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Category Archive Bodybuilding

Core (Abs): How it Works and 3 Exercises to Effectively Train It

I fully expect that there will be two kinds of people that stumble upon this article. The first group will click on this article because the words core and ab are just too alluring to pass up. The second group will click on this article out of complete disbelief that I wrote an article dealing with abs or core. While it is true that I do very few sit-ups and crunches and by few I mean absolutely zero, I do train my core in ways that are more effective than doing a thousand crunches a day. Let me start off by saying that it is encouraging to learn that more and more people are understanding that sit-ups and crunches may not be the ideal way to target the abs. For those of you that have heard that there are more effective ways but are unsure as to the reasons why let me try and briefly explain.

The job of your core, for the purpose of this article I will use the term core instead of abs, is the transfer of energy throughout your body. Now, this transfer of energy usually travels from the lower body up through the core to the upper body and out the limbs but it can also happen vice versa. In order for the core to efficiently transfer this energy from lower to upper or upper to lower it must remain rigid. If the core is not strong enough to maintain its rigidness throughout whatever activity is taking place energy is lost. When energy is lost strength, power and stability (balance) suffers. So when someone says that there balance is suffering because their core is weak they may be technically correct. However, the steps most people take to correct this problem are incorrect. When your core is rigid it is tight, and your spine is long or straight. That is the exact opposite of the position your spine is in when performing sit-ups or crunches and the lack of rigidness in your core during those movements is also a problem. I haven’t even brought up the back pain associated with sit-ups and/or crunches due to the flexing of the lumbar spine that occurs. So the next question might be how do we train the core to maintain its rigidness? This might surprise most of you but the answer is not more core work, or at least not entirely. Now that you know that the job of the core is the transfer of energy it may make more sense when I tell you that we strengthen the core mainly through indirect work. Meaning the core gets stronger through movements where we typically target another area of the body. This is done mainly by lifting heavy weight while standing on the ground. Squats, deadlifts, overhead presses, and carries are all impossible to do without our core doing its job. By using correct technique during these exercises we can teach our core to maintain its rigidness throughout the movement and by progressively increasing the weights our core, along with a lot of other muscles in our body, becomes stronger. Also, if you know the correct technique for those exercises I mentioned above, you probably noticed that all of those exercises are done with a straight (long) spine. Although, in my opinion, just by adding in more heavy lifts you will see a substantial increase in core strength, it isn’t bad to add in some direct core work to supplement the heavy lifts. The best exercises to train your core in the way it needs to be trained to see results in strength are some common, old fashioned exercises. Take note that in the following three exercises you will notice that the spine is straight (long) and that the exercise is emphasizing a tight, rigid core during the movement. Exactly how we need it to be in so many other activities in and out of the gym.

Ab Wheel

The ab wheel is by far my favorite core exercise. The only problem with it is that it is extremely difficult and people quickly get frustrated with it. However, like most things in the gym, it’s important to remember that it’s not going to be perfect right at the beginning. The ab wheel is a great exercise because it forces you to remain tight and rigid throughout the entire movement or you simply will not be able to execute it. You will become tight subconsciously just like you should be with many other activities. Also, like the other two exercises below, the spine remains straight and long throughout the movement.

Can’t play video? Click here: Ab Wheel

Recommended Sets: 3-5

Recommended Reps: 8-12

Notes:

  • If you find this extremely difficult and cannot return to the starting position without falling on your elbows then just focus on the first portion (rolling away from your body) until you become strong enough to complete the entire movement.
  • Do your best to go out as far as you can each time. As you become better you will be able to go out further and further. Don’t become frustrated.

Planks

Yes, good old fashioned planks are still one of the best core exercises you can do. Recently, I have changed my approach with planks slightly. There is nothing wrong with performing planks for as long as possible. However, planks can be performed without maintaining tightness throughout the entire body. Which is why sometimes it almost becomes a shoulder exercise and anyone that has done planks can probably attest to that. Instead, I have been transitioning to doing planks for less time but really driving home the point of creating tension (tightness) throughout the entire body. If done correctly a person that can easily execute a plank for maybe 2-3 minutes will be gassed after executing a plank for one minute but focusing on creating that tension by squeezing their core throughout the entire set.

 

Recommended Sets: 3-5

Recommended Reps: 1 min

Note:

  • Perform both front and side planks.
  • For side planks maybe use less time than done for the front planks
Hanging Leg Raises

Hanging leg raises are tricky because the limiting factor may not be your core but your grip. These are tough for that very reason. However, like the ab wheel, these may have to be ugly at first in order for you to eventually get better at them. Like the above two exercises your spine remains long and straight during hanging leg raises and your core is definitely tight throughout the movement. The goal is too not swing your legs but to raise and lower them in a controlled manner. You probably won’t be able to do many controlled reps at first but doing a few reps per set at first is still beneficial.

Can’t play video? Click here: Hanging Leg Raises

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Build a Stronger, Thicker Back

It has been said that if you want to tell how strong someone is look at their back. There are a couple different reasons for this statement. One is that your back is the base for many different lifts or movements. For example, it probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about the bench press, but a big, strong back is an important ingredient to having a strong bench. It lays a strong foundation from which to press. Not to mention having a strong back adds stability to pressing movements. Another reason the back is a good indicator of overall strength and power is that our back acts as the transmission of our body. Our back musculature carries energy (power) through our body and out our limbs. Next time you see someone pretty strong in the gym, take notice how wide and big their back is. The following are a few exercises that will help you build not only a thick back, but a strong one as well.

Deadlift

I am not going to go in detail and tell you which variation of the deadlift you should be doing because in all honesty any version is better than not doing any at all. Which is where most people currently find themselves. Look at anyone who can deadlift a lot of weight and I bet that their traps stick out like mountains. Deadlifts, get good at them and then get strong at them.

