Category Archives: Nick Tumminello

Deadlifts: One of the Most Functional Exercises for Everything!

By  On November 6, 2013 · 

I often say that I feel Deadlifts (and Deadlift variations) are one the most functional exercise options you can do, regardless of your training goal. That said, I can’t talk about why deadlifts and deadlift variations are functional for the 3 basic categories of training goals – Physique, Sports Performance or General Fitness/ Fat Loss – without first defining what the “functional” means.

Defining Functional Training

As I discussed in my What is Functional Training? The Real Definition post, The core problem with the term “functional training” isn’t the variety of different definitions trainers and coaches use in attempt to define it – that’s just a symptom of the real problem. The core of the problem which is that the fitness and conditioning field as a whole seems to have chosen to ignore the dictionary definition when it comes to this special word: “Functional.”
In school, we were taught to look up a word in the dictionary to understand its meaning, not make up our own definition. That causes chaos and confusion­—hence the current problem we have in the fitness field & conditioning fields with “functional.”
With this reality in mind, our Performance U philosophy on defining the word functional is not about attempting to just making up our own definition based on our favorite training methods; it’s about going with the dictionary definition.
According to the dictionary definition (each dictionary provides basically the same definition), the word “functional” is defined as something that is able to fulfill its purpose or function.
So, as I stated in my Functional Bodybuilding article, “Functional training has nothing to do with what the exercise looks like, nor does it have to do with the type of equipment you’re using – functional training is all about transfer into your training goal(s)!
Put simply, if the exercise transfers positively into the target sport, activity or physique goal you’re training for, it’s functional! Now some exercises have an obvious and direct functional transfer while other exercises offer a less obvious, indirect transfer. As I mentioned in my Truth About the Bench Press article, in the Performance U training system we classify our exercises as either Specific orGeneral based on how they (functionally) transfer.”

Deadlifts are Specific (i.e. Functional) for Everything!

Note: When I use the word “Deadlifts” here, I’m not just referring to the standard style Barbell Deadlift, but rather (in the context below) I’m using “Deadlifts”  to encompass all deadlift variations from standard deadlifts to RDLs to Single Leg RDLs to Trap Bar Deadlifts. 
In our the Performance U training approach, deadlifts are classified as a specific exercise (i.e. high on the functional spectrum) because they offer a direct and specific transfer into each of the three main training goals:
Functional Transfer into Sports Performance: Deadlifts specifically transfer to all field, court and combat sports because the movement closely matches the force generation patterns involved in sprinting, jumping, rotating to swing an implement like a bat or club (their hip extension involved in all of these movements), along with changing levels like shooting takedowns and picking up your opponent in MMA and grappling sports, etc.
Functional Transfer into Bodybuilding: It’s no secret that deadlifts are a very effective tool for helping to build bigger and better looking glutes, hamstrings and lower back muscles. And, since achieving that is a goal specific to bodybuilders, figure and physique competitors, along with those looking to add size; this make deadlifts a specific exercise.
General Fitness and Fat Loss: These are individual that are not training to compete in anything, nor are they interested in following the type of diet (of lifestyle) required to look like a fitness model. These are the folks who may be weekend warriors, moms, dads, and everyday people who’re looking to get into better shape for either an upcoming event (like a wedding or school reunion), or who simply want to have (and maintain) the physical capacity to easily perform the daily tasks of life an lead an active lifestyle. And, it’s important to note that this is the group of individuals who makes up the vast majority of the clients almost every personal trainer has, but hates to admit they’ve got because they’re not nearly as sexy to talk about as the physique and performance athletes.
Anyway, the deadlift has a high-transfer into the goal of improving general fitness for the same reasons I described above: it can help your move better and look better. Both goals of those interested in getting into better shape. And, deadlifts can be a great tool to contribute to fat loss because they’re a compound exercise option, which requires lots of muscles to activate simultaneously – The more muscles worked, the higher the metabolic demand.
Note: Weightlifting athletes and recreational lifters who’s goal is to become master deadlifters have been left out of the list above because this article is not discussing deadlifts from that perspective. This article addresses deadlifts and deadlift variations as they relate to those individuals who aren’t in the weight room to be weightlifters.

Don’t fit yourself to the Deadlift; Fit the Deadlift to You!

In short, to summarize what I just covered: Regardless of the training goal, deadlifts are used in some form or fashion in the Performance U training approach. That is, of course, unless we feel or have been advised by a medical professional that they’re contradicted for a certain individual’s injury or limitation.
That being said, one of the common practices I often see when it comes to using deadlifts is to attempt to fit everyone to deadlifts performed in the tradtional style (as demonstrated in the image above by my man Tony Gentilcore).
I submit to you that this is not only mentally lazy, it’s also dangerous  because it’s like trying to fit square pegs, triangular pegs, star-shaped pegs, etc. into round holes. And, it’s no secret that when you do that you’re going to cause lots to splinters!
In other words, because we all come in different shapes and sizes, we recommend fitting the deadlift styles and variations you use to YOU; don’t try to fit yourself to a specific type of deadlift.
Note: Depending on individual ability, some people may be able to use several different deadlift variations and styles while others may be more limited in the stances and styles they use. 

The 5-4-3-2-1 Workout Method for Size and Strength

By  On August 22, 2013 

There are so many different exercises and methodologies out there for gaining size and strength that it can be tough to understand what to do with it all. So, in this post I’m going to share with you the Performance U 5-4-3-2-1 Workout Method, which is a simple to understand, easy-to use, plug-and-play template used in the Performance U training approach for designing fully-comprehensive, Hybrid Training workouts for increasing size and strength.
In this post I’ve provided you with everything you need to know in order to immediately implement the Performance U 5-4-3-2-1 Workout method into your programs (if you wish to do so).
Below you’ll find:
– A break-down of each exercise category used the 5-4-3-2-1 Workout Method.
– A list of our favorite exercise applications for each category.
– A sample 5-4-3-2-1 workout program for maximizing STRENGTH gains.
– A sample 5-4-3-2-1 workout program for maximizes SIZE gains.

The 5-4-3-2-1 Workout Method: 101

Each of the numbers “5,” “4,” “3,” “2,” “1″ represents a different category of exercises along with the amount of sets the exercise(s) in that category will be performed for. The numbers 5-4-3-2-1 also represent the order of which we perform the exercises in the workout.
Put simply, the exercises that we perform the largest number of sets of (5,4) are the most intense and most complex exercises. Therefore, they’re prioritized early in the workout. These are also the exercises that are done for the least amount of reps. And, as the less intense and less complex exercises for less sets (3,2,1) are placed latter in the workout. These exercises are done for a larger amount of reps since the weight load used is less.
Here’s a break-down of the set and rep range used in each category along with some of our favorite exercises to plug-into each:

FIVE – 5 sets of 3-6 reps using a compound lift or an explosive exercise w/ 2-3min rest between sets.

Our top strength exercises to use in this category are: 
– Barbell Squats (Front Squats or Back Squats)
– Trap Bar Deadlifts
– Weighted Pull Ups or chin Ups
Our top explosive exercises to use in this category are: 
– Sprints (20-40yds) or Hill Sprints (6-10 second bursts)
– Long Jumps
– Vertical Jumps
– Medicine Ball Rotary Throws (Any of the three versions featured here)
Personal Trainer Notes: The cue when performing the strength exercises (above) is to “explode into the weight” on each rep. However, although the intention is to lift the weight (concentrically) as fast possible; since the loads used are heavy (relative the individuals strength level), the concentric aspect of these movements will not (visually) appear fast. 

FOUR – 4 sets of 6-8 reps using a compound exercise w/ 90sec – 2min rest between sets.

Our top exercises to use in this category are: 
– Romanian Deadlifts (RDLs)
– One Arm Dumbbell Rows (Free Standing or on Bench), or Barbell Bent-Over Rows
– Rope Climb or Peg-Board Climbs 
Personal Trainer Notes: The cue on these exercises is (also) to lift the weight (concentrically) as fast possible. The eccentric portion should be slower demonstrating deliberate control.

