes from top to bottom (or vice versa) in reference to anatomical position.

In anteroposterior hip extension exercises, the direction of the resistance comes from front to back (or vice versa) in reference to anatomical position.

In axial/anteroposterior blend hip extension exercises, the direction of the resistance is halfway between axial and anteroposterior at a 45 degree angle relative to the human body.

Free weight and bodyweight axial hip extension exercises are usually performed while standing, while anteroposterior hip extension exercises are performed in the supine, quadruped, or prone positions.

Axial activities include squatting, deadlifting, and jumping. Anteroposterior activities include hip thrusting, back extensions, and top-speed sprinting. Axial/anteroposterior blend activities include walking lunges, 45 degree hypers, sled pushing, broad jumping, and acceleration sprints.

Load vectors profoundly impact muscular activation in hip extension exercises. When a guy intends to move his hips upward with maximal force, as in the case of a vertical jump, squat, or deadlift, the gluteus maximus muscles aren’t activated nearly as much as they are when he intends to move his hips forward with maximal force, as in the case of a sprint, hip thrust, or reverse hyper.

Wolff’s law states that if loading on a particular bone increases, the bone will remodel itself over time to become stronger to resist that sort of loading. The direction of the loading causes the collagen fibers within bone to conform to the lines of stress experienced by the bone.

Axial loading causes different bone adaptations than anteroposterior loading. Similarly, muscles become stronger over time to resist various loading patterns as well (not through collagen adaptations but through sarcomeric hypertrophy and increased HTMU stimulation).

Although most guys have significantly tapped into their axial hip extension strength capacity by performing years of squats and deadlifts, they haven’t scratched the surface regarding their anteroposterior hip extension strength capacity.

For example, if you’ve performed military press (axial loaded) for years but had never performed a single set of bench press (anteroposterior loaded), your deltoids and triceps would be sufficiently developed, but your pecs and triceps would have much room for increased development.

If you’ve performed squats and deadlifts (axial loaded) for years but have never performed a single set of hip thrusts or weighted back extensions, your quadriceps and erector spinae would be sufficiently developed, but your glutes and hamstrings (anteroposterior loaded) would have much room for increased development.

Here’s a good rule to keep in mind: squats and lunges are the kings of quad exercises; deadlifts and good mornings are the kings of erector spinae exercises; hip thrusts and pendulum quadruped hip extensions are the kings of glute exercises; and weighted back extensions and glute ham raises are the kings of hamstring exercises.

Angular Kinematics

At the hip, the femur rotates inside the acetabulum. In axial loaded hip extension exercises, full hip extension is reached at the lockout position (0 degrees) and tension on the gluteus maximus muscles is dramatically reduced (like the top portion of a squat). In anteroposterior loaded hip extension exercises, full extension is reached at 10-20 degrees of hyperextension, and tension on the gluteus maximus muscles is maximized (ex: top portion of hip thrust).

In axial hip extension exercises like squats and deadlifts, hyperextension is dangerous because of the awkward angle on the spine and subsequent compressive forces on the posterior portions of the intervertebral discs and facet joints.

However, in anteroposterior hip extension exercises like hip thrusts and back extensions, hyperextension is much safer, as the hips can hyperextend 10 degrees with bent legs, 20 degrees with straight legs, and 30 degrees while being forcefully pulled back.

As dictated by length-tension relationships, since the gluteus maximus muscles contract best at resting length, then anteroposterior loaded exercises are going to be superior to axial loaded exercises because there’s maximum tension placed upon the glutes at neutral and into hyperextension, where the glutes are in their strongest contraction zone.

Peak Activation Positions and Glute Zones

While mean activation is the average level of activation throughout an entire repetition or set, peak activation is the highest level of activation reached during a repetition or set.

The greatest peak glute activity in a squat and lunge occurs down low in the bottom-range or “stretched-position.” The greatest peak glute activity in a deadlift occurs at lockout or “mid-range position.” The greatest peak glute activity in a hip thrust occurs into hyperextension, which is the end-range or “contracted position.”

