Category Archives: Strength training

The Exercise and Nutrition Guide to Staying Young

Fri, 05/24/2013 – 2:26pm — Editor

It’s not something we think about every day, but once in a while this thought creeps into the mind of most everyone over 30; “I don’t feel as invincible as I use to”. That’s because sometime around 30 our bodies start to change, specifically our hormone production starts to decline. This declining hormone production affects the way we feel, perform and even think.
A reduction in testosterone production occurs as we age
The reduction in testosterone production that occurs as men age can contribute to increased feelings of fatigue, insomnia, weakness, increased body fat, lack of motivation, depression, and decreased sex drive. This decrease in testosterone level also adversely affects women (yes, women have testosterone to) causing low energy, diminished sex drive, anxiety and depression.
Growth hormone production also declines as we age
Our growth hormone production also declines as we age, in men and women alike. The decline in growth hormone also begins sometime around 30. This decline in growth hormone production has a significant impact on the aging process, including decreased lean body mass, lower bone density, less strength, and depression, as well as negatively impacting cell reproduction (affecting such aging issues as reduced skin elasticity, plus slower hair and nail growth).
Slow down the aging process through a combination of exercise and nutrition
Fortunately, you can significantly reduce the decline in hormone production and slow down the aging process through the proper combination of exercise and nutrition. Just a few (but highly critical) adjustments to your exercise and nutrition program can make a dramatic difference in the way we look, feel, perform, and our overall quality of life. Here are a few important guidelines we should all try to follow:
1) Incorporate High-Intensity Exercise
Short high-intensity exercise has been shown to boost testosterone as well as growth hormone production. There is probably no more important adjustment you can make to your fitness program when you are over the age of 30, than incorporating short-duration and high-intensity exercise. Explosive functional training or plyometrics burst type exercises (like we offer at G&L.com) will engage your fast muscle fibers and stimulate growth hormone production as well as lean muscle development.
As we age, the days of long and slow cardiovascular conditioning should be left behind, because a primary goal of our workouts should be to increase youthful hormone production. Unfortunately, excessive endurance training can have the exact opposite effect on overall good health, and when overdone can lead to a further decline in growth hormone production. Both Gabby and Laird make high intensity functional workouts the mainstay of their fitness program, as should we all.
2) Boost Intake of Essential Amino Acids
Our bodies depend on the availability of certain essential amino acids to both stimulate and optimize growth hormone production. The amino acids Glutamine, Arginine and Lysine when taken orally immediately after exercise and just prior to sleep is an effective growth hormone releasing agent, providing you combine high intensity training. These amino acids are found in protein such as fish, chicken, eggs and lean meat, but can more easily be obtained in the proper quality and timing through amino acid supplementation (such as TRUition Max).
3) Strength Training
As we age, it is also important to include strength training into your routine fitness program. Your body especially needs the benefits of weight barring exercise as we age, to maintain both skeletal and muscular strength. Unfortunately, you see far too many people gravitate to the treadmill and elliptical trainer as they age. When in fact the weight room or resistance equipment is what they really need. By simply moving to the next resistance exercise with minimal rest (circuit training), you can improve cardiovascular health while also providing your body all the benefits of strength training.
TRUition co-founder Don Wildman, who is still an avid cyclist and competitive racer at the age of 80, always reminds his friends and fans that he considers his infamous circuit training program far more important to youthfulness and overall good health than his cycling. “When time is at a premium, I always make sure my strength training workouts come first. If I had to make a choice, I would always choose circuit training over any other type of exercise”.
4) Consume More Protein
Without question, consuming plenty of fresh plants, fruits, and vegetables is important to overall good health. We all need the phytonutrient and immune boosting antioxidants from a broad diversity of fruits and vegetables (see TRUition Greens).However, because muscle development declines as we age; proper protein intake becomes even more important.
In order to get the full benefit of your strength training program, proper protein intake both before and after exercise is recommended. Such foods as eggs, lean meat, fish and chicken are high in protein. A cup of coffee before your morning workout is simply not the right fuel for muscle development, nor is pancakes or bagels with cream cheese. Some organic egg, or better yet an organic whey protein shake, is what you need (see TRUition Whey). Whey protein is actually more bioavailable than fish, meat, chicken or eggs, and therefor easier to digest and quicker for your body to utilize.
5) Get Proper Rest
There are two very important aspects of rest which can’t be overlooked or substituted in any way. During our periods of rest our muscles recover and rebuild. Without proper rest between high intensity workouts, we will not be able to effectively build more muscle. Additionally, hormone production is at its highest just after exercise and while you’re sleeping.
Once again, one of the primary fitness goals of anyone over 30 should be to offset declining hormone production in order to stay young. You simply must take the time to rest properly in order to get the maximum benefits from you exercise and nutrition program. There is no way around it.
Develop these few critical exercise and nutrition habits and stay young
It doesn’t take much to slow down (and in some cases reverse) the aging process. If you have been inactive for years, had a poor diet deficient in protein, fruits and vegetables, and a high stress lifestyle which lacks proper rest, then following the 5 anti-aging guidelines explained above will be life changing. We should all want to live a long and high quality life, and to help make that happen you just need to develop a few critical exercise and nutritional habits.
Written by
John Wildman
THE G&L Team

6 Best Exercises for Strength

by Mike Robertson – 5/7/2013
What would you do if you could only pick 6 exercises to put into your strength-training program?
Here’s a better question: What if strength was only one component of your entire program?
If you compete in strength sports such as powerlifting or Olympic lifting, picking your exercises is easy. But if you’re an athlete, you have hundreds, if not thousands, of exercises to choose from.
How do you whittle it down and only focus on a few exercises, the ones that would be the most impactful to your overall strength and physique?


The Athletic Strength Conundrum

These are the exact questions I was asking myself a few months ago.
I’ve been lucky in recent years to work with a handful of professional and Olympic-caliber athletes. The problem is, in my mind, I’m a “weights” guy. In my estimation, everyone can benefit from getting stronger.
And I  feel that way, no matter how many books I read, conferences I attend, etc. But I also realize that for an athlete, there’s a lot more to athletic success than simply being strong in the weight room.
If I’m trying to get someone ready for a 90-minute soccer game, we’re doing a ton of conditioning in that last phase or two leading up to camp. I don’t have a ton of time to do 6, 8, or 10 lifts in one training session.
So what do I do? Forget about weight lifting? Lose all the strength that we’ve taken precious time to develop in the off-season?
Absolutely not.
What we have to do is focus on a handful of big-bang lifts that will not only improve performance on and off the field, but maintain our mobility, strength, and power as well.
As a result, I came up with a list of the following exercises. I call them “athletic strength” exercises, not because you can’t get strong off them, but because the powerlifter or hardcore meathead may not totally agree with them. I’m okay with that.
If you’re a powerlifter, squat, bench, and deadlift until the cows come home.
If you’re an Olympic lifter, snatch and clean and jerk repeatedly.
However, if you’re an athlete that wants to not only get strong but also develop and maintain other critical qualities such as power, speed, mobility, and general athleticism, these are your exercises.


#1 – The Power Clean

6 Best Exercises for StrengthWhile no one will confuse me with an Olympic lifting purist, I definitely respect the power of the Olympic lifts.
And I’m not even going to get into the whole “should you take the time to coach them?” debate – that’s been beaten to death already. Regardless of your stance, we can all agree that the Olympic lifts are fantastic for developing power and explosiveness.
Can you do this with a med ball throw? Or jumping exercise?
To a certain extent, sure. But these exercises belong more on the “speed-strength” side of the continuum.
The power clean is a great way for an athlete to improve or maintain explosiveness and power. If you’re comfortable coaching or training it, I highly recommend using it.


#2 – The Front Squat

6 Best Exercises for StrengthThe front squat is an amazing exercise for athletes and it provides unique benefits from its cousin, the back squat.
If you’re an athlete, you need strong quads. Quads are critical not only for improving your vertical jump, but your ability to decelerate, plant, and cut as well.
However, quads are just the starting point. The front squat is an amazing anterior core exercise. You know how you can get totally caved over and still manage to finish a back squat? Yeah, that ain’t happening with a front squat.
If your abs are weak, do a 2-3 month front squat cycle and you should walk away impressed with how much stronger and more stable your core and trunk are as a result.
Last but not least, the front squat is an amazing tool for maintaining your mobility. Front squatting ensures that you maintain ankle, knee, hip, and thoracic spine mobility, which is why it’s a mainstay in my programs.


#3 – The Trap Bar Deadlift

6 Best Exercises for StrengthWe all know that deadlifts are awesome. After all, the deadlift is my favorite lift, so there’s no way I’m going to downplay its importance.
For athletes, though, mobility could be a concern. Or in the same vein, they may not have adequate strength in the posterior chain to do conventional deadlifts safely and effectively.
The sumo deadlift doesn’t work either as it doesn’t get you into a very athletic position. This is why I’m a big fan of the trap bar deadlift.
When you use the high handles you can get someone into a very vertical tibia/inclined trunk position. This combo gives the trap bar deadlift the potential to be very posterior chain dominant.

Trust me, if you work with enough athletes, you know they often have the posterior chain strength of Gwenyth Paltrow. They need stronger backsides, period.
Also, if you’re working with an athlete who has the mobility of a stone golem, the trap bar deadlift is a great starting point. It allows you to load their hips effectively while addressing other mobility needs throughout the “corrective” part of their programming.


#4 – The Close-Grip Bench Press

6 Best Exercises for StrengthAs much as I love wide-grip bench pressing for powerlifting performance, I feel as though the close-grip bench press is a superior alternative for athletes.
Think of it this way: if your hands (or elbows) are out really far from your body and someone is coming to push you off your spot, you’re going to lose.
However, if you have your elbows and arms in tight to the body, you can maximize leverage, as well as effectively tying together the legs, trunk, and upper body.
The close-grip bench is also an ideal exercise for building upper body strength. I know the bench gets a bad rap, but there’s something to be said for being flat-out stronger than your competition.


#5 – Resisted Push-ups

As awesome as the close-grip bench press is for developing the upper body, it does have limitations. The biggest issue when benching is that even if your core and lower body are tight, they’re rarely the limiting factor in your performance.
While close-grip benching is great for developing upper body strength, it doesn’t necessarily tie that strength together by unifying the upper and lower body. Which is why we do heavy, resisted push-ups.
A well-executed push-up with the core stable and in neutral spinal alignment will absolutely crush your anterior core. And even though this isn’t a coaching article per se, try this little trick to get even more core development:
Set up in the top position of a push-up and before you start moving, think about exhaling hard. After you’ve exhaled, pull your head and neck back to get into a more “neutral neck” position.
It may sound easy, but getting into a more ideal position through the neck and core will definitely crank up the intensity. The other huge benefit you get from performing a push-up versus a bench press is scapular stability.
When you’re doing a bench press, the goal is to “pin” your shoulder blades back and down. The scapulae are stable, but it’s a very static kind of stability. On the other hand, a push-up is similar to actual sporting movements since you’re forced to actively control the position of the scapulae.
Instead of simply pinning them back and down behind you, you need to make sure they’re moving appropriately and in the right place at the right time.
Finally, the push-up is a closed-chain pressing variation, meaning it’s awesome for developing rotator cuff strength and stability.
Next time, instead of doing 3×15 shoulder external rotations with a Theratube to crush your rotator cuff, bang out 2-3 sets of high-quality push-ups.
You’ll get more out of the exercise, and look infinitely more awesome to boot.