THREE – 3 sets of 8-12 reps using a compound exercise, an isolation exercise, or machine exercise w/ 60-90sec between sets.

Our top exercises to use in this category are:
– Lunges (Reverse, Walking, Anterior LeaningLateral w/ Cross Reach or from Deficit)
– Dumbbell or Barbell Presses (Flat, Incline, or Overhead)
– 1-Arm Compound Rows or 1-Arm Cable Rows or 1-Arm Dumbbell Rows (Off Bench or Free-Stranding)
– Hammer Strength High Row Machine
– Barbell Good Mornings, One-Leg RDLs (Barbell or Low Cable) or 45 Degree Hip-Extensions
– Barbell Back Squats
– Single or Double-Leg Hip Thrusts (Any version shown here)
– Cable Chops Low to High

TWO – 2 sets of 12-20 reps using an isolation exercise or machine based exercise w/ 60-90sec between sets.

Our top exercises to use in this category are:
– Rear-Delt Flys (Machine or Dumbbell) or Band Pull Aparts
– Cable or Dumbbell Chest Flys
– Biceps Curls (any kind)
– Triceps Extensions (any kind)
– Plank Dumbbell Rows (aka. Renegade Rows)
– Stability Ball Hamstring Curls
– Stability Ball Push Ups or Push Up Variations
– Shrugs
– Calf Raises
– Shoulder Raises
– Pull Overs or Straight Arm Pull Downs

ONE – Metabolic finisher or Fitness Challenge.

For the 1-set Finisher (aka. The Happy Ending) we might use:
-A timed set of basics exercises performed for high reps (x50-100) for time, like: push-ups, bodyweight squats, Band pull aparts, etc.
– A few sets of a Complex:  Barbell complex, Dumbbell Complex, Kettlebell Complex, Bodyweight complex or Band Complex.
– A few sets of a Hybrid-Locomotion Complex.

Adjusting the 54321 to YOUR Goal!

Although the 5-4-3-2-1 method is a Hybrid Workout template designed to improve both strength and size (regardless of how you spin it), it can easily be adjusted to target your efforts to emphasize size gains or strength gains.
If your goal is primarily to gain STRENGTH simply perform multiple exercises in each: 5 set and 4 set category. And, one exercise in the other 3,2 and 1 set category. Doing this spends more of your training time on the set and rep ranges that help you improve motor unit recruitment and improve force production most effectively.
If your goal is primarily to gain SIZE simply perform one exercise in the 5 set category and do multiple exercises in the 4,3 and 2 set range. Doing this puts more of your training time on the set and rep ranges that are more optimal for creating a stimulus for muscle growth.

Sample 5-4-3-2-1 Workouts

Each of the two sample programs below is divided into three workouts: A,B and C. You can use these programs as either a 3, 4 or 5-day training split depending on your time and preference. Once you finish workout C, just repeat workout A and so on…
Note: Make sure to combine these program with a good nutritional plan that’s geared toward gaining muscle (i.e. doesn’t put you in a caloric deficit).

Split for STRENGTH Gains

Day A – Upper-body PUSH
1. Bench Press 5 x 3-6
2. Barbell Push Press 5 x 3-6
4a. Skull Crusher 3x 8-12
4b. Front Delt Raise 2x 15
5. Push-ups (any variation you preffer) 1 x60-80 (for time)
Day B – Upper-body PULL
1. Chin Ups 5x 3-6
2. 1 Arm Dumbbell Row 5x 5-6
3. T-Bar Row 4x 6-8
4a. Gittleson Shrugs 3x 8-12
4b. Biceps Curls (any kind) 2x 15
5. Band Pull Aparts 1x 80-100 (for time)
Day C – Lower-body
1. Trap Bar Deadlift 5 x 3-6
2. Squat Jumps or LongJumps 5 x 4-6
3. Bulgarian Split Squats 4x 6-8
4. Leg Curls 3x 8-12
5. Calf Raise 2x 15
6. Bodyweight Walking Lunge x60-80 (30-40 per leg) (for time)

Split for SIZE Gains

Day A – Chest, Shoulders, Triceps
1. Wide-Grip Bench press 5 x 3-6
2. Dumbbell Bench press 4 x 6-8
3. Incline Dumbbell press 4x 6-8
5. Skull Crusher 2x 15
6. Push ups (any variation you preffer) 1 x80-100 (for time)
Day B – Back, Traps, Biceps
1. Chin Ups 5 x 3-6
2. Wide Grip Lat Pull Down 4 x 6-8
3. Barbell Bent Over Row (under-hand grip) 4x 6-8
4. Seated Row (wide grip) 3x 8-12
5a. Gittleson Shrugs 3x 8-12
5b. Biceps Curls (any kind) 2x 15
6. Band Pull a parts x80-100 (for time)
Day C – Legs, Glutes, Calfs
1. Trap Bar Deadlift 5 x 3-6
2. Front Squats 4 x 6-8
3a. Leg extensions 3x 8-12
3b. Leg Curl 3x 8-12
4a. Calf Raise 2x 15
4b. Pike Roll Outs 2x 15
5. Bodyweight Walking Lunge 1x 60-80 (30-40 per leg) (for time)

Final Thoughts on the 5-4-3-2-1 Workout Method

As you can clearly see by the two workout splits above:  there’s more similarities than differences between the exercises used in strength program and the Size program.
Aside from some emphasis differences in set and reps used, the biggest difference between the Strength and Size workout is the way I’ve classified each training day.
On the 3-Day workout split emphasizing Size gains, you can see I’ve labeled the workouts by the muscles trained that day. This is a great way to ensure each major (and minor) muscle group is trained and allowed optimal recovery between workouts.
On the 3-Day workout split emphasizing Strength gains, I’ve classified each workout by themovement pattern emphasized that particular training day. Since strength is more about performance, this classification system ensures each of the three main movements is trained and allowed to recover.

A-List Exercises: Upper Body Pushing

As I stated in my A-List Upper body PULLING exercises post, with the endless variety of exercises personal trainers and fitness enthusiast have from which to choose, it can be confusing to decide which exercises to use as the foundational (cornerstone) lifts for their strength training programs.
To make life easier, I’ve put together this A-list exercise series in order to narrow the field and provided you with the technique and application of the strength training exercises placed at the top of the priority list in the Performance U training approach, regardless of the training goal, because we feel they offer the most bang for our strength training buck.
Note: Although the exercises applications below are generally prescribed, we’ll manipulate the acute variable (sets, reps, rest, etc.) of these exercises to create the specific adaption we’re looking to create based on each individual’s goal (i.e. higher reps w/ lower loads for hypertrophy, lower reps w/ higher loads for strength, etc.).
Here are our “go-to” strength training exercises for otherwise healthy clients (i.e. with no major medical limitations), which we’ll apply for all personal training and conditioning purposes from fat loss to sports performance to physique development.

A-List Vertical Pushing Exercises

 Shoulder to Shoulder Press
We like the shoulder-to-shoulder press because its a great way to add variety to a the limited list of overhead pressing variations; the offset load requires the torso muscles to work hard in order to maintain a stabile torso position, and it feels very comfortable and natural for many clients and athletes.
Here’s a video of a few Shoulder-to-Shoulder-Press variations:
Dumbbell Uppercuts
Rotation is pillar of human movement. And, when we’re looking to improve one’s ability to generate and transfer force across their body, and improve their ability to rotate from their hips- Dumbbell Upper-cuts are one of our favorite applications.
Single Arm Dumbbell Overhead Press
We like the single arm over head press because it gives us a tremendous core training stimulus – to control the offset load – while also strengthening the shoulder musculature.
One Arm Shoulder Press
Additionally, as you can see by the picture above, we keep the shoulder in a neutral position at the top of the press in an effort to minimize potential impingement stress.