All glute zones need to be trained for maximum gluteal development, maximum glute strength, and maximum glute power. Glute strength is zone-specific; it’s possible to be strong in one zone and not another. For example, you may have strong glutes down low with the squat but not-so-strong glutes at the top of a deadlift or into the hyperextension range in the hip thrust.

Ideally, you should strive for optimal strength in all three glute zones. In sports, rate of force development (RFD) is the most important factor in producing explosive force. Muscles need to be strong at all ranges of motion so their pulses can summate and produce maximum propulsion.

Although it’s important to perform movements explosively, it’s also important to use heavy enough weight to where you feel the resistance all the way through the movement. During hip-hyperextension movements, some guys with strong hamstrings and weak glutes will fling the weight up at the bottom and fail to use the glutes up top.

Often they’ll fail to achieve full range of motion (ROM) because of their weak glutes and tight hip flexors. This is akin to someone who has strong pecs, front delts, and lats but weak triceps flinging the weight up on a bench press and failing to control the weight up top to incorporate the triceps.

This strategy is suboptimal as the guy would also benefit from having strong triceps. It’s imperative that you learn to open up your hips and use for glutes. For some this is automatic, for others it just takes time.

The 7 Categories of Hip Extension Exercises

All sagittal plane hip extension exercises fall into one of seven categories:

Each of these categories has unilateral (single limb) and bilateral (dual limb) counterparts. The first term refers to the load vector and the second term refers to the knee action while the hips are extending or extended.

Axial extension exercises

Axial extension exercises include squats, lunges, Bulgarian squats, step ups, and single leg squats. They are loaded from top-to-bottom, involve simultaneous hip and knee extension, and are stretched-position exercises.

Stretched-position hip extension exercises produce more glute soreness than contracted-position hip extension exercises due to the level of micro-trauma they deliver to the muscle fibers. This is because the muscle is producing its strongest contraction while the muscle is being forcefully stretched. The eccentric deceleration and subsequent reversal into concentric acceleration can lead to extreme levels of delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS).

This explains why squats and lunges produce the most glute soreness out of all hip extension exercises, especially in the lower glute/ham tie-in area which is hit hardest. In addition, at the bottom of a squat or lunge, the hamstrings are shortened, which decreases their contribution and forces the glutes to take on the brunt of the hip extension requirements.

And if you employ the “sit back, chest up, knees out, spread the floor, go deep” technique then you’ll maximize the stretch in the glutes and their force contribution in the squat.

However, stretched-position hip extension exercises don’t produce much muscular tension at the top of the movement (at the exercise’s lockout). Due to the decreased muscular tension up top, blood is left free to dissipate and escape the area, which explains why squats and lunges don’t provide a pump or burning sensation in the glutes. Stretched-position hip extension exercises also work the quads the best and produce the greatest adductor magnus soreness.

Axial Semi-Straight Leg Exercises

Axial semi-straight leg exercises include deadlfits, good mornings, and single leg RDL’s. They are loaded from top-to-bottom, involve hip extension with semi-straight legs (as well as slight knee extension at the lockout), and are actually mid-range position exercises.

Mid-range position hip extension exercises lie in between stretched position hip extension exercises and contracted-position hip extension exercises. They can produce glute soreness but not to the same degree as stretched-position hip extension exercises. They can also produce a mild-pump but not to the same degree as contracted-position hip extension exercises.

For example, at the bottom of a deadlift, the hamstrings are in an excellent position for maximal contraction. As the movement rises, the glutes become more important and are mandatory for providing the forward hip translation necessary for lockout. Mid-range position hip extension exercises target the erector spinae better than any other exercises.

Anteroposterior Sraight Leg Exercises

Anteroposterior straight leg exercises involve hip hyperextension with straight legs. They’re loaded from front-to-back and they incorporate the upper glutes in addition to the lower glutes. They function similarly to axial semi-straight leg exercises by having good hamstring involvement down low and increased glute involvement up top.