#6 – Chin-ups

The last exercise on my list is the chin-up. Just like the previous exercises, chin-ups are an incredible “bang-for-your-buck” exercise.
In most sports (and strength training programs), there’s a ton of emphasis on “pushing.” All you have to do is observe the posture of someone who “presses” all the time, without balancing it out with upper back work, to see why this is an issue.
These athletes are a disaster waiting to happen. Chin-ups, however, will help balance out the equation.
Another awesome benefit of well-executed chin-ups is developing the lower trapezius muscle. The lower trap is not only a key shoulder stabilizer, but (along with the upper trap and serratus anterior) constitutes one-third of the upward rotation force couple.
The key with chin-ups is that you need to focus on getting your chest to the bar and actively depressing your scapulae down. Here’s a short video on how to maximize chin-up performance:
Bottom line, if you only have a limited amount of time to strength train, at least some of that needs to be geared towards strengthening the upper back.
The chin-up will give you a ton of benefits and should be a staple in your athletic strength program.


What? No Single-Leg Exercises?

I know someone is going to come on Live Spill raging because I didn’t include single-leg work in my programming. Look, I’m a big believer in single-leg work, but this article is called “Athletic Strength,” not “Athletic Stability.”
Single-leg work has a time and a place. If you have a stability limitation, then single-leg work may be ideal, but if you want to get seriously strong or powerful, train on two legs (or arms).


Summary

Whether your goal is to be a beast on the field or court, or to simply look like a beast in the gym, the exercises included in this article are tried and true.
Make them a focus of your upcoming training programs and I guarantee you’ll see results not only in your physique, but in your performance as well!

The Lazy Man’s Guide to Olympic Weightlifting

The Lazy Man's Guide

The Lazy Man’s Guide
People like the bare minimum. Instinctively we want to know what’s the least we 

can do to get a result.  Yes there are some that would say “if one ibuprofen is good, then 10 must be better” but those are the same people that end up with liver problems.  It could be laziness, but it’s more than likely intelligence.
Training is no different, we should strive for the minimum effective dose, when delivering it to our athletes or to ourselves. Becoming great at a skill like Olympic weightlifting is a different beast, but for most that is not an issue until after we have tried out the minimum effective dose.
This is the bare minimum Olympic weightlifting program you should be doing to be a good Olympic lifter.

Combos to start

Start here. Use combos to get used to real Olympic weightlifting. Combos ease the transition to the full lift.
For the clean use a power clean + front squat and a jerk (power or split depending on your comfort). Get used to pulling under the bar and catching at a lower height to move to the full clean.
For the snatch do a similar movement, power snatch + overhead squat. Start pulling under the bar and eliminating the pause before going into an overhead squat.

The Real Thing (or a variation)

To be effective at the Olympic lifts you have to use the real movement. Even if you have every intention of power cleaning for the rest of your life, take some time to get good at catching in the deep squat position.
Once you are comfortable at the real movement, choose a variation that is the right one for you, or your athletes. This means one that will get your athletes the greatest benefit, or yield the biggest returns for yourself.
For most field sport athletes: use the hang power clean
For sprinters in track: use the power clean
For tall athletes: Use a dead start on the blocks
For times where hypertrophy is needed: Use the full movement to grow some massive quads.
I recommend some time spent doing the full movement because the full movement is the purest expression of technique. You can’t do the full movement while catching the bar in the starfish position, you can’t do the full movement without great mobility.
These technical details will then carry over to whatever variation you choose for your main movement.

LOTS of squatting

A wise man once said “squatting helps everything.” Since I am referring to this man as wise, lets go ahead and assume that I agree with him.
It’s true. If you want to be better at the Olympic lifts squatting is the life blood of champions.
The crazy thing is, even if you aren’t doing the full lifts (floor start, A2G catch), squatting still helps. One of my elite pole vaulter’s does the hang clean exclusively but she was missing all of her lifts at the receiving position. Slightly forward catch and dumping the weight anytime she got heavy.
The solution was simple she had to squat more. After adding 20k to her front squat, and with no technical changes to her clean, she made every clean she attempted.
I do have some bad news for you. You have to be able to squat deep for their to be carry over. Power lifting squats just don’t work for Olympic lifting improvement. Olympic lifting squats need to be front squats or high bar, narrow stance back squats.
Like these (this is Clarence Kennedy a European Jr. lifter, he’s good)

Some pulls

Plenty of people argue against pulls as part of the training program. The typical objection is that they teach people to extend up too much rather than move under the bar (I am in favor of them, they are my plateau busters).
Pulls shouldn’t make up all of your program, but including them periodically will go a long way to making your O lifts improve.
Remember the snatch grip deadlift and clean grip deadlift are pulls as well, just approach the lift like you are moving the bar from the ground for an O lift and not a normal deadlift (Like this).

The Lazy Olympic Weightlifting Program

The bare minimum Olympic weightlifting program could look as simple as what is below.
Two movements per day.
This is designed to be something that you could do while also doing all the curls, bench press, and leg presses you want.
Week 1: Day 1
Exercise  Set Reps
Power Snatch + OH Squat 4 (1+1)x3
Front Squat 4 4
Week 1: Day 2
Exercise  Set Reps
Power Clean + Front Squat+Jerk 4 (1+1+1)x3
Clean Deadlift 4 4
Week 2: Day 1
Exercise  Set Reps
Power Snatch + OH Squat 5 (1+1)x2
Back Squat 5 4
Week 2: Day 2
Exercise  Set Reps
Power Clean + Front Squat + Jerk 5 (1+1+1)x2
Snatch Pull (or from deficit) 5 3
Week 3: Day 1
Exercise  Set Reps
Snatch 4 3
Front Squat 4 3
Week 3: Day 2
Exercise  Set Reps
Clean and Jerk 4 3+2 (1+1 style)
Back Squat 4 3
Week 4: Day 1
Exercise  Set Reps
Snatch 5 2
Snatch Deadlift (or from Deficit) 5 3
Week 4: Day 2
Exercise  Set Reps
Clean and Jerk 4 2+1 (1+1 style)
Front Squat 4 2
*On combos (including clean and jerk) the first number is for the first movement, the second number is for the second movement.
**Loading should be done with the greatest amount of weight that one can handle for each prescribed set.
***This program can be repeated, replacing the combos to start the training program with full movements or your chosen variation

Conclusion

Getting better with the Olympic lifts does not mean that one has to spend hours upon hours on the platform (becoming GREAT does). Rather, focused attention to the craft and the movements that assist the craft the most.

6 Interesting Things About Strength


The Contreras Files IV: 15 Practical TipsStrength is a seductive temptress and I have no shame in proclaiming my love for her. But like anything in life that gets your juices flowing, to truly understand strength you must consider both the stuff you like and the stuff you don’t like.
Here are 6 very interesting things about strength.

1. The Best Thing About Strength

The best thing about strength – in my opinion of course – is that anyone can improve from their starting level of strength. I’m not suggesting that everyone is capable of becoming a world record holder, but everyone can get better.
You might start out struggling to bench the bar and then a year later be using 150 pounds – not fantastic but still a lot better than where you started.
Being strong is an inherently relative concept. The good news (which I say with tongue planted firmly in cheek) is that as the general fitness level of the average person declines, it actually becomes easier to set oneself apart and become that much stronger than average.
Train several hours a week or more, train hard, incorporate the main lifts, follow progressive overload, stick with it for an extended period of time (measured in years, not months), and you’ll get significantly stronger than when you started, not to mention a hell of a lot stronger than a “normal” person. In addition, as the strength comes, so do all the health benefits that accompany it.

2. The Worst Thing About Strength

The worst thing about strength – in my opinion – is that strength is specific, not general. Most people think strength is a single, all-encompassing quality, i.e., a person is strong or not.
An example of this line of thinking would be the comic book character The Hulk. The Hulk is super strong, which means he can do anything that’s related to strength – pick up cars, throw tanks, cause earthquakes by smashing the ground, even fly because he can jump super high. Hell, his muscles are so strong that bullets simply bounce off him.
Unfortunately it doesn’t work that way, as there’s no single “strength quality.” If there were, then the world champion arm wrestler, powerlifter, weight lifter, shot putter, and the World’s Strongest Man would all be the same person. But it’s not, nor has ever been the same person. Fact is, nobody’s ever been on top in even two of those categories, except for the immortal Bill Kazmaier.
The reason for this all relates to the principle of . Muscles don’t function independently of the nervous system, and for every movement we need a motor pattern. In order to operate at very high levels, this motor pattern must be trained regularly. If it isn’t, an individual may not be able to use the strength they’ve developed in one context in another, unrelated one.
In the classic Supertraining, Siff states that strength should not be viewed as “the ability to produce force by the action of the muscles,” but instead that “strength is highly context dependent” and “can manifest itself into many forms.”
To be clear, I’m not saying that there’s never a relationship between strength in one activity and strength in another; what I am saying is that it’s more of a tenuous relationship than one might assume.
If two activities are very similar – for example, deadlifting and picking up the back end of truck – there’s likely considerable transfer, but bench pressing and punching through bricks might not be as related.
Strength is specific and not general, and therefore we can’t simply rank people on something as broad as “strength” and accurately predict how they’ll perform in all settings.

3. The Best Thing About Strength that Gets the Least Attention

Strength is easy to measure if you accept the common standards of testing it, such as seeing how much weight can be lifted with a barbell. This is an invaluable though often overlooked attribute – because strength can be easily measured, every set and rep gives the lifter precise, instant feedback.
Consistent practice with a focus on self-improvement is the key to mastery of any skill. Strength training brings that idea home like nothing else.
Imagine if an expert sat behind you as you typed up a paper, and after every paragraph gave you feedback about what was good and what was bad. Initially it might drive you crazy, but because she had expertise in the subject, the feedback would ultimately make you more confident in what you were writing about.
Nowhere else in life do we get such constant, clear feedback as at the gym, and this goes a long way towards building confidence and boosting self esteem. It’s very empowering to see yourself succeed at something challenging as a result of your hard work, and I believe that all those positives can be traced back to the fact that strength is easy to measure.