A-List Hybrid Pushing Exercises

Our Hybrid Pushing exercises are essentially diagonal pushing actions.
Angle Barbell Presses (aka. Landmine Presses
In sports you’re not always pushing straight ahead but slightly upward, such as when trying to control an opponent’s shoulders in MMA or getting underneath a players shoulder pads in football. Based on the SAID Principle, we feel this is a great exercise to help you perform those actions.
Angled Barbell Press and Catch
This is essentially a more explosive (dymnamic effort) version of the Angled Barbel Press.
Incline Dumbbell Press
Incline Dumbbell Press

Our A-List Horizontal Pushing Exercises

One Arm Push Up
As I said in my Truth About the Bench Press article, “The one-arm push-up is our single favorite whole-body pushing exercise. In fact, it’s what’s dethroned the bench press as our king of upper-body pushing exercises for field, court and combat athletes.”
 One Arm Cable Press
If you can’t do one-arm push-ups, or you’re currently working up to doing them, the standing one-arm cable press is a great training option.
Most of the time we see folks using this exercise the weight is too light to create an effective strength challenge. That’s a mistake.
Check out the video below because there’s several key strategies we’ve developed to help our athletes perform this exercise safely and effectively using a challenging load!
 Flat Dumbbell Press
Dumbbell Press
We’re certainly not opposed to using a straight bar to perform the Bench Press on Incline Barbell press. However, just as how our A-list upper body pulling options involve using free floating handles, our preference for pushing applications is dumbbells because they allow the freedom to adjust to the way your arms feel most comfortable.
Push Ups and Push Up Variations
You know we love us some Push ups…
 …and push up variations. I put together this post covering our Top 20 Push Up Variations.

A-List Exercises: Upper Body Pulling

Strength training is just like building a house. In that, you need a good foundation to build up from. That said, with the endless variety of exercises coming at us daily, it can be confusing for the personal trainer and fitness enthusiast to decide which strength exercises to use as the foundational (cornerstone) lifts for their training programs.
The purpose of this A-List Exercise series is to share with you the strength training exercises we place at the top of our priority list, regardless of the training goal, because we feel they offer the most bang for our strength training buck.
In other words, the exercises I’ll provided in each installment of this A-List Exercises series are our “go-to” moves for otherwise healthy clients (i.e. with no major medical limitations), which we apply for all training purposes from fat loss to sports performance to physique development.
Note: Although the exercises applications below are generally prescribed, we’ll manipulate the acute variable (sets, reps, rest, etc.) of these exercises to create the specific adaption we’re looking to create based on each individual’s goal (i.e. higher reps w/ lower loads for hypertrophy, lower reps w/ higher loads for strength, etc.).

Our A-List Vertical Pulling Exercises

Rope Climbing
We consider Rope Climbing w/o using your legs to be the king of all upper-body pulling exercises.
Pull Ups w/ Free Floating Handles
We’re certainly not opposed to using a straight bar to perform chin ups and pull ups. However, our A-list pull up option involves using free floating handles.
In the video below my good friend, former intern and up and coming super-star strength coach Dan Blewett explains why we favor using free floating handles for performing pull ups.
 If we don’t have access to free floating handles, we’ll perform chin-ups using the strategy provided in this video (below) to help each person find their optimal grip width.
Pull Downs w/ Neutral Grip Wide Handle
Another one of our “go-to” vertical pulling options is the lat pull down exercise using a neutral grip wide handle attachment (pictured below).
We’ve found this handle to 1) be the most shoulder friendly and 2) feel the most natural and comfortable for clients and athletes. Plus, this handle allows for a greater ROM than the close grip handle.
Note: This does NOT mean we don’t use other attachments like the lat bar. It’s just to say this particular handle is at the top of our (A-) list if we were to pick one attachment.

Our A-List Horizontal Pulling Exercises

 One Arm Dumbbell Free Standing Rows
Screen Shot 2013-02-20 at 6.34.37 PM
This rowing variation is at the top of our list because it combines a heavy element of core and lower-body integration to maintain a stable (and athletic) body position while you perform the pull.
One Arm Anti-Rotation Suspension Rows
Another single arm variation we use with almost everyone is the single arm anti rotation suspension row because…
1) It gives us great core activation (to resist the rotary force in order to maintain your shoulders and hips parallel to the floor) while we strengthen the back.
2) It’s super easy to teach and learn.
3) It’s easily adjustable for any fitness level. In that, the further you walk your feet toward the anchor point, the harder you make it. And, the further you walk your feet under the anchor point, the easier you make it.
Screen Shot 2013-02-20 at 6.04.39 PM
The video below demonstrates an advanced (and really cool) progression to the One Arm Anti-Rotation Suspension Row from my great friend and personal trainer extraordinaire Rob Simonelli.
 Wide grip Barbell Rows – Performance U style
Most folks could use some improved strength and muscular development in their mid-back muscles. That’s why Wide Grip Barbell Rows (done in the manner we display in the video below) is one of our go-to moves.
Put simply, its one of the best methods we’ve found for targeting the mid-back area while virtually eliminating cheating.

Deadlifts for Dummies

This is a guest post by Lee Boyce.
Deadlifts are one of those “no cheating” exercises. The steps are simple:
  1. Pick up bar all the way off the ground.
And that’s it.
For most of us, that’s about as far as it goes. Unfortunately, most of us are kinda stupid.  Deadlifting is one of those moves that looks so easy but has more particulars than meets the eye.  Less the cape and tights, I’ve come to save the day with the most comprehensive guide to deadlifting so you’ll be pulling strong, and pain free into oblivion.  Let’s get to it, step by step.

Grab a Hold

The grip for a deadlift can either be straight (palms over) or mixed. The mixed grip (one hand over, one hand under) is great for heavier loads, but I recommend not getting used to the same mix each time. It can begin to develop imbalances if you deadlift with it frequently. When performing a conventional deadlift, use a grip that’s just outside your hip width. Too wide and you’ll have issues keeping a strong grip on the bar. Too narrow and the bar will begin to lose its balance.  Remember to wrap the thumbs around firmly also.

Position Your Body

There are many schools of thought as to the technique used for a deadlift to be performed correctly.  My research and opinion leads me to use what you’re about to read as my choice way to keep a client safe, while pulling the most weight possible if need be.
The first step is to line the bar up with your shoelaces. The bar should be positioned over your foot to divide it into a front half and a back half. You should be able to see your toes come out in front of the bar, as it will be very close to your shins. Without changing anything, reach down to the bar and place your hands in your desired position – just outside hip width. At this point your back will be rounded and your butt will be way up in the air.  The next step is to lower your hips and raise your shoulders. Doing this simultaneously should encourage the low back to arch, and the chest to raise. Your shins should be right against the bar now, with the feet flat on the ground. Keep your head down.
Next, make sure your chest is what’s directly above the bar. If your chest is what’s over the bar, that means your shoulder blades are too. It’s a lot easier to transfer your forces into a heavy bar when you have your entire back helping you out. If you follow the physics by keeping your scapulae over the bar when you set up, you can’t lose.

Getting Tight

You may have thought that was what the last step was for, but you still have some tightness you need to achieve.  Grabbing a firm hold of the bar, with your shoulders where they should belong, actively try to squeeze the chest out. This will get the lats tight, low back tight, and arch your thoracic region so you’re ready to pull. At the same time, ensure your arms are fully straightened. Make an effort to “bend” the bar, or to “pull the flex out of it” without moving it off the floor.  Now you’re ready to pull.

So Pull!

Make sure the heels are dug right into the ground and stay tight. Drag the bar up your shins.  Now all the stuff we worked on in the setup section just became important. If the scapulae aren’t located over the bar, or the bar was located too far away from the shins, the hips would shoot upwards and the bar would move in against the shins, as soon as it was one inch off the ground. This goes to show that the physics are most closely followed through the setup above. Take a look at this bad deadlift and you’ll see what I mean.
In the video above, the girl does about everything you could do wrong in a deadlift wrong.  She doesn’t take her time in her set-up, and her feet aren’t in tight enough to the bar. As a result, the bar stays under her shoulders/armpit region and she has no stability in her pull. Her lats aren’t tight, her back isn’t arched and her scaps aren’t over the bar. So as you can see, the bar escapes her and the bar path is irregular on its way up.  Of course, this causes her hips to shoot up first and her back to round. But look what happens to the bar – it goes right where it belongs, under the scapulae, where the most support will be available.