They’re straight leg contracted-position exercises, which are the best hamstring activators and the greatest pump, burn, and cramp producers in the hamstrings. Examples of anteroposterior straight-leg exercises are back extensions, reverse hypers, and straight leg bridges.

Anteroposterior Bent Leg Exercises

Anteroposterior bent-leg exercises involve hip hyperextension with bent knees. They’re loaded from front-to-back and work the upper glutes in addition to the lower glutes. They’re the best total glute activators because the knees stay bent, which decreases hamstring involvement and forces the glutes to pick up the slack.

They’re bent-leg contracted-position hip extension exercises which produce the highest levels of both mean and peak glute activity because the glutes are worked pretty hard at the bottom of the movement but especially hard at the top of the movement at the hyperextension range.

Due to this phenomenon, muscular tension never subsides and blood is literally trapped and incapable of escaping. This explains why hip thrusts and pendulum quadruped hip extensions produce the greatest pump, burn, and cramping sensation out of any other hip extension exercises; the constant tension pools the blood which can be good for occlusion/hypoxia and fascial stretching, in addition to being good for both sarcomeric and sarcoplasmic hypertrophy.

However, during these exercises the glutes aren’t placed under the same amount of stress at the bottom range of motion as squats or lunges, so they do not produce nearly as much glute soreness. Examples of bent-leg anteroposterior exercises are glute bridges, hip thrusts, pendulum quadruped hip extensions, bent leg back extensions, and bent leg reverse hypers.

Anteroposterior Extension Exercises

Anteroposterior extension exercises involve simultaneous hip hyperextension and knee extension. They’re loaded from front-to-back and work the upper glutes in addition to the lower glutes. They produce a consistently high level of glute activation throughout the movement as well.

At the bottom of the motion, the hamstrings are shortened and the glutes are optimally loaded. As the movement progresses the knee straightens and the hamstrings become more active. The lever arm increases and the hips can hyperextend 20 degrees with straight legs (as opposed to only 10 degrees with bent legs).

But the knee-straightening produced by the quadriceps allows the hamstrings to lengthen, which increases their involvement and takes some of the burden off the glutes. This makes anteroposterior extension exercises second only to anteroposterior bent-leg exercises in mean glute activity. Examples of anteroposterior extension exercises are pull-throughs, Kettlebell swings, and reverse leg presses.

Anteroposterior Flexion Exercises

Anteroposterior flexion exercises involve simultaneous hip hyperextension and knee flexion. They’re loaded from front-to-back and work the upper glutes in addition to the lower glutes. They begin with straight legs, which is optimal for hamstring involvement. As the movement progresses, the hamstrings work dual roles as knee flexors and hip extensors.

At the top of the movement, the knees are bent, the hamstrings are shortened, and the glutes are contracting very hard. Anteroposterior flexion exercises are second only to anteroposterior straight-leg exercises in mean hamstring activity. Examples of anteroposterior flexion exercises are glute-ham raises, stability ball leg curls, gliding leg curls, and sliding leg curls.


Hybrids are blended vectors that contain an even mixture of axial and anteroposterior components, which create 45 degree-angled vectors. Exercises like sled pushes, stadium sprints, 45-degree hypers, and walking lunges are hybrids.

Feel Your Glutes!

I don’t want to get arrested for inciting mass-molestation, but I seriously recommend that you find someone (preferably Jessica Alba, Vida Guerra, or Shakira) who will let you squeeze their entire butt cheek while they perform various glute exercises. I recommend that you have your volunteer perform a bodyweight squat, good morning, lunge, single leg hip thrust, quadruped hip extension, lying abduction, and clam.

If you have access to weights and bands, then throw in a barbell squat, deadlift, lunge, glute bridge, hip thrust, band standing abduction, band seated abduction, and band external rotation. I believe that you can learn a ton about the glutes from this ten minute activity (or six-hour activity if you’re lucky enough to get Shakira).