4. The Thing You Might Not Have Known About Strength

8 More Random Thoughts and Training TipsFor a single, all-out effort, assuming accuracy and injury are taken into consideration, it’s likely impossible to be too strong. However, for other activities, particularly where endurance is a component, one can be too strong for the activity.
A few years ago I was helping my brother move. He’d boxed up everything and packed it into a U-haul truck and drove to his new place, and then I unloaded everything for him.
Let’s assume we both did the same amount of work (i.e., we each moved the same number of boxes and the boxes weighed the same). My brother is moderately fit but not strong, certainly not by powerlifter standards – I would estimate he could deadlift 350 as his 1RM. To keep it simple, let’s say that I’m twice as strong as he is, at least in the deadlift.
So there I am, unloading the truck and moving 120 boxes into the house and I started getting tired. More specifically, it was my erectors that were getting tired. How could this be possible if I was twice as strong as him? How could he do the same amount of work without much problem?
Each muscle has a certain number of motor units (a motor nerve and their accompanying muscle fibers) in it. Each motor unit can generate some level of force. Let’s say for simplicity’s sake that we both had 100 motor units in our erectors. Keep in mind that one benefit of training is the trainee learns how to better contract, or turn on, the tougher-to-fire motor units (type IIB), which generate the most strength. Also remember that the boxes didn’t have weights labeled on them, and when moving objects of unknown weight one typically over-contracts to make sure their muscle force overcomes the resistance.
When my brother was loading up the boxes he may have contracted half or fewer of his motor units, and he was likely hitting mainly the slow twitch ones with just a few fast twitch thrown in. These motor units don’t generate much fatigue and these boxes weren’t super heavy – most were likely less than 50 pounds – so a huge level of strength wasn’t required to lift them.
I theorized that I’d be more likely to stimulate the bigger type II motor units, which generate more force but also produce more waste products when they contract. Each individual box likely felt a bit easier to me but rep after rep, my erectors were over-contracting, using too much force per motor unit to get the job done, which ultimately led to the feeling of fatigue.
It’s worth noting that training doesn’t increase the total number of motor units you have; instead it increases how much force each one can produce and how many motor units you can use.
To summarize, my brother might have been contracting 50 of his motor units, each one generating 2 pounds of force, and thus his total level of fatigue wasn’t great. I might have been contracting 65 motor units, each one generating 4 pounds of force, and thus I was working too hard for the task at hand.
So in essence, I believe one can be too strong for certain tasks, especially in relatively low resistance, endurance type activities.

5. The Thing You Kind of Know About Strength

Joint health is extremely important to strength. The body has sensors and proprioceptors throughout its framework to tell it what’s going on. Joint stability and joint integrity is a very important concept for the body. If your joint is in pain, the body will turn off (deactivate) parts of the agonist muscles that cross the joint and produce the movement.
The body does this because the lower levels of force represent a reduced chance of injury to the already fragile joint. This is why, in my opinion, it’s generally not advisable to train through joint pain. Even if you’re tough enough to do it, you’re using less of your muscle so you’ll get compromised results – this is ignoring the fact that the pain is a warning something is wrong and further work might really mess up the joint.
While many factors affect joint health, a big one is joint stability. This is a reason why lifting aids like a belt or a bench shirt have become popular – the belt adds to the stability of the joint by externally stabilizing it. This allows the muscles that cross the joint to contract more strongly (recruiting more motor units) and thus more weight is lifted or more force generated.
This is also why powerlifters who wear gear (bench shirts, squat suits, etc.) often have a hard time calculating how much their gear helps them. In one sense it’s simple – how much can you lift raw versus how much can you lift in gear – but another factor is how much the gear is adding to the stability of the joint and thus allowing the muscles to contract more forcefully.

6. The Thing You Always Read About Strength But Never Take to Heart

Bodyweight has a huge impact on strength. Some exercises are more affected by bodyweight than others, such as the bench press, military press, and squat. It’s not just how much actual muscle or lean mass you have, but simply total bodyweight.
This ties in closely with the point made above. One of the ways to boost joint stability (and thus increase the muscles ability to contract) is to gain weight.
As you gain weight (10 pounds is usually enough to notice a bit of a difference) your surrounding tissues (even if it’s extra fat) will buffer and support the joint, similar in the way that an external wrap would cover and help the joint. This increases stability and in turn increases strength (relative strength may or may not increase, absolute strength almost assuredly will).
I’m not advocating you gain 50 pounds of fat so your bench goes up 10 pounds, but I am suggesting that if you’ve been at a plateau for quite some time (both with your strength and your bodyweight), you might think about allowing yourself to gain weight to see if that allows your strength to increase noticeably.
That increase in turn, tends to make the training more fun, your enthusiasm is renewed, and you always have the option of losing that weight later on and seeing what happens to you.
Take a look at the line-up from the World’s Strongest Man competition. None of them look ready to step onto a bodybuilding stage, but they all look like they’re ready to dominate some serious weight, and that extra bodyweight is increasing their joint stability.

It’s Time For Strength To Shine

8 More Random Thoughts and Training TipsThere you are my friends, 6 interesting tidbits about strength. Some may seem more obvious than others but I’d argue they’re all important. Which points do you agree with or disagree with? Which one’s are new to you? Have you any points of your own?
That’s what the Live Spill is for. See you there.

20 Almost Laws of Strength Training

Gene Lawrence is a 73 year-old powerlifter who stays up-to-date with the writings and recommendations of his favorite strength coaches. Like many lifters, he finds the conflicting advice extolled by the various experts to be downright confusing.
I’ve been training with Gene for the past several months, watching him bust out 365-pound deadlifts like it ain’t no thang. Just recently he said to me, “I really wish someone would just write an article that taught me the rules. What are the things you have to do versus the things that are just nice to do?”
I pondered his question for several days, and came to the conclusion that there are only 8 laws in strength training.
At first I figured there’d be more, but almost every time I thought up a potential law, a refuting argument came to mind.
Now of course, it’s difficult to make hard-fast laws due to varying goals and genetics. However, in the end I feel that I was fair with my determinations.
These laws are based on what I’ve learned both as a lifter and researcher, and they’re formed by my current level of scientific understanding, meaning they’re malleable and subject to change.
Bear in mind here that I’m assuming that since you read T Nation, you care about both your strength and your physique.
In Part II of this series, I’ll give you the 8 laws, but in this article I’ll set the stage and present 20 potential laws that got shot down. Many coaches and trainers might determine that some of these are indeed laws, but not me.
The following 20 things are “nice” to do, but not absolutely necessary.

The 20 “Almost” Laws that Didn’t Make the Cut

1. You must foam roll.

20 Almost Laws of Strength Training
Foam rolling feels good. Ask any foam rolling lifter if it makes them feel better, alleviates pain, or prevents injury, and the resounding answer will be yes.
However, there are millions of lifters who don’t foam roll who do just fine. To date, there are only a couple of studies that have been conducted on foam rolling, and to be frank, we really don’t know much about it as far as what it does and doesn’t do (Miller & Rockey 2006, MacDonald et al. 2012).
Right now we can speculate as to what it does, but at this point it’s just that – speculation.

2. You must stretch.

Stretching usually feels good too, and intuitively most lifters feel like it’s a good idea. Nobody wants to lose their flexibility, and it’s no fun being tight.
However, proper strength training itself involves stretching. Research shows that strength training is as effective as stretching at building flexibility, due to several factors (Aquino et al. 2010, Simao et al. 2010; Morton et al. 2011, Nelson & Bandy 2004).
First, the eccentric component of exercise, along with exercises that place sufficient tension on muscles at long lengths, induces sarcomerogenesis and actually increases flexibility through creating new sarcomeres in series and lengthening muscle (Brughelli & Cronin 2007). So resistance training is a viable form of loaded, active stretching.
Next, passive stretching can indeed decrease stiffness and increase pain tolerance to stretch, but it doesn’t regulate muscle length like active stretching does (Weppler & Magnusson 2010, Riley & Van Dyke 2012). If you regularly perform exercises like full squats, Romanian deadlifts (RDL’s), lunges, chin-ups, dips, and calf raises with good form through a full range of motion, you’ll possess good overall flexibility.

3. You must do cardio and/or HIIT.

20 Almost Laws of Strength Training
Cardio sounds good in theory. After all, the heart is the most important muscle, right? But what exactly is “cardio?” Doesn’t the heart beat quite hard during strength training?
While prolonged low-intensity cardiovascular exercise does indeed have its own merits, strength training – particularly performed intensively close to muscular failure – provides many of the benefits that cardio does (Steele et al. 2012).
As long as you have an active lifestyle and lift weights frequently with sufficient intensity, cardio isn’t mandatory. If you’ve ever performed a set of 20-rep walking barbell lunges with 225 pounds, then you know that resistance training works the cardiovascular system very well.
Over the past decade, exercise scientists have raved about HIIT, pointing out that it leads to greater metabolic expenditure and fat-loss over prolonged periods compared to steady state cardio due to the effects of EPOC (Tremblay 1994, Hazell et al. 2012). However, lifting weights is a form of HIIT, as long as you train intensely.

4. You must go heavy (i.e., lift over 90% of your 1RM).

Recently, it’s been shown that lighter weights performed to failure can indeed provide a potent muscle hypertrophy stimulus, perhaps even greater than heavy weights (Mitchell et al. 2012).
It’s too early to tell as the studies have relied on beginner subjects, but at the very least the newer research shows that you can certainly build muscle without using heavy weights.
Ever seen Kai Greene train his glutes? He uses light weight for high reps and focuses on feeling the glutes moving the loads. Jay Cutler doesn’t go nearly as heavy as he did earlier in his career, but nevertheless he’s more muscular due to a shift in focus on muscle contraction.
Few bodybuilders go lower than 6 reps, and for lower body most stick to sets of 10-30 reps. For the most part, Andy Bolton, the first man to deadlift over 1,000 pounds, relies upon Dynamic Effort deadlifts to build his world class deadlifting strength.

5. You must train explosively (i.e., Dynamic Effort).

Many lifters benefit from the Dynamic Effort method. Explosive lifting increases muscle activation at the start of the lift and allows for more frequent training due to lighter loads being used.
However, explosive lifting also diminishes muscle activation in the latter half of the lift due to requisite deceleration of the load (Frost et al. 2010).
Most bodybuilders lift semi-explosively, yet they’re sure to control the weight through the entire ROM. Many seek to keep more constant tension on the muscles to maximize the pump effect.
Furthermore, many powerlifters have gained plenty of strength having never focused on lighter weight for maximum acceleration. Dynamic Effort work is a great idea for Olympic lifters and athletes, but it’s not mandatory for general lifters.

6. You must go to failure.

Growing up reading strength training articles, I was led to believe that the last rep of a set was the only one that counted and the only one that built strength. Now I realize that it was hogwash.
You can build incredible strength staying far away from failure. Sure you won’t build maximum strength if you don’t push the boundaries from time to time, but you can leave a rep or two in the tank and still be quite strong and muscular.
In fact, a recent article showed that maximum muscle activation during a set was reached a few reps prior to failure (Sundstrup et al. 2012). A decent case could be made that by avoiding the increased wear-and-tear on the joints and nervous system induced by going too heavy or too hard might lead to increased progress through decreased stress, pain, and injury, along with increased recovery.