Hip Drive

As the lift nears completion, what happens with your hips becomes important too. Remember that the deadlift dominantly works the big three muscle groups of the posterior chain – the glutes, hamstrings, and lower back.  It’s easy to let the glutes slacken up and not fully contribute to the lift, and it all depends on how we finish.
I hear a lot of different cues to explain “hip drive”. Many of them involve a subtle forward thrust of the hips to encourage the glutes to activate, especially nearing the end of the lift at the lockout. I like to think of a pulley system, something like how elevators work. To me, it’s the simplest way to visualize the muscles.
In the picture, the weight (m) represents the barbell. The rope (on the side the hand is pulling on) represents your hamstrings, and the fulcrum (the block) would be your pelvis. Drive your heels straight into the floor and feel your hamstrings and glutes contract downwards. Keep the tension on them as the bar travels up your shins and thighs to correspond.  Your entire back will be working whether you try or not, so just make an effort to keep it just as tight as it was when you first started your pull.
I don’t focus on “creating” a hip drive, because the angle will close on its own, especially if these cues are followed properly. Often people create false drives at the top of the lift that usually just throws the low back into hyperextension, with the glutes just coming along for a free ride.  Having said this, the pelvis needs to be “unlocked” at the top of the lift so that the glutes can assist in completing the lockout. Check out the RKC plank by my man Bret Contreras:
This is essentially the hip position that would be ideal at the end of the deadlift.  We can achieve them through practicing these positions through supplementary exercises like this one, and also exercises like glute bridges, shown by Nick:

The Final Product

In a T-NATION article I wrote a couple of years ago, I included a video that demonstrates properly executed deadlifts. You’ll note the bar travelling in a straight line off the ground, and my hip position being dictated by my glutes at the end of the lift.
In a deadlift, the lowering phase shouldn’t be a slow one. Let the bar drag back down the thighs with the chest staying out. As soon as the bar passes the knee level, let it drop to the floor much faster by dropping your shoulders. Get your scapulae right back over the bar as fast as you can. Using this approach in the negative half of the lift will make it feel not so negative at all. You’ll avoid injury by not spending too much time lowering a heavy bar.

That’s All, Folks!

Clear as day – a deadlift is a simple battle with physics to make heavy bars move off the ground. Applying these words of advice can take you through strength plateau, and through a development plateau too. It may be a matter of a few subtle tweaks to your form and technique.  Keep in mind this was a guide to the conventional deadlift, not sumo, defecit, snatch grip, single leg, Romanian, or Give-a-Dog-a-Bone deadlifts. We’ll save those for next time.

What is Functional Training? The Real Definition

Just about every personal trainer, strength coach and physical therapist uses the terms “”Functional Exercise,” ”Functional Movement” or ”Functional Training.” And, it’s no secret that different people choose to define the word “functional” in different ways, depending on their chosen training approach.
– Many Personal Trainers define “functional training” as exercises using three-dimensional movements or standing on unstable surfaces.
– Many Strength Coaches feel that “functional training” has to do with just getting stronger in the basic lifts.
Strength and conditioning
– Many Physical Therapists and Corrective Exercise oriented Trainers think that “functional training” is about regaining your muscle balance and fundamental movement ability before you begin doing either 3D exercises or the basic lifts.
The realities described above gives us the State of the Fitness and Rehabilitation Industry, which is…
The 3D oriented personal trainers tend to think traditional weight-lifting is “non-functional” and only good for those interested in bodybuilding or being weight-room studs. While the strength coaches tend make fun of the 3D trainers for doing circus acts and not lifting intense enough. And, the physical therapists and corrective trainers tend to think the 3D trainers and strength coaches are both off base.
All this endless debate, animosity and down-right insanity over differing definitions of what functional training is can be solved very easily by understanding and embracing the REAL definition of the word “functional,” which is exactly what I provide you in this video.

General and Specific Exercises

In the video I mentioned that in the Performance U training system, we classify exercises as either Specific or General. Here’s the break-down on each type of exercise:

SPECIFIC Exercises

These exercises have a direct and obvious (functional) transfer because they’re based on the principle of Specific Adaptations to Imposed Demands (SAID). The SAID principle is also known as the “principle of specificity.”
According to Dr. Everett Harman in the reference book for the NSCA, “Essentials of Strength & Conditioning”: ”The concept of specificity, widely recognized in the field of resistance training, holds that training is most effective when resistance exercises are similar to the sport activity in which improvement is sought (the target activity).
“The simplest and most straightforward way to implement the principle of specificity is to select exercise similar to the target activity with regard to the joints about which movement occur and the direction of the movements. In addition, joints ranges of motion in the training should be at least as great as those in the target activity.”
Essentially, the adaptations to training will be specific to the demands the training puts on the body. Now, don’t get it twisted as this does NOT mean we work on skills with our specific (functional) exercise applications. What it means is that we work on improving specific force generation patterns, which transfer into target movements!
I first wrote about the Kettlebell Clinch Pull-Up in 2009 as an example of a "Specific" exercise application for improving Muay Thai Clinch strength. The force production patterns and joint angles in this exercise more closely match those of the clinch (aka. The Plum Position) than does the general Pull Up or Chin-Up.

I first wrote about the Kettlebell Clinch Pull-Up in 2009 as an example of a “Specific” exercise application for improving Muay Thai Clinch strength. The force production patterns and joint angles in this exercise more closely match those of the clinch (aka. The Plum Position) than does the general Pull Up or Chin-Up.
Other examples of what we would call a specific exercise would be performing squat variations to improve vertical (squat) jump height. Or, performing standing cable presses or angled barbell presses to improve standing pushing strength. Even biceps curls can be a specific exercise to help a running back keep a tight grip on the ball.
“Specific” exercise could also be labeled as “functional” exercises if you like that word better.

GENERAL Exercises

Our general exercises are basic weight-training exercises – compound and isolation movements using free weights, cables and machines – used to help increasing muscle mass, motor unit recruitment, bone density, connective tissue health, etc.
Although these applications may not necessarily reflect any specific force generation or movement patterns, their ability to positively transfer into improved performance potential is less obvious and often ignored or misunderstood, which is why many fitness professionals and therapists often mistakenly label them as “non-functional” as if these exercise application won’t help, and may actually hinder one’s health and performance.
In other words, just because an given exercise application may not directly reflect a specific force production pattern or movement pattern doesn’t means it can’t help someone. Lets face it, increasing bone density and connective tissue strength along with adding muscle mass is rarely ever “non-functional.”
Additionally, in my Functional Bodybuilding article I covered three ways that bodybuilding (i.e. Hypertrophy training) methods can be highly “functional” for athletes by helping them improve specific physical aspects of their performance.

Non-Functional Exercises

If we don’t feel a particular exercise or methodology offers a specific or general transfer into the client’s training goal, we’ll consider it “non-functional” for that individual. This is not to say it’s a “bad” exercise, but rather to say (we don’t feel) the exercise or methodology is the best use of the client’s time and training efforts over other applications that likely yield higher positive transfer in the training goal.
Balance for Tennis Performance - WEB
This is often the case with Unstable Surface Training (UST). In that, unless the we’re directed to use UST for post-rehabilitation purposes by a Physical Therapist, or the client’s goal involves improving their ability to perform on unstable bases – like a Circus performer for instance – we don’t consider UST “functional” for most training scenarios. This is because 1) it doesn’t offer aspecific transfer since the force productions patterns are different than when standing on stable surfaces like the ground – where most sports are played and ADLs occur.  And, 2) we can’t say it offers a “general” transfer because you’re unable to create enough tissue overloadto elicit tissue adaptions.
Here’s a great video from my good friend JC Santana for more on UST.