Putting it All Together

I know, I know, now I’ve gone and screwed everything up by adding more components to program design. In addition to considering the workout-split, frequency, volume, intensity, density, and fluctuation of training stress, it’s also important to consider variety in exercise selection.

Variety prevents habituation. This is why templates work well. As long as one works hard on at least one movement each week from the various categories, then strength for that pattern should remain elevated.

Some of the many variables to consider with hip extension exercise include resistance type, center of gravity, limb number, kinetic chain type, contraction position, knee action, load vectors, level of stability, ROM, stance width, contraction type, tempo, and strength type (effort method).

Your Weekly Glute Fix

Here’s a template that can be split apart depending upon the number of times per week you hit the lower body. The following categories should be trained on a weekly basis for optimal strength development:

Hybrids, anteroposterior flexion, and anteroposterior extension exercises can be thrown in from time to time in substitution for other categories. Furthermore, more targeted work can be incorporated as well as hip abduction, hip external rotation, hip flexion, hip adduction, hip internal rotation, knee flexion, and knee extension exercises.

Just in Case You’re Wondering What Exercises to Pick

Here’s a chart that hones in on the levels of glute activation I received from various exercises in reference to MVC.

Bilateral Axial Extension Exercises

Exercise Resistance
Activation %
Activation %
Full Squat 315 35.6 114.0
Sumo Squat 315 27.6 85.4
Front Squat 265 35.0 91.7
Low Box Squat 315 20.0 103.0
High Box Squat 345 28.9 105.0
Zercher Squat 295 45.0 92.7
Lever Squat 270 26.8 95.2
Kneeling Squat 495 66.8 159.0

Unilateral Axial Extension Exercises

Exercise Resistance
Activation %
Activation %
Walking Lunge 225 27.7 94.7
Elevated Static Lunge 100 25.1 64.4
Lever Lunge 90 33.8 70.7
High Step Up Bodyweight 25.0 189.0
Low Step Up 95 lbs 17.9 45.1
Bulgarian Squat 185 21.7 54.2
Single Leg Wall Slide Bodyweight 11.0 26.4
Single Leg Box Squat Bodyweight 17.3 39.1
Blast Strap Pistol Bodyweight 17.9 36.2

Bilateral Axial Semi-Straight Leg Exercises

Exercise Resistance
Activation %
Activation %
Deadlift 495 55.0 110.0
Sumo Deadlift 495 51.9 98.4
Hex Bar Deadlift 495 37.6 73.8
Good Morning 265 34.0 87.7
Romanian Deadlift 405 24.3 69.6
Snatch Grip Deadlift 455 43.1 95.2
Hack Lift 335 32.8 121.0
Glute Punch 230 26.0 77.5
Seated Good Morning 185 8.9 25.2

Unilateral Axial Semi-Straight Leg Exercises

Exercise Resistance
Activation %
Activation %
King Deadlift 95 27.6 55.6
Single Leg Romanian Deadlift 200 31.1 66.4
Bulgarian Deadlift 225 46.8 69.5
Single Leg Good Morning 95 21.2 55.4
Single Leg Glute Punch 90 22.7 55.9

Bilateral Anteroposterior Bent Leg Exercises

Exercise Resistance
Activation %
Activation %
Hip Thrust Blue Band 94.5 224.0
Hip Thrust 405 84.1 180.0
Hip Thrust 275 plus 2 Red Bands 119.0 235.0
Bent Leg 45 Degree Hyper 2 Red Bands 67.1 135.0
Bent Leg 45 Degree Hyper 100 46.0 155.0
Bent Leg Back Extension 1 Red Band 48.6 139.0
Bent Leg Back Extension 100 46.0 149.0
Bent Leg Back Extension 100 plus 1 Red Band 89.8 158.0
Bent Leg Reverse Hyper 150 111.0 163.0