7. You must squat.

20 Almost Laws of Strength Training
The squat is the king of lower body movements, no doubt. But do you have to squat? Some lifters never seem to dial down their form on squats, and this has much to do with their anthropometry.
Ben Bruno has shown that it’s indeed possible to make steady progress with squatting strength through intensive focus on single-leg strength. Research has shown that single-leg strength and power training led to slightly better performance effects than double-leg strength and power training, though the effects weren’t significant (McCurdy et al. 2005).
Strength is highly dependent on the movement pattern, so as long as you perform a single-leg squatting movement such as a Bulgarian split squat or a reverse lunge, your strength on the squat won’t suffer dramatically.
Let’s say that week in and week out you performed a bilateral deadlift or good morning variation along with a single-leg squat variation, yet you never did bilateral squats. Your quads would still be muscular, your spine stable, and your hips strong.

8. You must deadlift.

If the squat is the king of lower body movements, the deadlift is the king of total body movements. Therefore you must deadlift to see great results, right?
Westsiders showed long ago that a lifter could build a very strong deadlift without deadlifting. They performed tons of box squats, good mornings, back raises, pull-throughs, reverse hypers, and glute ham raises – and their deadlifts were incredibly strong.
I’ve found that heavy-ass kettlebell swings can do wonders for building and maintaining deadlift strength. Max Shank can single-leg RDL 315 pounds for reps, which provides a huge training effect for the hip extensors, keeping the deadlift pattern strong while sparing the low back.
In terms of bodybuilding, many lifters prefer the blend of bent-over rows, T-bar rows, and back extensions for their mid and lower back development rather than deadlifts, as they’ve found that the deadlift just isn’t worth the risk to their body.
If your program contained heavy KB swings, box squats, good mornings, bent over rows, T-bar rows, and back raises, your deadlift would be plenty strong, and your back and hip extensors would display impressive muscularity.

9. You must bench press.

Now let’s move on to the king of upper body movements, the bench press. The bench press is without a doubt the most popular exercise in the world, but do you have to perform it? Many lifters’ shoulders just don’t agree with the bench press, and therefore, they need not include it in their programs.
You can build a strong bench press through other pressing movements. For example, a lifter who performed lots of weighted push-ups and/or dumbbell pressing from different angles will have muscular pecs and triceps, not to mention a reasonably strong bench press.

10. You must do unilateral or bilateral exercises.

Let’s say a lifter only performed squats, leg presses, deadlifts, hip thrusts, back extensions, glute ham raises, bench press, military presses, dips, push-ups, bent-over rows, chins, and barbell curls for his entire lifting career. I think we’d all agree that he’d be incredibly strong and muscular, provided of course that he gets strong on those exercises.
Conversely, let’s say a lifter only performed Bulgarian split squats, reverse lunges, single-leg RDL’s, sled-pushes, single-leg hip thrusts, single-leg back extensions, single-arm db bench presses, single-arm DB shoulder presses, one-arm DB rows, single-arm pulldowns, and alternating DB curls for his entire lifting career. He’ll also be incredibly strong and muscular, provided he gets strong on those exercises.

11. You must train your core directly.

20 Almost Laws of Strength Training
Free-weight compound exercise does a good job of activating the core musculature. Getting an aesthetically pleasing mid-section has more to do with being lean than possessing muscular abdominals anyway.
If you perform exercises such as chin-ups, push-ups, squats, deadlifts, farmer’s walks, military presses, and barbell curls, your core will be plenty strong and muscular. Combine this with proper nutrition and your midsection will look great.

12. You must use free-weights.

Free weights reign supreme in the strength training world. They allow for natural movement patterns and require real-world stabilization. Therefore they’re absolutely necessary, right? Not so fast.
Prime-mover muscle activation can be matched with machine training, and a lifter can gain incredible strength and size this way.
Moreover, there’s a big difference between a crummy machine program and an optimal machine program.
For example, if a lifter simply performed leg extensions, leg curls, calf raises, pec deck, straight-arm pulldowns, and lateral raises, he probably wouldn’t get very far in terms of total body strength and muscularity.
However, if a lifter performed Lever squats, Hammer strength deadlifts, leg presses, lying leg curls, Hammer strength upper body presses and pulls from various angles, and cable curls, he’ll be incredibly strong and muscular, provided he gets strong on those exercises.

13. You must always strive for progressive overload.

Earlier in a lifter’s career, progressive overload is mandatory. But later on, there are other ways of progressing. For example, you can use better form, emphasize a particular muscle, or exert better control.
Many bodybuilders, in an attempt to spare their joints and decrease the likelihood of injury, actually place heavy squats and/or deadlifts toward the end of the workout so they can achieve a training effect while not relying on such heavy loads.
Let’s say you’ve built your strength up to a 300-pound bench, 400-pound squat, and 500-pound deadlift, and you decide to stay there for a year while improving upon your form and honing in on your diet. You’d look better despite not using progressive overload. Progressive overload is critical, but it’s not always mandatory.

14. You must incorporate plenty of variety.

20 Almost Laws of Strength Training
Variety is the spice of life. Training can be quite mundane, and it’s always nice to spruce your programs up with new exercises, altered stance and grip widths and ranges of motion, or other tweaks such as pause reps or drop sets. Failure to vary your workouts is said to lead to stagnation and “habituation”.
However, is variety truly necessary? Plenty of Olympic weightlifters from Bulgaria didn’t fall into this trap – they performed around six exercises year-round. And this is the crux of John Broz’s system – back squats, front squats, power cleans, power snatches, clean & jerks, and snatches.
Let’s say that a certain lifter performed the same five exercises his entire lifting career, and for 30 straight years he only did back squats, deadlifts, bench press, military press, and bent over rows. He’d probably have better strength and development than 90% of lifters.
Variety is nice – we all like it, it breaks up the monotony, and it keeps us interested in going to the gym, but if you don’t like change, then you don’t have to change in order to see excellent results.

15. You must periodize your training.

Periodization is essential for lifting success, right? The Russians were all about it, and American sports scientists have gone to great lengths planning detailed cycles of varying lengths. So it has to be mandatory for success, right?
The fact is, periodization is debated in the literature, and studies don’t tend to show a huge difference in gains between varying periodization models (Kiely 2012, Issurin 2010).
If you’re in tune with your body, you possess ample “common sense”, and you know the basics of program design, then you don’t really need to “periodize” your training.
But first let me clarify this statement. What is “periodization” anyway? It’s “planning”. How can any sensible lifter not perform some sort of planning when he trains? Even the biggest fools at the gym know what their “go-to” exercises are for the chest and biceps.
The vast majority of respectable lifters plan their training splits, training frequency, exercise selection, and order. Based on intuition and biofeedback, they tend to vary the intensity and volume on a particular day, but there’s some structure and planning to their methods.
Therefore, every single respectable lifter does in fact periodize his training. But do you need to jot down an annual plan full of cycles and phases? The vast majority of bodybuilders don’t do this, especially the top dogs.
Furthermore, “life” tends to force you into cycles and phases. Stress, new jobs, vacations, injuries, parties, holidays, work, deadlines, new relationships, and travel force lifters into varying their programming.
Moreover, periodization doesn’t allow for “on-the-fly” adjustments and can be too rigid. Chuck Vogelpohl was notorious for maxing out on his Dynamic Effort day; once he got ramped up he couldn’t resist going heavy. Are you going to tell him he’s not lifting correctly?

16. You must deload and/or fluctuate your training stress.

As mentioned above, life forces you into fluctuating your training stress. Nevertheless, should you plan recovery weeks? Probably, but what if you’re the type of lifter who simply “nails” the optimal training variables each week?
Some lifters lack testicular-fortitude and never overreach. These folks don’t need back-off weeks. Some lifters train balls-to-the-wall and are prone to overdoing it. These folks benefit greatly from deloading.
But there are certain lifters who intuitively understand just how hard to push things. They might slightly overreach by Friday, but after taking the weekend off, they’re good to go by Monday. They make steady gains despite never taking a week off or even taking a back-off week, due to the fact that they perform just the right amount of frequency, volume, and intensity for their body week in and week out.

17. You must train frequently.

20 Almost Laws of Strength Training
I’m a huge fan of HFT. But is it absolutely necessary? Some of the best gains I ever made were from a HIT program. Every five days, I performed a full-body workout consisting of big basic movements such as squats or front squats, deadlifts or sumo deadlifts, bench presses or close grip bench presses, and chins or rows. I got incredibly strong and gained a lot of muscle. Mike Mentzer saw great success from infrequent, full-body, intense training, as have plenty of other strong lifters.
One of the biggest misconceptions out there is that you have to be in the gym all day long in order to see results. If more aspiring lifters knew that they could in fact see incredible gains from lifting just six days per month, they’d probably embark on a resistance training regimen.
The caveat is that you have to do it right – no wimpy isolation lifts allowed. Hammer the big basic movements every five days and you’ll see great results.

18. You must perform total body workouts, or you must split your workouts.

The vast majority of bodybuilders split their programs. Many powerlifters split things up too. Total body training works for many individuals, but no single system is ideal for every individual and goal.
On the contrary, Olympic lifters don’t split their workouts, nor do most strongmen or athletes. There are prisoners who’ve gotten incredibly jacked from daily full-body workouts. Split training works for many individuals, but no single system is ideal for every individual and goal.

19. You must perform multiple sets.

Research clearly shows that multiple sets trump single sets for strength and size (Krieger 2009, Krieger 2010, Rhea et al. 2002). However, think of it this way:
Let’s say that a lifter did one exercise per workout and squatted on Monday, benched on Wednesday, and deadlifted on Friday. He performs five sets in each session.
Let’s say another lifter did one set of five compound exercises on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. They’re both doing 15 sets of exercise per week. Do you really think that they’d be much different in terms of strength or size?
Aside from a couple of warm-up sets, Dorian Yates performed one set to failure, and he had one of the best physiques in the history of bodybuilding.
The first set is by far the most important, with each subsequent set being less and less important. And if you end up hitting the muscles from more angles due to more exercises being performed, a case could be made that you can see even better results in terms of hypertrophy with single-set protocols versus multiple-set protocols.

20. You must consistently train balls-to-the-wall.

If you don’t go all-out every session, you won’t progress, right? Maybe not. Many experts feel that overdoing things holds more lifters back than underdoing things. Leaving a rep or two in the tank, choosing less-taxing exercise variations, and performing Dynamic Effort work allows lifters to train more frequently by sparing the nervous system and the joints from heavy pounding.
Pavel Tsatsouline advises lifters to “grease the groove” and quit obsessing about maximal performance on every set of every exercise.
Let’s say you train five days per week, never quite going to failure or maxing out on chain close grip bench press, feet-elevated inverted rows, chain front squats, heavy kettlebell swings, and farmer’s walks. You’d be very fit, strong, and muscular, and your joints would thank you.

Conclusion

I’m definitely not telling you that you shouldn’t do the things mentioned in this article. However, some of the tenets listed will be more or less important for you depending on your particular genetics and goals. Just keep in mind that these 20 items are nice to do, but not absolutely mandatory for success.
In Part 2 of this series I will disclose the things you must do to ensure optimal gains in strength training.