What we consider as “Specific” (i.e. functional) exercises and what we consider as “General” exercises is determined by the individual’s training goal. For example:
– If the individual’s goal is to gain muscle size (i.e. increase Hypertrophy), we’ll label exercises like Bent Over Rows and Deadlifts as “Specific,” and we’ll label exercises like Medicine Ball Rotary Throws as “General.”
If we’re working with a rotary athlete looking to increase their rotary power, we’ll label exercises like Medicine Ball Rotary Throws and Deadlifts as “Specific” because the legs and hips, along with the torso muscles are involved in rotary force production. And, we’ll label exercises like Bent Over Rows  as “General.”
In either training scenario, the Performance U approach integrates BOTH ”specific” and “general” exercise applications because both offer unique benefits the other misses. We’ve found this approach not only helps training become more well-round and effective, it also helps to make serious workouts more interesting and enjoyable. That’s the beauty of the Performance U Hybrid training methodology, baby!

High Box Jumps: An Overrated and Dangerous Exercise

Personal Trainers and Strength Coaches are in a constant battle of weighting the risk and reward of exercises. In the article below, Dan Blewett, a professional Baseball player, (former intern of mine) and owner of a very successful Sports Performance Training business, shares the logic we both share for X-ing out high box jumps from our training programs, as we strongly believe they’re a dangerous and overrated exercise.
In today’s article, Coach Dan also provides some quick mods to allow you to keep (what we both feel is) a safer version on-hand.
Easy Killer!
No one is going to try to claim that the high box jump exercises will injure everyone who does them. And, we certainly embrace that other personal trainers and strength coaches use High Box Jumps. However, this article isn’t about what OTHER people do, it’s about what WE do, and in this case, don’t do in training.
Put simply, we don’t use high box jumps with our clients and athletes because we feel they are not worth the risk in most instances, for most populations. Dan’s article (along with one of our videos) below gives you a very clear and concise explanation as to why we feel this way.

Why (we feel) The High Box Jump Exercise is Dangerous & Overrated

Enter: The Post-Injury Parent Conversation
“How did my son tear his ACL, Dan?”
“He fell awkwardly off of a 55 inch box while attempting to jump onto it.”
“Why was he doing such a high box jump?”
“I wanted to increase his jumping ability.”
“Was having the box at his max jumping height essential to the exercise?”
“Well, No. I suppose we could have put it at 53 inches and he would have made it atop safely.”
“So you needlessly risked my son’s career over two inches?”
“I suppose I did.”
“We are not paying for his surgery. You’ll be hearing from our lawyer.”
I will never have this conversation. EVER. Why? Because this hypothetically irate parent is 100% right – box jumps at personal record heights are unnecessary. Reducing the height to a level easily cleared would eliminate a tremendous amount of risk while only marginally, if at all, reducing the effect of stimulating the athlete’s maximum jump intensity. After all, the training effect of the Box Jump is minimal, while risk is very high.
High Box Jumps Do:
  1. Teach Intensity via a goal to jump to
  2. Demonstrate Jumping Ability
  3. Demonstrate Hip Mobility
High Box Jumps Do Not:
  1. Provide Overload Stimulus For Muscles
  2. Showcase the jump used in sports (ever seen LeBron tuck his legs while dunking?)
High Box Jump Risk:
  1. Awkward Fall To Floor from 2-6 feet.
  2. Skimming Shins (on wood/metal boxes)
  3. Hands hitting the box on the upswing. Broken fingers, anyone?
High Box Jump Reward:
  1. Show others how high you can jump
  2. Show others how mobile your hips are
  3. YouTube Hero*
  4. Find out how strong your ACLs and bones are when you inevitably fall
 *Or, you could join the ranks of one those Youtube “Box Jump Fail” videos. Go on, test the waters and search D-I athlete jumping 62 inches with his competitive season just a month away? Check. Middle-aged dude challenging his “Box Jump PR” at the local CrossFit? Check. Cute girl jumping on top of eleven 10lb bumper plates, stacked like pancakes atop a 20” Plyo box? Check. 
Remind yourself that there’s no real training stimulus here except for intensity. Your ability to jump is already determined, the exercise is entirely aimed at eliciting 100% of it. Increasing one’s explosive power, especially that of a high-level athlete, requires exercises that force the athlete’s body to increase rate of force development. Plus, as briefly mentioned above, jumping height will depend to a high degree on hip mobility. Coach Nick expands on this idea in a brief seminar clip:

How To Make Box Jumps Safer and More Effective

1. Lower The Box and coach minimal hip flexion to be involved in getting on top of the box (as Coach Nick talked about in the video above). This way you’ll have a much better idea of how much actual jumping ability some one has. Plus, seeing a 48inch box is intimidating, even if you know you can jump 50”. If you think you have to challenge your PR to get adequate jumping intensity I’d counter that if no one told you, you couldn’t tell the difference without measuring. All you need is enough height for your body to really need to get up.
2. Use them as conditioning at low heights. Though CrossFitters are often the culprit of Box Jump PRs, I don’t mind the CrossFit notion of using low but repetitive box jumps for conditioning. It’s relatively safe as long as the height doesn’t challenge a person at any point. Jumping at 30-50% of your max height for reps can give you a nice anaerobic training effect.
I can hear you right now – “Joe DeFranco box jumps all his high-level athletes!”
I know – I’ve watched countless videos. And I have tremendous respect for Mr.DeFranco and his methods. But, I guarantee you he knows the risks of the exercise, talks it over with his athletes, and likely takes measures to ensure the height they choose is one they will make 99% of the time.
Also, jumping high is sexy and gets YouTube views. But just because he might churn out box jump videos doesn’t mean his athletes train that way all the time. .

We Train and Let Train

There’s a big difference between jumping onto a box and high-box jumps.We’ll stick with jumping onto a box (that’s at a reasonable height) when we feel it’s appropriate for lower-body dynamic effort workout and force summation purposes.
You can go ahead and “don’t be a punk,” if you choose – Just remember it only takes one awkward landing, and 50+ inches is pretty high to break the fall. And, that’s a risk we’re not willing to take.
Author Bio:
Dan Blewett is the owner of Dan Blewett Sports Performance and WARBIRD Throwing Academy in Bloomington, Illinois. Much of Dan’s training knowledge has come at the expense of his own body as he continues to chase professional baseball and high-performance for his athlete clientele. Visit for his unique take on training and baseball.

The Truth about the Bench Press for Sports Performance

by Nick Tumminello
Date Released : 20 Nov 2012
Learning Objectives:
  1. Discover why the bench press may not contribute significantly to improved athletic performance.
  2. Learn why the force generation and muscle activation patterns are different when performing the bench press vs. performing the common upright pressing actions of sport.
  3. Understand the difference between “Specific” (Functional) exercises vs. “General” exercises, and how both types of exercises can have positive functional performance benefits.
  4. Learn 3 functional alternatives to the bench press to improve upright (standing) pushing strength.

The bench press is widely considered one of the “BIG” lifts. It has reached a credibility status that provokes many lifters to include it in their exercise program as a staple exercise.

The bench press is a lift many enjoy and it is also a must-do for power lifters since it is 1/3 of their entire sport. Additionally, while competing in a combine – an event where college football players perform physical and mental tests in front of coaches, managers, and scouts – the bench press is a required test, which calls on the athlete to train with the bench press in order to prepare.

This article will explain why the bench press is one of the most over-emphasized and misunderstood exercises in the world of sports performance training because the benefits are very limited when it comes to improving the standing pushing actions needed for optimal sports performance. This article will also detail 3 bench press alternative exercises, which can be applied in training routines to improve performance.

Let’s be clear…

This article is not recommending any exerciser to stop using the bench press, especially if you enjoy using it!

This article is simply sharing a particular training approach, which utilizes exercises other than the bench press to prepare for the standing pushing forces needed in sport. It is also about providing some new insights on the bench press so one can better understand how it could best fit into an individualized sports strength program.

How Can You Challenge the Bench Press? 

How can you challenge the bench press when it has helped so many high school, college, and pro athletes? The bench press is an exercise that has not been challenged or analyzed below the surface by most. Perhaps this is because it has a great history in weight lifting, or because the bench press has been widely accepted for a significant amount of time, dating back to the 1930’s.