Unilateral Anteroposterior Bent Leg Exercises

Exercise Resistance
Activation %
Activation %
Pendulum Quadrupled Hip Extension 100 112.0 185.0
Single Leg Hip Thrust Red Band 43.5 120.0
Single Leg Prisoner Bent Leg 45 Degree Hyper Bodyweight 33.6 99.8
Single Leg Prisoner Bent Leg Back Extension Bodyweight 41.4 105.0
Single Leg Bent Leg Back Extension 25 plus 1 Red Band 65.9 134.0
Single Leg Bent Leg Reverse Hyper 100 122.0 199.0
Quadrupled Hip Extension Bodyweight 26.4 135.0
Single Leg Glute Bridge Bodyweight 26.1 119.0

Bilateral Anteroposterior Straight Leg Exercises

Exercise Resistance
Activation %
Activation %
Reverse Hyper 180 43.7 123.0
45 Degree Hyper 2 Red Bands 43.8 125.0
45 Degree Hyper 100 36.4 96.7
Back Extension 1 Red Band 36.4 130.0
Back Extension 100 42.4 105.0
Elevated Straight Leg Glute Bridge 50 14.9 66.8
Poor Man’s Back Attack Purple Band 48.4 143.0

Unilateral Anteroposterior Straight Leg Exercises

Exercise Resistance
Activation %
Activation %
Single Leg Reverse Hyper 100 97 203
Single Leg Prisoner 45 Degree Hyper Bodyweight 39.2 108.0
Single Leg Prisoner Back Extension Bodyweight 45.3 151.0
Single Leg Back Extension 25 plus 1 Red Band 65.9 134.0
Single Leg Elevated Straight Leg Glute Bridge Bodyweight 22.9 118.0

Bilateral Anteroposterior Extension Exercise

Exercise Resistance
Activation %
Activation %
Pull Through 260 81.8 143.0

Unilateral Anteroposterior Extension Exercise

Exercise Resistance
Activation %
Activation %
Bird Dog Bodyweight 39.9 135.0

Anteroposterior Flexion Exercises

Exercise Resistance
Activation %
Activation %
Natural Glute Ham Raise Bodyweight 5.5 9.9
Stability Ball Leg Curl Bodyweight 3.0 7.4
Glute Ham Raise Bodyweight 14.1 44.2
Glute Ham Raise 50 30.7 104.0
Glute Ham Raise 2 Red Bands 16.2 82.3
Sliding Leg Curl Bodyweight 20.9 102.0

Abduction Exercise

Exercise Resistance
Activation %
Activation %
Standing Band Abduction 1 Red Band 18.6 46.1

Transverse Abduction Exercise

Exercise Resistance
Activation %
Activation %
Band Clam 1 Red Band 27.1 57.8

External Rotation Exercise

Exercise Resistance
Activation %
Activation %
Standing Cable External Rotation 30 20.1 48.2

Adduction Exercise

Exercise Resistance
Activation %
Activation %
Standing Cable Adduction 100 3.4 6.0

Transverse Adduction Exercise

Exercise Resistance
Activation %
Activation %
Seated Swiss Ball Adduction Swiss Ball 2.5 4.4


Hip extension may never be as sexy as benching a few hundred pounds or strapping some plates around your waist for weighted chin-ups, but focusing on the different force vectors and exercises will have a bigger impact on your training than you may think.

Advanced Glute Training

Contest glutes.

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Jamie Eason’s back seat takes a back seat to no one.

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Katie Cole, trained by the author.

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The Glute Bridge demonstrated by Katie Cole.

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The Hip Thrust demonstrated by Katie Cole.

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Pauline Nordin, vying for the Nobel Glute Prize.

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Vida Guerra, favorite of glute fans everywhere.

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Jamie Eason’s glutes, pleasing AND functional.

About Bret Contreras


Bret Contreras received his master’s degree from Arizona State University and has been a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and fitness studio owner for the past several years. If you have comments or questions for Bret, or if you’d like to purchase Advanced Techniques in Glutei Maximi Strengthening, please visit his website at or email him at

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