Sandbags For Strength

Sandbags For Strength

Is the sandbag the key to elite strength and conditioning? Probably not. It isn’t a miracle tool and likely not the missing link between you and strength training glory. However, used properly, sandbags can certainly be an effective adjunct to a solid resistance-training program.
Before you rush out and start stealing sandbags from the stack your neighbor has holding up his kid’s swing-set, you need a rationale for using them. This article will discuss how sandbags can help you build strength, conditioning, and power.
Often regarded as a “poor man’s choice” for strength and conditioning, there’s a distinct split between those that use sandbags (and other odd-shaped lifting devices) and those that train with traditional resistance, namely barbells and dumbbells. For some reason, we rarely find people that consistently work at both ends of the spectrum. Why?
  • It’s difficult to “grease the groove” with sandbag training. Although your technique will undoubtedly improve over time, you’ll still find yourself fighting for most lifts. Most don’t like this.
  • Sandbag training, being unstable and constantly shifting, will prevent you from lifting as much weight as you could on a more fixed device, like a barbell. This means that most who train for absolute strength tend to write them off.
  • Sandbags aren’t always employed for their unique properties. They’re often used for sandbag variations of regular barbell exercises, meaning that serious trainees just end up lifting less weight than normal. As a result, the comparable results between sandbag training and barbell training aren’t that impressive.
If you’re considering adding sandbag lifting into your training program, it’s important to first qualify what it will, and what it won’t do for you.

Functional Fiction

Sandbags For Strength
The annoying functional training “buzz” has come full circle. People are now wise to the fact that the modality used (barbell, dumbbell, kettlebell, sandbag, etc.) and exercise selected don’t necessarily make it functional. What makes these things functional (and indeed anything) is how they relate to you and your individual needs.
Subsequently, we’re starting to see a return to programs that are more functional for most people. Programs based around good, compound lifts are now common – and this is a great thing.
Does this mean that we should avoid those other “real-life” lifts altogether? I say no, provided we realize why we’re including them in our program.
Most avoid “odd-object” lifting because it’s tough and they find themselves struggling to make many of the lifts, even at moderate loads. For those aiming to increase absolute strength this can become an issue. I’m proposing that you don’t substitute sandbag training for barbell training, but use it as an additional tool.

What Makes The Sandbag Awesome

  • The sandbag is awkward to lift, requiring that you fight hard to perform exercises with it, just like working with a “real-life” object or person. (Hello, mixed martial artists, bouncers, and amateur mud wrestlers.)
  • Sandbags require great levels of grip strength to lift. You’ll find that you naturally grip them in positions like the bear hug, Zercher, or shoulder.
  • The sandbag is malleable. It will adjust to your body and how you’re using it. Like Spiderman’s alter ego Venom, it’s particularly effective in “molding” itself to your body and is perfect for carrying, dragging, and throwing.
  • The sandbag is unstable and will develop great core strength. This is the opposite of most “core” training where the surface you’re standing on is unstable. Working with an unstable object is much more akin to the demands of real life.
  • They’re a great way to push past plateaus. Get used to lifting a 200-pound bag of sand above your head and you’ll be stronger when you go back to the relatively “stable” barbell.
  • Finally, sandbags are inexpensive. They’re perfect for anyone on a budget. Just show up to a riverside community in the weeks following a spring flood – they’ll pay you to take them away!

Integrating Sandbag Training

The simplest way to incorporate sandbag lifting is to use the bag as an alternative to deadlifts, squats, presses, and pulls. This isn’t the most effective use of the sandbag but it will give you a taste of the benefits therein.
How you integrate sandbag training into your strength and conditioning will be highly specific to your own individual needs. The following three options will provide you with some starting points:
  • Substitute an existing session of lifting for sandbag variations. Replace the lifts you’d normally do with a traditional free weight with the sandbag. Do this 1-2 times per month.
  • Add in a unique sandbag lifting session. Use some of the sandbag exercises described below and try a session that’s either strength based (high weight, low rep, long rest periods) or conditioning based (light-moderate weight, moderate-high rep, minimal rest periods).
  • Use sandbags for a sport-specific session. Push it, pull it, drag it, and throw it. Treat it like an opposing shopper at Best Buy on Black Friday and be creative.

Sandbag Exercises

The following exercises will give you the best of what the sandbag has to offer. They’re exercises that you probably wouldn’t normally do, and that’s a good thing!

Sandbag Windmill

Sandbags For Strength

If you’ve ever tried a windmill with a kettlebell or dumbbell you’ll appreciate that it can be a tough exercise. It requires great flexibility, core and shoulder strength. Try it with a sandbag and it goes to a whole new level. The constantly shifting load of the sandbag will challenge your shoulder stability like nothing else.

Sandbag Bear-Hug Load Carry

Sandbags For Strength

This is the type of exercise that the sandbag was designed for. The bear hug will develop the kind of strength that’s difficult to get from regular lifting. Couple this with a load carry (or sprint for supreme conditioning) for a great strength and conditioning exercise. You could move the bag between platforms or chairs, or perhaps set out a course to cover.

Sandbag Floor Press with Bridge

Sandbags For Strength

The floor press is a great exercise for developing pushing strength, and the sandbag version encourages greater development of grip strength and shoulder stability. Plus, you can be creative with it. MMA athletes can try escapes and transitions with the sandbag.

Sandbag Clean and Press

Sandbags For Strength

Lifting a bag of sand above your head is no easy feat, and the added challenge from the sandbag is enough to justify its inclusion in the list.

Wrap Up

There’s absolutely no substitute for the basics, namely barbells and dumbbells. However, just as the Prowler and kettlebells can be effective additions to a solid weight-training program, so can the dirty old sandbag. It might just be the plateau buster you were looking for!

Why You Need More Strength

Why You Need More Strength



Why You Need More Strength


In order to be powerful, you must be strong.
Developing huge levels of muscle force takes a lot of maximal strength, but it’s only after you enhance your ability to quickly reach that peak level of force that you achieve head-turning power.
Power is defined as work divided by time (P=W/T), so in order to become more powerful you must decrease the amount of time it takes you to perform a certain amount of work. Let’s say two guys can achieve the same level of peak force. The guy who can reach that peak force faster is more powerful.
The typical way a strength coach will build a power athlete is with a combination of speed and maximal strength training.
Speed training uses submaximal loads with fast tempos. For example, you’ll put a load on the bar you could lift 10 times but you’ll only perform three super-fast reps.
The goal of speed training isn’t to enhance your peak force, but instead to enhance your ability to reach that peak force in less time. Put another way – speed training won’t increase your maximal strength and this can be problematic for most power athletes.
For the purposes of this discussion, a power athlete is someone whose sport mandates lightning fast movements. Think of a MMA fighter or a running back.
Ironically, the only sport with the word “power” in the description – powerlifting – doesn’t mandate fast movements. Whether it takes you two seconds or eight seconds to lock out the deadlift doesn’t matter; either is acceptable in that sport. Nevertheless, speed work is important in powerlifting. There are two reasons.
First, speed work enhances your ability to reach peak levels of force. The inability to reach max force can cause you to miss the lift. The second reason is because, in most cases, powerlifters aren’t doing anything outside of the gym that challenges their speed. They need to train for speed in their workouts because they’re not getting it anywhere else.
You must be able to tap into your peak force very fast to get bigger and stronger. But this article isn’t an overview of how to train for speed. Eric Cressey already did an excellent job covering that in Training Speed to Get Strong.
Powerlifters aside, most power athletes don’t need additional speed work. They need to develop more maximal strength. That’s the focus of this article.


How to Target Maximal Strength

Maximal strength is your ability to produce the highest level of force possible. Based on motor unit physiology, your ability to maintain maximum continuous force decreases at the 10-second mark. So any set or exercise that lasts longer than 10 seconds of continuous tension isn’t directly training maximal strength.
There are two different ways to increase maximal strength. The first is with those big, compound exercises that you love to do in the gym because you can load plenty of plates on the bar. I’m talking about the deadlift and back squat, among others. You lift heavy, you keep the reps low, and you keep the rest periods long.
The other way to build maximal strength is with high-tension exercises. These exercises don’t require much external load but they’re brutally tough. Heck, in some cases you don’t need any external load before you have to stop.
Two examples include the iron cross on the rings or a body weight glute-ham raise. Most strong athletes can’t complete a single, full range of motion rep of either. So even though there’s no external load, it’s still maximal strength training since you can’t maintain muscle tension for more than 10 seconds.
There’s no new way to build pure strength. You need to lift heavy and use high-tension exercises. Thirty years ago a professional football player would practice to build his game and lift heavy in the gym to build his maximal strength. But then something changed.


The Sport Specific Training Setback

Why You Need More Strength


By the 1990’s, sport specific training became the rage. The concept was simple – try to mimic in the weight room what you’re doing in the sport. That way, what you develop in the gym will directly correlate with an increase in sport-specific performance.
Take a 100-meter sprinter, for example, whose replay video shows a high knee kick throughout the race. His strength coach has him perform a bunch of high knee kicks with a resistance band to build strength in that movement pattern because, well, that’s what the sport shows.
Yet, this type of sport specific training didn’t help. What proof do I have? Well, the progressive strength coaches who ended up removing those crazy exercises out of their athlete’s programs saw no loss in sport performance. In many cases, the athletes actually improved their speed and strength once those fatigue-inducing exercises were put on the shelf.
I was reminded of this fact when I recently met up with sprint strength coach savant, Barry Ross, to talk shop. He’s a guy who’s known for having his athletes perform an extremely basic strength-building program; I mean, really basic. His strength program focuses on building the deadlift and not much else.
A deadlift-focused program for sprinters seems about as far from sport-specific as training can be. Yet Ross consistently produces some of the fastest sprinters in the world.
He doesn’t have his sprinters perform a high knee kick against resistance because he figured out that the high kick was merely a rebound effect from the huge amount of force his sprinters were able to pound into the ground from their monstrous deadlifts.
Another example – back in 1997 I was fortunate to spend time around another legend in the world of strength training, Tim Grover. He’s the guy who trained Michael Jordan throughout his career, in addition to many other top NBA players.
One really smart thing Tim did was measure his players’ average heart rate on the basketball court. He wanted to see it decrease over time as they got further into the off-season strength and conditioning program he set up for them.
Tim didn’t have Jordan or Pippen run up and down the court wearing a weighted vest with ankle weights while shooting a 20-pound basketball. He used basic strength exercises to get them stronger. Grover knew that making his basketball players stronger would allow them to perform jump shots with less effort. This kept their heart rate down and, by default, increased their endurance.
I mention Barry Ross and Tim Grover for a reason. Ross’ athletes only need to run in a straight line for a very short amount of time. Grover’s athletes had to run in multiple directions for a long period of time. Yet both focused on a basic maximal strength-building program to improve their athlete’s performance, and both are hugely successful with their methods. They didn’t fall victim to the sport-specific training nonsense.
The problem with the sport specific training craze is that the exercises weren’t nearly as effective as training the sport itself. Those exercises just accumulated fatigue that kept athletes from practicing at their peak on the field or in the ring.
The idea of taking any sprint, punch or kick and adding resistance to it in order to build sport specific endurance is akin to prescribing a 4/0/2 tempo for the step-up. Both approaches set the strength and conditioning industry back 20 years.