That being said, the bench press is an exercise that has aided in athletic performance from high school to pro sports. However, there are numerous other contributing factors that have a much larger impact on athletic success. Listed below are a couple of the contributing factors to athletic success:

The high school athlete on nature’s steroids

High school males, ages 12-17, will likely get bigger and stronger no matter what they do (or don’t do) in their strength training routine because they have the anabolic advantage. When teenaged boys go through puberty (especially the later stages), they experience what is called the “strength spurt” in which their body drastically increases testosterone production, bone thickness, muscle mass and motor unit recruitment while decreasing body fat. Within a few years, this happens rapidly.

A good strength program can certainly teach teenagers good lifting habits and help them to build a solid work ethic. A resistance-training program can in fact accelerate their strength gains. However, it’s likely that any good strength-training stimulus will have the similar effects for the teenager experiencing this “strength spurt” filled with nature’s steroids.

Best at the sport, not best in the gym
Field, court and combat athletes (from high school to pro) excel at their sport because they are the best at playing their sport, not because they are the best in the gym.
The NFL combine results are proof of this. Out of the “Top 5 bench press records in NFL Combine history,” which actually consist of 8 players, only 1 athlete, Brodrick Bunkley (Florida State, 2006), experienced success in his sport. The other players either went undrafted, remain bench players, or displayed a poorer performance compared to their teammates.

The 2008 article titled, “Few recent combine stars have become productive NFL players” stated that:

Seventeen of the 128 very best combine performers since 2000 went undrafted. Twelve of them never played in an NFL game. Forty-three weren’t in the NFL last season. Ninety-five have started fewer than half of their potential regular-season games since they shined at the combine.

In addition, out of the “10 Greatest Scouting Combine Performances in NFL History,” only half of the names on the list excelled in the NFL.

All of these athletes had some “raw” physical ability. The thing that separated the NFL heros from the other players was their ability to use their physical talent as a platform to express their skill to perform during the game.

In other words, physical ability, for example the amount that one can bench press, is irrelevant if you are not skilled at your sport.

What Strength & Conditioning Can and Can’t Do for an Athlete 

It’s for the above undeniable realities that make it completely unrealistic to credit any particular workout program, much less a specific exercise like the bench press, for the success any athletes achieves.

Put simply, strength and conditioning helps to give you the physical platform (i.e. fitness) to do what you already know how to do (i.e. perform your sport). Even teams that do not excel are including strength and conditioning in their workout routines. However, a player who can run fast is not beneficial if they are running to the wrong spot on the field, and a player’s strength does not help if they are pushing the opponent in the wrong direction.

If there is any credit to be given to a strength and conditioning program, it is for aiding in injury prevention and simply helping an athlete to get more gas in the tank (the conditioning) to express their skill throughout the entire competition.

Does the Bench Press Improve Standing Pushing Strength?

In 2007, Coach Juan Carlos Santana and Dr. Stuart McGill conducted a study titled,  “A kinetic and electromyographic comparison of the standing cable press and bench press.

“This study compared the single arm standing cable press (SASCP) and the traditional bench press (BP) to better understand the biomechanical limitations of pushing from a standing position together with the activation amplitudes of trunk and shoulder muscles.”

Here are 2 findings from the study that are relevant to this article:

  1. “Pushing forces from a standing position under ideal mechanical conditions are limited to 40.8% of the subject’s body weight.”
  2. “Our EMG findings show that SCP (standing cable press) performance is limited by the activation and neuromuscular coordination of torso muscles, not maximal muscle activation of the chest and shoulder muscles.”

Both of these results reveal what we may have discovered already

First, unless a field, court or combat athlete is training for a combine, or any competition that includes the bench press, it is unneccesary to focus on maximal bench press strength. The principles of mathematics and physics make it impossible for anyone to come close to matching the bench press type of pushing force from a standing position, regardless of the stance the exercise is performed in.

Secondly, the limiting factor when pushing from a standing position is the stiffness of the torso muscles to maintain body position and to coordinate the hips and shoulders, while stabilizing the forces that the extremities (arms and legs) create. In other words, the standing pushing action is more of a total body exercise, whereas the bench press is more of an upper-body exercise.

Note: Although powerlifters use their hips and lower back to aid in their bench press, they are lying down and have their shoulders anchored on the bench.

Specific (Functional) vs. General Exercises

For the purposes of this article, the exercises can be classified as either “specific/functional” or “general”. These terms are not an official classification of the exercises, however it is important to focus on the concepts rather than the terms. A combination of both functional and general exercises can be utilized in a sports performance workout in order to ensure that the program is fully comprehensive. Both types of exercises can contribute to improved performance.

General Exercises

“General” exercises, such as the bench press, incline press, and dumbbell press can be performed to indirectly help performance by increasing muscle mass, motor unit recruitment, bone density and connective tissue health. Exercises in this classification tend to involve more use of machines, or fixed exercises, to perform the exercise and isolate muscle groups.

Specific (Functional) Exercises

“Specific” exercises, such as those shown in the pictures below, can enhance the specific force development patterns involved in standing pushing movements, and improve the neuromuscular coordination involved with performing those patterns. These exercises mimic the specific movement of the skill required in the sport and most often incorporate total body strength movement, rather than an isolated strength movement.

According to Dr. Everett Harman in the Essentials of Strength & Conditioning, the reference book for the NSCA,”The concept of specificity, widely recognized in the field of resistance training, holds that training is most effective when resistance exercises are similar to the sport activity in which improvement is sought (the target activity).”

“The simplest and most straight forward way to implement the principle of specificity is to select exercise similar to the target activity with regard to the joints about which movement occurs and the direction of the movements. In addition, joints ranges of motion in the training should be at least as great as those in the target activity.”

3 Functional Pushing Exercises for Athletes

Below are 3 “functional” pushing exercises, which incorporate a total body training stimulus and can train an athlete more effectively for a standing pushing motion, as compared to the bench press.

One Arm Push-Up

The one arm push-up is often considered the king of upper-body pushing exercises for sport. Although it is not performed from a standing position, it has a heavy involvement of the core, hips and lower body.

The one armed push-up promotes unilateral strength, recruits left/right side muscle balance and significant core activation. Generally speaking, a larger athlete that completes 4-6+ full range one arm push-up reps is performing exceptionally well. For a smaller athlete, completing at least 7-10+ one arm push-ups is excellent.

Push Up
Push Up

Figure 1 – One arm push-up.

Once the client has become proficient at completing one arm push-ups from the floor, they can progress to using a weighted vest and/or the foot elevated version as demonstrated here:

Push Up
Figure 2 – One Arm Push-up – Feet Elevated (progression). 

Standing One Arm Cable Press

The standing one arm cable press is a training option for clients who are unable to perform a one arm push-up and is also a great complement to the one arm push-up.

If the client can perform the cable press exercise with correct form, it is beneficial to utilize a weight that provides enough of an overload to serve a strength routine.

Cable Press
Cable Press

Figure 3 – One Arm Cable Press

Angled Barbell Press

The Angled Barbell press (specifically the Landmine press in the photo below) is a complement to one arm push-ups or standing cable presses because the pushing angle can be performed in various angles.

Often times in sport, the athlete is required to push in various directions. Rather than pushing straight ahead, they may need to push slightly upward – for example, to control your opponent’s shoulders in MMA or to get underneath someone’s shoulder pads in Football. This is a great exercise to improve strength while performing those actions.

Barbell Press
Barbell Press

Figure 4 – Angled Barbell Press (Landmine Press)


The bench press can help athletes as a general strengthening exercise and when applied properly, has many benefits. However, it is not a significant contributing factor to improving sports performance and athletic success. The majority of athletes possessing the top NFL Combine bench press results have not demonstrated to perform as top athletes in their sport, therefore, one can assume there are other significant contributors to success. Studies conducted by JC Santana and Dr. Stuart McGill have highlighted the important role that the torso and other muscles have when performing standing pushing motions similar to the movements required in sport. This indicates that athletes may greatly benefit when including “specific/functional” exercises such as one arm push-ups, one arm cable presses and angled barbell press in their strength routine to complement the “general” exercises, such as the bench press.