The Fatigue Factor

Why You Need More Strength


Fatigue is the number one enemy of any athlete. Anyone who’s a fighter, or trains fighters, has a clear understanding of how detrimental fatigue can be.
Look, if you’re a running back, fatigue will decrease your agility so you’re more likely to get tackled. That’s not good. However, for MMA fighters, the inability to maintain their reflexes at the end of a fight could be a career ender.
It’s this respect for my fighter’s safety at the end of a fight that made me put such a large emphasis on speed training and sport-specific endurance development when I first started working with them. In those days, half of our training would be speed with endurance work, while the other half was maximal strength training.
But I wasn’t satisfied with their maximal strength development. I knew the problem – they were doing too much overall training throughout the week to recover. So I started tapering off the amount of speed work I had them do. Of course, their maximal strength went up.
And their endurance and explosive strength also went up!
I determined an increase in endurance by their ability to maintain a lower average heart rate while they were sparring. The explosive strength enhancement was determined by an increase in their broad jump score.
Of course, training for nothing but maximal strength won’t make you an endurance athlete. However, when I cut out the speed/endurance exercises, they were able to put more energy into their kickboxing, Muay Thai, wrestling, and boxing.
In other words, they had the extra energy outside of our strength workouts to literally build sport specific endurance by practicing their sport more frequently and with greater intensity. And remember that having higher levels of maximal strength means you can perform the sport with less effort.
The only type of sport specific training worth doing is the sport itself. I like battling ropes for MMA athletes as much as the next guy, but it’s still inferior to letting them spend that energy on actual striking.


3 Guidelines for Training Power Athletes

Why You Need More Strength

Use the deadlift as the ultimate measure of high-load training strength with being able to pull at least a raw double body weight lift with an unmixed grip as the goal. Focus on building the glute-ham raise, iron cross, muscle-up, and handstand push-up from rings for body weight high-tension exercises.
A key with maximal strength training is to rest at least three minutes before repeating an exercise. This doesn’t mean you need to sit around for three minutes, though. Here’s a sample sequence I like for developing the core and posterior chain.

Exercise Reps Rest
1A Pallof press-hold for 10 seconds 60 sec.
1B Deadlift* 2 60 sec.
1C Body weight glute-ham raise ** 60 sec.

Repeat 1A-1C four more times.

If that doesn’t work, add battling ropes, sled work, sprints or something similar into the program, one at a time. Make sure whatever you add in is improving their sparring endurance.

The broad jump is a versatile tool in athletic settings. Not only is it an accurate way to test your potential increase in RFD, but it’s also a good measure of which young athlete might be genetically predisposed to being a great power athlete.
The kid with the longest broad jump is often the one chosen by an Olympic coach who’s looking to build his resume.
In science, all possible variables must be kept consistent through subsequent trials or the data will be skewed. This need for accuracy, of course, is just as important when testing athletes. The biomechanics of the broad jump must be as consistent as possible.
In subsequent trials, if the athlete uses a wider or narrower foot placement, if he’s wearing different shoes, or if he’s jumping from a different surface, you won’t get an accurate measure of his changes in performance.
Testing Surface: Ideally you’ll jump from a hard surface and land on a slightly softer one. Think of a basketball court floor for takeoff and a hard rubber surface like you see in gyms for landing. A surface that’s too soft, however, isn’t helpful either since it’s difficult for the athlete to land solid. It’s not imperative that you land on a softer surface, but if one is available, use it.
Footwear: I usually have my athletes perform the broad jump with bare feet. Any shoe with minimal cushioning will work, too. Avoid testing athletes who are wearing shoes with thick, cushioned soles.
Foot placement: When the athlete is ready to perform a broad jump, measure the distance between the inside of his heels and place two marks on the floor with tape so his heels are the exact same width with each subsequent attempt. Whichever foot placement feels most powerful is what you want to test. That stance width will be slightly different for everyone.
Attempts, Measuring and Calculations: Perform three broad jumps with three minutes of rest between each attempt. If the athlete loses his balance on the landing, it doesn’t count. Wait three minutes and perform another attempt.
Measure from the front of his toes at takeoff to the back of his heel at landing. Measure to the heel that’s closest to the takeoff line if the feet aren’t perfectly even. The longest jump is the one that counts in your data.
Testing frequency: Test the broad jump every four weeks. Ideally, you’ll test it on the same day at the same time with the same warm-up, if you choose to use a warm-up (as little as 10 jumping jacks one minute before the first jump is usually sufficient). The key is to keep whatever warm-up you’re doing consistent over time.
Now, in a perfect world the athlete would refrain from any heavy weight training for two days before testing the broad jump. If you test the broad jump two days after a heavy deadlift the first week, and retest it one day after a heavy deadlift the fourth week, you’re going to skew your data. Be smart with your timing of the broad jump test and try to keep all variables as consistent as possible.
It would be easy to get into a scholarly discussion over what constitutes an ideal broad jump distance. But that doesn’t really matter. What matters is that your broad jump is consistently increasing over time. Once it stops increasing, add speed exercises into your training program if you feel that’s what’s lacking.


Final Words

This article isn’t a slam on speed training. It has its place. If you’re an avid lifter who doesn’t compete in any sport and wants to get bigger and stronger, traditional speed training should be a part of your program.
However, if you’re a power athlete it’s important to remember that your sport probably gives you all the speed training you need, if you practice it enough.
What you’ll most likely get the greatest benefit from is maximal strength training. This is especially true if your goal is to be the next MMA champion!

Wikio

The New Rules of Strength Training

The New Rules of Strength Training

The New Rules of Strength Training

I’ve just received word that I’ve been appointed the new President of the Strength Training Industry.
As your leader, my first order of business is to address what I consider to be the greatest challenge facing the industry today: the widespread acceptance and proliferation of biomechanically dangerous exercises.
We’ve allowed strength training to become a “risky” or “dangerous” business, attracting an unsavory mix of foolish, hardcore, Jackass-inspired thrill seekers who preach lifting ridiculously heavy weights in a chalk-dusted frenzy. Their unwanted influence needlessly injures thousands of well-intentioned exercisers that just want to enjoy a refreshing workout and follow a healthy lifestyle.
I can say with confidence that it doesn’t have to be this way. And thanks to my newly acquired authority, with just a stroke of a pen I can render strength training as safe or safer than the stationary bike, lawn bowling, and Chinese checkers, current gold standards of exercise safety.
The following is a list of banned exercises that shall not be performed again, along with a brief explanation.

Upright rows

Abducting your arms over 90 degrees combined with severe internal rotation will shred your shoulders like Grandma’s 4th of July coleslaw.

Behind the neck press, behind the neck pulldowns, and behind the neck pull-ups

The “high five” position characterized by shoulder abduction and extreme external rotation is an injury waiting to happen. While you grind away at your rotator cuff, inducing tendonitis, you’ll also be stretching out the ligaments and anterior capsule, leading to permanent elongation, hyperlaxity, and instability.
While you’re at it, why not jam the bar into your spine and damage a cervical process? Might as well multi-task, right?

Squats

All squatters have round lumbar spines and posteriorly-tilted pelvises when they go deep, and if their poor discs could talk, they’d be screaming bloody murder. The low bar position wreaks havoc on the shoulder joints, and the ACL, PCL, and patella take a beating during the descent. Too heavy a weight leads to excessive forward lean, exposing the lumbar spine to injury.
Worse, the lift requires dangerous levels of intra-abdominal pressure and can lead to rectal prolapse, a condition where the walls of the rectum protrude through the anus and become visible outside the body. Good luck riding your bike home from the gym after that happens.

Bench press

The New Rules of Strength Training

The barbell puts the wrist in a fixed position that can damage the elbows and shoulders, while the powerlifting style low-back arch will hammer the posterior elements of the spine. Going deep overstretches the delicate shoulder ligaments, and the scapulae can’t move naturally as they’re pinned against the bench. Not to mention, the scapulae will be permanently abducted and the shoulders internally rotated, which over time can lead to a Neanderthal-like posture.

Military press

Ignore that the head is dead smack in the path of the barbell and just focus on the fact that the delicate acromions can’t handle the load. Furthermore, the typical kyphotic posture will massacre the shoulders and cause spinal hyperextension.

Deadlifts

A perfectly named exercise. The deadlift will create numerous disc herniations and permanent elongation of the spinal ligaments due to a slumped posture. Weak glutes encourage lumbar flexion and posterior pelvic tilt to initiate the lift, and lumbar hyperextension and anterior pelvic tilt to finish. Just imagine, a single exercise that can create flexion and extension intolerance in one fell swoop!
Increasing or decreasing the load doesn’t improve the safety profile one iota. Heavy deadlifts over stress the CNS, leading to permanent downregulation of key brain chemicals and eventually mental retardation, while high rep deadlifts can lead to cardiac arrest.

Good mornings

The New Rules of Strength Training

If you bumped into an extra terrestrial at the gym and asked him to put a heavy bar on his back and bend over with it, he’d likely start laughing hysterically in that cute way benevolent aliens do before shooting you in the face with a phaser. It’s sad that even aliens have more common sense than meatheads.

Reverse hypers and back extensions

Most people’s hips don’t work correctly, so they move at the spine and not the hips. Down low, they flex the spine to make up for crappy hamstring flexibility, and up top hyperextend the lumbar spine to make up for weak glutes. Why not just foam roll on the freeway and get it over with?

Glute ham raises

Nobody does this exercise properly. Weak hamstrings require anterior pelvic tilt to try to improve the length tension relationship, which puts the low back into hyperextension and annihilates the posterior elements of the lumbar spine.

Lunges, Bulgarian split squats, step ups, pistols, and single leg RDL’s

All single leg exercises lead to SI joint pain and sciatica. Crappy hip stability causes the knee to move all around in the frontal and transverse planes, obliterating the patellofemoral joint. Any PT who prescribes a single leg movement is a shill for the knee replacement industry.

Hip thrusts, barbell glute bridges, and single leg hip thrusts.

Whoever thought up these abominations is a serious douchebag. Since weak glutes can’t do the job, the pelvis will anteriorly tilt and the low back will hyperextend, thereby taking a jackhammer to the posterior elements of the lumbar spine. Furthermore, the weak glutes will fail to exert a rearward pull on the femur, leading to anterior hip pain as it jams forward in the acetabulum.
If you still choose to perform these hare-brained movements, maybe you should consider the other exercisers using the facility. Unless you have an Airex pad to place under the bar, too much pressure is placed on the abdomen, resulting in volcanic eruptions of explosive diarrhea.

Dips

The New Rules of Strength Training

Extreme shoulder extension combined with external rotation will inevitably lead to anterior capsule dysfunction. Dips are for dipshits.

Push-ups

Push-ups are too hard on the wrists and elbows, and if the feet are elevated to make them more difficult you risk hyperextending the neck. Due to most lifter’s obsession with the bench press, the serratus anterior and trapezius fibers often don’t fire and can’t properly stabilize the scapula so once again the shoulders take a beating.