Below is a sample of how one can incorporate both general and specific exercises into a fully comprehensive, upper-body pushing strength workout to improve an athlete’s performance:

    1. One Arm Push-Ups  5 x 3 reps (per arm)
    2. Angled Barbell press  4 x 6-8 reps (per arm)
    3. Bench Press  4 x 6-10 reps
    4. Cable Flys  3 x 10-15 reps

Note: These exercises could (and should) be integrated with exercises that incorporate additional muscles and alternate movement patterns. To include all of these scenarios along with warm up and cool down protocols is far beyond the scope of this article.


1. A kinetic and electromyographic comparison of the standing cable press and bench press. Santana JC, Vera-Garcia FJ, McGill SM. J Strength Cond Res. 2007 Nov;21(4):1271-7.

2. Essentials of Strength & Conditioning, By NSCA -National Strength & Conditioning Association, Human Kinetics, 2008

Weight Training for Women: Should Women Lift Differently Than Men?

By  On October 4, 2012 · Add Comment · In Strength Training

Some of the biggest workout myths and misconceptions, which continue to get recycled by personal trainers, the media and bro-science, have to do with weight training for womenand women’s workout in general.
I have an upcoming article on LiveStrong that will bust many of these women’s workout myths. That said, I’ve recruited Cassadra Forsythe, female fitness expert and author of The New rule of Lifting for Women, to do some myth busting of her own and give us the skinny on the question: Should Women Strength Train like Men?
Cassandra will be one of the presenters (along with Bret Contreras, Bill Sonnemaker and Myself) on the 2nd Annual STRENGTH CRUISE – Feb 14-18th, 2013. Rooms are starting at only  $279 base fare. Contact Caryn Graham (our travel agent) to book your room at  (877) 741-2784. The 2013 Strength Cruise Conference Website/Registration opens Oct 8th!
Before I give Cassandra the floor, here are two great fitness information resources for women:
– This study published in CANCER, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society, showed that women who did about 10hrs a week of moderate exercise (recreational physical activity) had a 30% LOWER RISK OF BREAST CANCER.
– My “Triple Threat At-Home Workout” is in the Fall 2012 issue of Oxygen’s Off The Couch! issue, on pg.56-61, which is in stores now and will be for the next few months.

Weight Training for Women: Should Women Lift Differently Than Men?

By Cassadra Forsythe, PhD, RD, CSCS
Should women lift differently than men? This is a loaded question because argument could be made for both Yes and No answers.
On the yes side of things: Women do have strength and physiological differences compared to men, so it could be said that when a program is made for a woman, it should focus on their unique weaknesses and metabolic advantages/disadvantages.
First, it is well known that most women carry much less lean mass in their upper bodies compared to men, so exercises such as pushups and pull-ups are a common weakness. Thus, it could be said that women should spend more time on these exercises than men, so that they can increase their strength in their upper bodies, which in turn does lead to improved self esteem and a sexy upper body (what girl doesn’t feel amazing after doing full pushups or pull-ups on her own?).
Then, metabolically, women do tend to be less powerful than men due to several factors such as lower muscle mass, lower lung capacity and smaller hearts, leading to lower stroke volumes. However, their ability to recover after high intensity exercise Is often greater than men’s. This means, that women will often need less rest time after an exercise bout or set, and can get back under the bar, or back in the circuit sooner.So, exercise programs that prescribe significant rest periods may make a women feel bored and she’ll add in  an “active rest” just to keep her body happy.
Women do also often carry more body fat than men, and are usually not as interested in performing max reps of an exercise, so the amount of volume they prefer to perform is often higher than a guys. In terms of lifting, their rep range is often more desirable in the 8 to 15 range. However, many women would benefit from lower reps and more weight to hit muscle fibers that are only stimulated with those types of lifts (hence, this is where women SHOULD train like men).
Most women’s goals for exercise are not to increase muscle size per se, but instead to increase muscle definition, without adding a lot of bulk.
In terms of exercises women are most attracted to, it tends to be those that improve upon areas that women are looking to enhance or minimize. For example, many women want to enhance the roundness and firmness of their glutes, but not make their butts bigger (Guys may like Big Butts, but women can’t fit into most jeans if their butts are too large).
Then, they want to make their breasts perkier, but not end up with a “man chest”. Also, women want a flat defined tummy, but not usually one that is super muscular (yet, a very muscular mid section is usually more about genetics than exercise as we all know).
All women also want tight arms, but not “large guns”. So, they’re typically not going to spend hours of exercise working on the “gun show”, but instead, perform higher reps of some direct arm exercises (in conjunction with pushups and pull-ups of course), to enhance definition.
Many people want to know what research supports these claims or notions, but one must remember that science doesn’t have the money or time to look at questions like, “What exercises are best for women?” unless there is a clinical implication for it. For example, money will be spent to determine the best training programs for women to prevent them from developing an ACL (knee) injury, which are very common. So far, exercise physiologists have determined that improved the strength and firing capacity of the medial hamstring muscles, helps prevent knee valgus, which leads to ACL tears in athletic women (reference below). Or, funding will be developed to understand what exercise protocol helps overweight women lose the most fat. Also, metabolic differences between men and women are investigated, which does show improved recovery in women, and differences in substrate metabolism during and after exercise. But, to pay money to research simple questions like “What are the training differences between men and women?” very rarely, if ever happens. So, much of the knowledge that is shared here is from the experience of exercising women across the world, plus the experience of the trainers that work with them.

Scientific References and Sources on Women’s Workout

1. Tarnopolsky MA. Gender differences in metabolism; nutrition and supplements. J Sci Med Sport 2000;3:287-298
2. Esbjornsson-Liljedahl M, Bodin K, and Jansson E. Smaller muscle ATP reduction in women than in men by repeated bouts of sprint exercise. J Appl Physiol 9-1-2002;93:1075-1083.
3. Esbjornsson-Liljedahl M, Sundberg CJ, Norman B et al.  Metabolic response in type I and type II muscle fibers during a 30-s cycle sprint in men and women. J Appl Physiol1999;87:1326-1332.
4. Carter SL, Rennie C, and Tarnopolsky MA. Substrate utilization during endurance exercise in men and women after endurance training. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab2001;280:E898-E907.
5. Siegel L, Vandenakker-Albanese C, Siegel D. Anterior cruciate ligament injuries: anatomy, physiology, biomechanics, and management. Clin J Sport Med. 2012 Jul;22(4):349-55.

 Author bio:

Cassandra Forsythe, PhD, RD, CSCS is the author of two popular nationally publicized books for women, “The New Rules of Lifting for Women”, and “Women’s Health Perfect Body Diet”.
Her passion lies in encouraging women and men of all shapes, sizes and life stages to exercise seriously and with purpose. Most recently, she has become an advocate for super fit pregnancies following her own ultra-fit gestation.
She runs her own group fitness facility in Connecticut, which has transformed the bodies of hundreds of women and men across the state. You can find out more about Cassandra and her fitness facility at