Leg presses and seated rows

These exercises require too much hamstring flexibility, leading to severe lumbar rounding under heavy loads and eventually herniated discs. Moreover, machines place the body in unnatural fixed positions that can lead to faulty motor recruitment in as little as six workouts, and walking like Frankenstein’s monster in twelve.

Bent over rows

I get it. Since the ribcage can serve as a trampoline in the bench press to max out at 225 lbs., it would be silly to only row 95 lbs. So you pile two plates on each side of the bar, round the back to 30 degrees, and start performing upright rows to the belly.

Chin-ups and pull-ups

Supinated chins over stress the biceps tendons, while wide grip pull-ups over stress the shoulder joints. To make the exercise easier lifters hyperextend the low back and shrug the shoulders to account for weak lower traps.

Sit-ups, side bends, and Russian twists

Sit-ups will induce compressive and sheer loading on the spine, leading to compromised neural function, mindless incoherent babbling, and eventually holding up homophobic signs at Michele Bachmann campaign rallies.
Since the hip flexors are already tight from sitting, you should never, ever try to strengthen them. Twisting sit-ups combine lumbar flexion and rotation, which is akin to a Mike Tyson right uppercut – left hook combo.
The spine was meant to stay in neutral your entire life and should never be moved. For this reason, side bends and Russian twists are out, along with getting out of bed, tying your shoes, sitting, and picking up loose change off the ground.

Shrugs, farmer’s walks, and all loaded carries

Most lifter’s upper traps already dominate their lower traps. You should never, EVER, carry anything heavy or even take a plate or dumbbell out of the rack or your traps will become perpetually imbalanced.

Pullovers, flyes, lateral raises, barbell curls, and prone rear delt raises

The New Rules of Strength Training

Single joint exercises in the stretch position such as flyes and pullovers are hard on the shoulder joint, and lateral raises, unless performed in the scapular plane, will destroy the shoulders.
Barbell curls over stress the biceps tendon and the bones of the lower arm.
Prone rear delt raises require hyperextending the neck while lying prone on an incline bench, which can cause amnesia, aneurisms, or stroke.
Let’s not forget the most important point, that single joint lifts aren’t functional. Even though they may look like movement patterns seen in swimming, tennis, and strongman, don’t let your eyes fool you! There’s zero functional transfer to the real world.

Power cleans and jump squats

People can’t clean worth a piss these days, and the wrists take too much of a pounding over time. Jump squats jar the entire body upon landing.

Pallof presses, cable chops, cable lifts

These exercises require simultaneous contraction from all the core muscles, which clamp down on the spine and create enormous compressive loads. This leads to vertebral issues and severe constipation that cases of Metamucil can’t cure.

Crunches

Since I’m President, I’ve decided to eradicate the terms “lumbar flexion” and “posterior pelvic tilt” from the Kinesiology textbooks, and the rectus abdominus will now be referred to as “The Muscle Whose Name Cannot be Mentioned.” (TMWNCBM for short.)
Before you roll onto your back and start crunching, realize that the lumbar spine only allows for 20,000 flexion cycles. When you hit this number, all five lumbar discs herniate immediately and you begin writhing in uncontrollable spasm.
Even if you’re way shy of the 20,000 limit, with every single rep your athleticism and ability to walk upright while chewing gum decreases by .02%. You do the math.
Crunches destroy the workings of the pelvic floor musculature, resulting in you pissing yourself uncontrollably every time you laugh or sneeze, or whenever the fighter jets do a fly-over on opening weekend.
Furthermore, crunches are linked to glute dysfunction. It doesn’t matter if you’re sprinting or hip thrusting, crunches override those signals and extinguish their effects. The result is now you can’t walk, run, or jump properly.
Worse, this glute dysfunction can lead to erectile dysfunction. Since the glutes no longer function properly, thrusting becomes impossible, and even the most accommodating partner is bound to start laughing hysterically at such anemic displays of ass drive, resulting in the “little general” shriveling like over-cooked linguini. This psychological catastrophe can embed itself deep into the brain, resulting in permanent erectile dysfunction.
Finally, crunches can lead to AIDS and other STD’s. Many lifters who perform crunches become so horribly kyphotic that they can’t attract a mate through conventional means, leading to encounters with prostitutes and other ladies of ill repute. This significantly increases their exposure to AIDS, gonorrhea, syphilis, certain politicians, herpes, and other single-guy buzz kills.

The New Rules to Strength Training

The New Rules of Strength Training

What’s the deal? Has Contreras sold out?
Hell no! I wrote this article to make a point. 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.
Without further ado, here are President Contreras’ actual new rules to strength training:

  • An exercise is judged by how it is supposed to be performed, not by how the jacktards screw it up.
  • If you think lifting weights is dangerous, try being weak. Being weak is dangerous.
  • There are no contraindicated exercises, just contraindicated individuals. Learn how your body works and master its mechanics.
  • If you can’t perform an exercise properly, don’t do it. If an exercise consistently causes pain, don’t do it. If an exercise consistently injures you, don’t do it.
  • Earn the right to perform an exercise. Correct any dysfunction and become qualified with bodyweight before loading up a movement pattern.
  • There exists a risk-reward continuum and some exercises are safer than others. It’s up to you to determine where you draw the line. Don’t bitch about your lack of progress or poor joint health as you lie in the bed you made for yourself.
  • Exercises performed poorly are dangerous, while exercises performed well are beneficial. If you use shitty form, you’ll hurt yourself. It’s only a matter of time.
  • If you display optimal levels of joint mobility, stability, and motor control, you’ll distribute forces much better and be able to tolerate more volume, intensity, and frequency.
  • Structural balance is critical. You must strengthen joints in opposing manners to ensure that posture isn’t altered. If your posture erodes due to strength training, it means that you’re a shitty program designer.
  • Body tissues adjust to become stronger to resist loading. The body is a living organism that adapts to imposed demands.
  • Your training will be based on your needs, your goals, and your liking. Different goals require different training methods. The loftier your goals, the more risk entailed.
  • There are two type of stress: eustress and distress. Keep yourself in eustress and you’ll be okay.
  • If you believe an exercise will hurt you, it probably will.
  • Injuries in the weight room have more to do with poor form and poor programming than the exercise itself. Exercises are tools. You are the carpenter. A good carpenter never blames his tools.
  • Rather than drift along with popular trends, it’s more fruitful to learn how the body works, which will allow you to understand the pros and cons of every exercise and make educated decisions in your programming.

At the end of the day, how you train is your call. Whether you play it safe or roll the dice, at least you’re not sitting on the couch. Pain and injuries have a way of teaching you proper form and programming, and having a large arsenal of exercises is important to prevent boredom and habituation and spark further adaptation. In short, keep learnin’ and keep liftin’!
I’m President Contreras and I approve this message.

Wikio

>Strong in the Stretch:5 Exercises for Size, Strength, and Mobility

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Step into a commercial gym around 5 PM any day of the week. Sure you’ll come across some “strong” people who can lift heavy weights, but if you take a closer look, it’ll become painfully obvious that most meatheads have simply lost the ability to move with any semblance of fluidity.
Poor daily posture leads to tight, inhibited muscles, which leads to poor movement, which then compounds the issue, which killed the rat that ate the malt that lay in the house that Jack built…and eventually we’re left with serious inefficiencies and often injuries.
As avid T NATIONers, we know training to be anything but thoughtless and poorly contrived. We train hard week in and week out, and as readers we’re privy to a constant flow of solid information and training advice, but no matter what our focus in the gym consists of, we come to T NATION to separate ourselves from the “regular folk” who are simply sheep in the flock.
Touching back on my original thought, however, many of us don’t realize that the focus on mobility can elude us and when it does, it’s something that can be very difficult to recapture.
This article isn’t intended for you to change your approach to training, or to take away from your main lifts. However, many of these exercises can replace current techniques you use now, and with a little hard work and effort they can help take you to higher levels of strength and movement.
This short list is something you can incorporate in your current program that will help you lengthen your range of motion, build size and strength, and oh yeah, hurt like hell.

1. The Long Duration Sumo Squat Hold

This is a great foundational exercise but can double as much more. In our young athletes, it teaches proper squat technique in regards to the pelvis and spine, and the kids find out how much mental toughness they have, fast. It’s pure hell, and it’s the last thing our athletes do on Fridays before they go home. In fact, they often crawl out of here!
The holds are between 45 and 60 seconds and we do them for 3-4 sets.
The better you become at this movement, the more gravity just keeps assisting you into a deeper hold. You’ll soon see some dramatic changes in hip mobility.
For anyone looking for size, loads and long times under tension can provide a great breeding ground for some new muscle.

2. The Dumbbell Iso-Dynamic Elevated Split Squat

This exercise is based on the standard split squat, just adding a couple of boxes to elevate both feet. By standing on boxes you’ll allow for greater range of motion and that’s precisely the goal of the exercise.
The athlete pulls himself deeper into the hole with each rep (3-5 second holds). This not only hammers away at those pesky tight hip flexors, it also develops a great amount of starting strength by working the athlete in his greatest (and weakest) joint angles.
If you’re looking for some serious upper leg development, then try a few heavy sets of these and feel sore in some places you didn’t even know existed!

3. Elevated Barbell Reverse Lunge

This is without a doubt one of my favorite exercises for developing the glutes, hams, and adductors.
If you’re new to these be careful on your volume initially as you may find it hard to walk for a few days. Not only do they provide a tremendous strengthening effect on the front leg, but the dynamic flexibility component they provide to the rear leg hip flexor and rectus is incredible.
In some cases when we’re focusing on the range of motion in the rear leg, we have the athlete bring the rear leg all the way through and up to waist height (you’ll end in a position similar to a step up, with one leg on the box and the other knee driven up).

4. Iso-Dynamic Band Resisted Push-up

This exercise can be very humbling when you’re not used to full ranges of motion.
The video below will show a 320 + lbs. bencher struggling on the sixth rep of a push up. The reason for the difficulty is the combination of the extreme joint angle (weakest point) and the accommodating resistance of the bands.
In my opinion, the deep isometric push up is one of the best scapular retraction exercises out there. By lengthening the anterior shoulder and pecs, you place the muscles that move the scapulae in the best leverage position to contract maximally.
For people who have naturally poor posture or jobs that require them to sit in poor posture all day, this exercise can be just the thing to help even out their overworked anterior body.
Besides postural benefits, this exercise can be great at developing strength and size in the upper back and will allow the anterior portion of the shoulder to get a solid stretch that could also translate into better recovery and muscle production.

5. Band Resisted Iso-Dynamic Chin-Up

This may be the most difficult one in terms of perceived difficulty because it’s the only exercise that’s RESISTED by gravity instead of assisted. To make it worse, gravity won’t be the only thing pulling you back down to earth.
Place a band around your waist and have a partner stand on the band. Alternately, you can hook the band under a rack or dumbbell.
While in the hanging position, squeeze/contract the muscles of your chest and triceps as hard as possible, which will protect the shoulders and allow the major muscles of the back to lengthen.
After a short hold (3-5 seconds), pull up with as much speed and power as possible. The band will kick in near the top and slow you down to a snail’s pace. The answer to overcoming the added resistance? Pull HARDER. It’s just you against the band, and of course Sir Isaac Newton’s old buddy, gravity.

To reiterate, again I’m not trying to tell you what you’re doing is wrong or that you need to replace all of your trusty go-to lifts with these options. I’m merely offering alternatives, ones that I think are of great importance and value to any serious lifter.
If you want to continue to train hard and heavy, there will someday come a time when quality of movement must be prioritized. Why not start now?

Sources:

1. Buchenholz, Dietrich. The Best Sports Training Book Ever. Inno-Sport Group, 2003. Print.
2. Shroeder, Jay. “Iso-Extreme Lecture Notes.” Be Athletic Seminar. College of the Holy Cross, Worcester. Lecture.
3. Uram, Paul, and Dave McKinnis. Refining Human Movement. Butler, PA: Paul Uram, 1971. Print.
4. Verkhoshansky, Yuri Vitalievitch., and Mel Cunningham. Siff. Supertraining. Rome, Italy: Verkhoshansky, 2009. Print.

Wikio

3 Ways to Immediately Boost Your Strength

by CHAD WATERBURY on JANUARY 21, 2011
Imagine this scenario. You’re sitting in the audience at a strength and conditioning conference, there to learn a thing or two about building bigger, stronger muscles, and the speaker calls you up to the podium.
The speaker has a barbell onstage with a stack of plates next to it. He tells you that you’re going to test your maximum strength for the deadlift in front of the audience.
You’re a little nervous, but you get yourself onstage and go through a typical warm-up that consists of a handful of sets with progressively heavier weights. You’re not a powerlifter, just a regular gym rat, so you know the pull isn’t going to impress anyone in the powerlifting game. But you don’t care. You’re in front of a couple hundred people and this is your time to shine.
After a few minutes you’ve got the weight dialed in. With all the effort you can muster you manage to pull 350 pounds. This load, clearly evident to yourself and anyone watching, is your true one repetition maximum. Five more pounds and you would’ve failed.
“Not bad,” says the speaker. “And guess what? Today is your lucky day. Let’s see if you can pull more weight with motivation from some dead Presidents.”
The speaker reaches behind the podium and pulls out a briefcase, opens it, and shows you a million bucks – cash. This isn’t that snooze-fest television, Deal or No Deal – this is the real deal and you know it.
“All you have to do is pull 20 more pounds and the cash is yours,” the speaker says. He throws another 10-pound plate on each side of the 350-pound barbell, now making it 370 pounds, and smiles.
Think you could pull that extra 20 pounds for a million bucks? Of course you could!
With most things in life, though, reward doesn’t come without risk. This contest is no exception. You just took a million from the speaker and he wants to up the ante in order to get it back. I mean, really up the ante.
So he reaches behind the podium and pulls out a chainsaw. Like a scene straight out of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, he fires up the gas-filled tree killer, hoists it in the air, and swings it around while belting out a hellacious howl. You’re not sure what’s on the line, but you’re damn sure whatever it is ain’t good.
You were right.
The speaker looks you dead in the eyes, and with a tone that makes Johnny Cash sound like Alvin the Chipmunk, he passes on this little gem.
“You must add another 20 pounds to your deadlift or I’m going to cut off both of your legs.”
You and your legs don’t doubt his dedication to the chainsaw swinging craft, so you decide it’s best to proceed. After all, that half-inch you added to your calves didn’t come easy, and your vastus medialis muscles have been looking pretty impressive in those board shorts your girlfriend bought you at Patagonia.
The speaker adds 20 more pounds to the bar, making it 40 pounds heavier than when you started, and then gives you a nod while gripping the chainsaw with the most ominous look you’ve ever seen.
Now, here’s my question: Do you think you could pull those extra 20 pounds if your God-given wheels were on the line?
I’d be willing to bet both my legs, my arms, and my autographed Miley Cyrus poster that you could.
Why? Read on.
Release The Brake
When I speak at a seminar my goal is to leave the attendees with a few bits of information they’ll never forget.
While in graduate school one of my professors had the reputation for being able to talk about virtually anything and make it sound exciting. (I guess such a gift for gab is necessary when your goal is to make people giddy over the sodium/potassium pump.) But he was also very effective since his students, myself included, would retain most of what he taught.
Of course, I frequently asked him for advice before I had to speak in front of grad students and professors. He’d say, “Waterbury, you must tell them what you’re gonna tell them; tell them; then tell them what you told them.”
Repeat whatever is important at least three times, in other words.
When I give a presentation about the nervous system to a good group of trainers, coaches, and athletes what do I usually tell them three, four, maybe 10 times?
The nervous system is akin to a parking brake that’s partially engaged on your muscles.
And this is why my introduction, no matter how far-fetched it might seem, is important to appreciate. There’s no better way to instantly boost your strength than to get really motivated, or scared to death. Indeed, neuroscientists like to amuse themselves by saying that lunatics, people who are drowning, or those suffering from tetanus are extremely powerful.
They are.
Why? Because in any of the three cases the nervous system is running full speed ahead. It’s not because the people are powerlifters or gifted strength athletes, it’s because their nervous system has released its brake and put a plethora of neural drive straight to the muscles.
Release that brake and you’ll get stronger and recruit more muscle fibers – instantly!
So, the question is, how do you release the brake without risking a limb or two? I wish I could motivate you with a million bucks because you’d have newfound respect for the nervous system, but since I can’t, these are the next best ways.
1. Light The Fire
Before you pull a heavy lift; before you start your first warm-up set; heck, before you even step foot in the gym your nervous system must be ready for action. If it’s not you’ll be relegated to playing catch up as you wait for your nervous system to turn on. You must walk into the gym and feel like you’re ready to chew on rusty nails.
The simplest way to enhance your focus and nervous system output is to drink a cup of black coffee about 30 minutes before your workout. This only works if you don’t drink a lot of coffee to begin with, and it doesn’t work equally well for everyone (coffee, believe it or not, puts me to sleep).
If coffee isn’t your thing try Spike by Biotest. Take one tablet 30 minutes before training, or drink half a can of their liquid version that you can find in 7-11. This will boost neurotransmitters, alertness, and strength.
2. Secure Your Foundation
Okay, so now your nervous system has been lit up with a pre-workout stimulant. For most people, that’s enough to add some appreciable weight and intensity to the workout. Now you can take it a step further. Your next job is to let the nervous system know your body isn’t going to crumble when it releases the brake to your muscles.
As any good engineer will tell you, the foundation must support the building. If you own a 10-story building and feel the need to add five more floors on top of it, the foundation must be able to support the extra burden. With regard to strength training, I’m talking about the added stress that comes from putting more load on your muscles and joints.
Your support system comes from your glutes, abdominal wall, and lats. When these muscle groups fire together it forms a super-stiff foundation to support whatever lift you’re pulling. That’s why Dr. Stuart McGill calls the synchronous firing of the glutes, abdominal wall, and lats, “super stiffness.” When these muscles fire together, the nervous system will release more neural input to all your muscles. This is why boosting your squat will also enhance your bench press.
Putting your body in super stiffness mode is simple. You only need two exercises to do it. Start with two sets of three reps for the Romanian deadlift. Be sure to lock out your hips and squeeze the glutes as hard as possible at the top of each rep. Then, do two sets of three reps for the ab wheel-rollout exercise. These two exercises should not waste you of any energy so there’s no need to go for a max lift, especially with the Romanian deadlift. The goal is to simply add tension and neural input to the right muscles in order to strengthen your foundation before training.
To ramp up your nervous system, do this before your strength workout:
Romanian Deadlift
Sets: 2
Reps: 3
Load: moderately heavy (a weight you could normally lift 7 or 8 times)
Ab wheel-rollout
Sets: 2
Reps: 3
Load: body weight
3. Harness the Power of a SMH 
At this point your neurotransmitters are pouring out, and your foundation is strong and solid. The nervous system is approaching its apex of neural output. Now you just need one more boost to release that proverbial parking brake.
The most effective technique I’ve ever used to instantly boost strength is the supramaximal hold (SMH). It’s a key component of my Total Strength Program program in Muscle Revolution and it’s also used in the advanced strength phases of Huge in a Hurry.
Put simply, you’ll hold a weight near lockout that’s more than you could ever lift through a full range of motion. This tricks your nervous system into releasing more neural drive to your muscles. In essence, your brain thinks you’re really going to try and lift that monstrous load so it releases the brake on your muscles. There are many mechanisms at work – some that are still ambiguous – when you hold a supramaximal load, but one of the most well-documented is postactivation potentiation. Research by Baudry and Duchateau have demonstrated the power of it.
The SMH serves as a conditioning contraction – a primer for your muscles, in other words. For all you science buffs, postactivation potentiation increases the number of cross bridges that attach by increasing the sensitivity of contractile proteins to ionized calcium.(1) This allows the muscles to produce more force. However, the effect only lasts for about a minute, so you’ve got to get straight to your work set after the SMH is finished.
The SMH works awesome, but it’s pretty taxing to your system so you must limit the amount of times you do it. It’s best to use the SMH for exercises that give you the most bang for your buck. It’s perfect for squats, deadlifts, and presses. Curls and kickbacks, not so much.
An excellent workout to reap the benefits of the SMH is the deadlift and seated shoulder press. For each lift you’ll hold 120% of your one repetition maximum near lockout for 6-8 seconds. It’s important to use the power rack with pins set just below lockout for both exercises. Within 30 seconds of finishing the hold you’ll crank out as many full range of motion reps as you can with approximately 85% of your one repetition maximum (this number doesn’t have to be exact, just a ballpark estimate).
1A Deadlift SMH
Load: 120% of full range of motion maximum
Duration of hold: 6-8 seconds
Rest 30 seconds
1B Deadlift (full range of motion)
Load: ~85% of 1RM
Reps: as many as possible
Rest 120 seconds and repeat 1A and 1B pairing three more times
2A Seated Shoulder Press SMH
Load: 120% of full range of motion maximum
Duration of hold: 6-8 seconds
Rest 30 seconds
2B Seated Shoulder Press (full range of motion)
Load: ~85% of 1RM
Reps: as many as possible
Rest 120 seconds and repeat 2A and 2B pairing three more times
This workout looks deceptively simple, but it’ll take a lot out of you. However, it’ll add strength and muscle fast. Feel free to add a few less demanding exercises at the end. Do this workout twice per week (Monday and Friday). On Wednesday, use more traditional strength building methods such as 5 sets of 5 reps, without the SMH.
Conclusion
You’ll benefit by using steps #1 and #2 before all your workouts. Step #3, the SMH, should be reserved for the times when your nutrition and recovery is really dialed in. However, keep the SMH in your arsenal to boost big lifts while your nervous system learns that you’re ready for more strength and muscle.
1. Baudry and Duchateau. J Appl Physiol. 102: 1394-1401, 2007.
Stay focused,
CW

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