20 Best Quotes (Knowledge Bombs) from Personal Trainers & Physical Therapists

By  On September 21, 2012 · Add Comment · In Strength Training

As fitness professionals, we all have a training philosophy, which molds our approach to putting our knowledge into practical application. Now, some people develop their own philosophy while others (unfortunately) adopt one from someone else, which is very dangerous as it leads to guru-worship and basing what your training practices on beliefinstead of science.
The scary reality is, fitness (even in much of the professional fitness training realm) has increasingly had little to do with what’s real (i.e. science) and not real – It’s a religion. And, “faith” is basis for religion, not science.
Put simply, there’s a big difference between learning from some one and following them like a shadow. At Performance U, we have simple philosophy on learning, “stick your head into everyone’s work, but never stuck your head up anyone’s ass.”
In other words, we never let our schooling (i.e. what we learn from others – in theory) get in the way of our education (i.e. what we learn about ourselves – that works for us in reality).
Today we’re sharing our 20 favorite (best) quotes from other health professionals that have had a powerful influence on our hybrid training approach.
Since we feel these quotes have helped us to become better trainers and teachers, we wanted to share them with you as we’re confident they can provide extremely valuable insight to all fitness professionals:
1. “Due to different schools of thought among industry leaders, functional training is often pitted against modalities like bodybuilding. The result is a gang-like environment where the strength coaches think functional training is a circus act, and the functional advocates think strength training is for “no-necks” just interested in aesthetics or lifting heavy stuff. Then, of course you have the yoga and Pilates crews that look at the other two groups and think they are nuts.  It is always: function vs. strength, bodybuilding vs. Pilates, Yoga vs. who knows what. These comparisons aren’t even accurate; they are like asking what do you think is best to eat for optimal nutrition: apples or broccoli? Of courses, “both” is the right answer.  Eating only one or the other, although each is nutritious, leaves one without the nutrition of the other. Bringing this simple example to the world of physical training drives home a very important point.  Every training method has its benefits (i.e. nutrition), and combining the most effective methods (i.e. combine apples and broccoli) will provide better training than exclusively using any one training method…. Therefore it behooves, it behooves the fitness and conditioning professional to learn as many different training disciplines as possible, keep an open mind, and continuously re-examine the efficacy of one’s training philosophy and continuously push to develop a “system less system of training.” Juan Carlos Santana
2. Although some personal trainers give themselves fancy titles (like “Corrective Exercise Specialist”), at the end of the day, we are just modern physical education teachers for a population who has lost physical education.” Juan Carlos Santana
3. “If your hips aren’t movin, your core isn’t groovin” Gary Gray
4. Strength Coaches and Personal Trainers love to talk about getting faster by training  fast twitch muscle fibers, but you’re only as fast as your slowest twitch.”Mike Gittleson
5. “First it was spinal flexion, then it was spinal extension, now it’s neutral. I don’t know which of those is the best? All I know is that you can’t have sex in neutral.” Sean P. Gallagher, PT
6. “Nothing is guaranteed in Physical therapy. But, a good strength training program, designed around one’s current successful movement capabilities, can have drastic physical (and mental) improvements in 6-weeks.” – “These YMCA statistics describe what happens to most of us. The average American gains one pound per year after the age of 25, and loses ½ pound of lean body mass per year after the age of 25.  Consequently, the average 55 year old has gained 25–30 pounds and lost 10–12 pounds of those tissues required to counteract the weight gain. The increased weight gain overloads the skeleton, causing injury and pain (arthritis). And, the average female looses 1/3 of her skeleton in a lifetime. The key to living life to its fullest is to strengthen your body with the appropriate exercise, increase muscle mass and decrease body fat.  The home run: Get Lean and Stay Lean…Learn to Exercise and Become a Student of Nutrition.”  Jim Porterfield PT (of Porterfield & DeRosa)
7. “Compensation (if controlled) is a normal part of human function – Compensation is adaptability. Increased range of joint motion or compensation is frequently observed due to a variety of reasons. This hypermobile range does not necessarily constitute a stability dysfunction. Stability dysfunction requires a demonstrable lack of muscle control of joint motion. This is “uncontrolled” motion. Put simply, I’m not worried about compensation, I’m worreid about uncontrolled compensation because there’s a big difference between true dysfunction and simply a variation or normal.”  – Mark Comerford PT
8. “Jogging reduces strength, power, and muscle mass. It increases catabolic hormone output, punishes joints, and, in summary, basically reduces every commonly accepted marker of masculinity. The evidence against jogging is so abundant it needn’t be regurgitated here, but suffice it to say that jogging is probably the most effective form of non-surgical gender-reassignment available to those of you itching to explore your feminine side.” Charles Staley
9.  ”I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen what is referred to as some “new, functional, cutting edge, real-world, you-fill-in-the-blank” drill, technique, or method become highlighted as some intelligent, ground-breaking training solution when in reality it’s nothing more than an ignored component that got lost in the tidal wave of our field’s high percentage of attention-deficiency. In essence, the old becomes new again through a new coat of paint , and the forgotten becomes the new-found star via a sexy marketing campaign.” – “While there have been some marked advancements in a few key areas such as assessments, soft tissue and joint health, and nutrition, for the most part, the subject of program design and application has taken a few leaps backwards. The root of this regression is the focus on catchy, hyped systems and the ignorance of foundational principles.” – “Systems are excellent servants but horrible “masters.” Vince McConnell
10. “Metaphorically speaking, our physiology basically has the universe mapped out and you’re thinking it needs to be taught addition and subtraction.” Alan Aragon
11. “In regards to training athletes, understand the difference between a thoroughbred vs. a plow horse. Work Capacity is NOT a bio-motor skill – Anyone can work!” – “Drills don’t equal skill. You can be great at drills, but still suck at your sport.” – “I’m concerned with form, but there isn’t just one form. Don’t try to clone – Similar is not the same.” Vern Gambetta
12. “As Personal Trainers and Coaches, we always tell people what they’re doing wrong, but we rarely tell people what they’re doing well or that we’re proud of them.” – Your best will never fail you!” – “Fitness doesn’t come from a lab, it comes from your fire. If you’re IN fitness, you’ve got to be INTO fitness.” – “We seem to be chasing fatigue and cool exercises instead of results. Don’t sacrifice technique for intensity.” Martin Rooney
13. “Most people really don’t care about health & wellness. And, unless you’re working with a pro athlete who makes money with their body – People want to look better naked! Dr. Jose Antonio
14. “The answers aren’t as important as how you arrived at your answers. – “A good workout program is evidence based, systematic and scalable.” – “The biggest impact a personal trainer can have on their client is already within our scope of practice.” Bill Sonnemaker
15. “Training is a moving target, but certain exercises are always included regardless of the goals of the program.” – “Are you trying to IMPRESS me, or are you trying to EDUCATE me?” Jonathan Goodman
16. “If an exercise makes you better without making you worse, then you can’t say it is “non- functional.” Brad Schoenfeld
17. “If you know enough about anatomy, physiology, and strength training, you could make a case for why every exercise in the book should be avoided. Conversely, you could also make a case for why every exercise in the book should be performed.” Bret Contreras
18. ”In all tests which presume to measure bilateral balance, stability and strength ratios, it is essential to remember that everyone displays functional asymmetry, so that small to moderate differences in all of these factors tends to be rather meaningless. Humans are not symmetric machines and it can often be more damaging to try to alter “natural asymmetry” than it is to leave it alone. Far too many tests assume that there is some sort of norm or ideal against which everyone can be compared. At best, one can only validly make comparisons against oneself over time or against the mean of groups who are similar to you in age, bodymass, gender, sport, sporting level and injury profile.” Dr. Mel Sif
19. “Functional Training? Can you honestly tell the difference (during a sports competition) between the athletes who did squats and the ones who did the legs press?” Robert Taylor
20. “If you’re excited about what you learned from a book, course, DVD, etc., you may attempt to tell others what’ve you’ve learned. If you try to support it by saying, “(insert name of author or teacher) said …” then you do not yet understand WHAT was taught and WHY. You offer no support for your knowledge by referencing the name of an individual. In fact, you diminish it! The only support that matters is science itself, not hearsay, no belef in an individual.” Tom Purvis

Final Thoughts…

No smarty pants, that last quote (#20) doesn’t invalidate all the other quotes we shared and make them “hearsay” as no one here is using these quotes to “support” an argument for or against anything in the fitness training field. As clearly stated in the beginning of this post, we are simply sharing our favorite quotes, which have helped us and influenced our approach to hybrid fitness training.
Finally, if you’re wondering why we didn’t follow each of these quotes by answering “What does he mean when he says…” and injecting our own interpretations, this final quote from Tom Purvis will provide your answer: “There is only one person to ask about information you’ve heard. The person who said it.”
Sure we have our own perspectives on each of these quotes, which we’ve already shared by simply telling  that these 20 are some of our favorites. Interpreting what they mean to YOU, and deciding if they’re meaningful to you is part of the beauty and fun of being a free-thinking human!
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