Check out my YouTube video detailing how to properly perform the conventional barbell deadlift:


Can’t play video? Click here: How to Deadlift Youtube Video

Suggested Sets 3-5

Suggested Reps 3-5

T-Bar Row

The T-Bar Row is a great exercise to build thickness through the mid back and lat muscles. If you want to build size and thickness you have to move heavy weight and the T-Bar Row provides another exercise that allows you to load up the weight.


Can’t play video? Click here: T-Bar Row

  • Be sure to shift most of your weight onto the back half of your foot to ensure that your lower back is protected.
  • Maintain a rigid, tight back by pulling your shoulders back and pushing your chest out.
  • The angle of your torso can vary. Play around with what feels comfortable for you.
  • You can use lifting straps in order to move more weight without your grip restricting you.

Suggested Sets 4-6

Suggested Reps 8-12

Croc Row

The Croc Row is an exercise that most of you probably haven’t heard before. It’s just a heavy dumbbell row. The point of this row is to move really heavy weight a bunch of times. Those of you that hate worrying about staying strict with your movements will love this exercise because it allows for a big range with little technique. This exercise was invented to build a big upper back and grip strength that will assist in the deadlift. It certainly is tough on your grip and I advise going as long as you can without using straps in order to build that grip strength and then using straps towards the end of your sets in order to raise the weight.


Can’t play video? Click here: Croc Row

  • Set a bench to the preferred height or use a rack or something else to support yourself with your off hand.
  • Start the row by letting your arm hang all the way down. Feel the stretch in your lat.
  • Row the dumbbell with speed and intensity. Act like you are trying to start a lawnmower or leaf blower. It’s a pulling movement.
  • As you reach the top of the row pull your working shoulder blade towards the other shoulder blade of the non-working arm.
  • Let the dumbbell back down until your arm is hanging completely and you feel that stretch in your lat again.
  • Obviously don’t let the dumbbell back down so fast that you hurt yourself but don’t be super strict when lowering it back down either.

Suggested Sets 4-6

Suggested Reps 8-15

Barbell Shrug

Again, to build mass and thickness you must move heavy weight and barbell shrugs are another way to achieve this. In the context of this article I wouldn’t worry about squeezing and holding at the top of the movement or controlling the movement too much. If you can do all that then you aren’t moving heavy enough weight for the purpose of this article. Use straps so that your grip doesn’t hold you back and move as much weight as possible.

Suggested Sets 4-6

Suggested Reps 8-12

Pull Ups

Yep, old fashioned pull-ups are still at the top of my list for building a big, strong back. If there are different grips you can pick from, use them all at some point in your training. Do them weighted, do them for reps, do them every different way you can. Just do them. I wrote a couple articles on how to do a correct pull-up and how to progress pull-ups. If you struggle with pull-ups check out the pull-up progression article because yes they are very difficult but don’t become frustrated with them. Get better at them. 

 

Articles:

Pull-Up Progressions

My Experience with a Pull-Up Program

 

Suggested Sets w/weight 4-6

Suggested Reps w/weight 3-5

Suggested Sets w/out weight 5-8

Suggested Reps w/out weight AMAP (As Many As Possible)

As always, thanks for reading and be sure to support the site by subscribing with your email.

Why Women Should Lift Weights

From the title, you can infer what I will discuss in this article but what you may not realize is that this may very well turn out to be one of the most important articles I ever write on this site. I get asked all the time what is my favorite team to work with. Most assume its football with me being a former football player and the reputation for football player’s love of the weight room. Although my answer can vary depending on the time of year, and personality of the teams, most are shocked when I tell them how much I enjoy the girl teams. As a strength and conditioning coach that works with every sport at one of the biggest high schools in the state and also a personal trainer and online coach, I have the opportunity to work with literally hundreds of females. Women, no matter whether they are training for sport or just to be fit, are a lot of fun to work with. A big reason I love working with females is that whether it’s a shy high school sophomore who has little to no confidence in the weight room or a mom working out for the first time in years, the look on their face when they achieve something they might not be naturally comfortable doing is priceless.

The Misconception

Working with women often comes with obstacles that are not present with men. Of course, this is not true for all women but in my experiences it is a topic that needs to be addressed. A big part of the population has a misconception about weight lifting and its effect on women. Again, not all women but a large number are afraid that lifting weights will make them bulky and masculine looking. I get told “I don’t want to look like you” or “I don’t want to look like a guy” more frequently than I would like to recount. In my experience, most women view cardio or aerobic type classes as the type of training they need to achieve their ideal physique. They split it right down the middle, if you’re a male, you lift weights and if you’re a female you do cardio. In fact, a study in 2014 showed that of the millions of women that belonged to commercial gyms less than one-third picked up a dumbbell. I attribute this to both a lack of readily available information and misinformation thanks to social media and the internet.

Go Hard. It’s Okay. I Promise

Another misconception that I battle on a weekly basis is that resistance training is actually okay for women as long as it is light and low intensity. I can only assume this is why there are classes for women that include dancing with five and three pound dumbbells. Luckily, I did my homework and found another study that was done with college aged females. The study proved over a significant time period that a high resistance weight training program increased lean body mass, decreased fat percentages, and showed no change in body weight. It literally says at the end of the study that the results showed no masculinizing effects meaning they did not start looking like dudes.

We Aren’t the Same

Life isn’t always fair. Not everyone is created with the same genetics, skills, etc. In this case, for women who are afraid of bulking up with resistance training this is a good thing! Because women literally cannot gain muscle the same way a male can. I have told this to some women and it’s like they don’t hear me. It is a scientific fact that women cannot gain muscle like men can because women have significantly lower natural testosterone and significantly higher levels of estrogen. “But, you see those women on line that look like dudes, I don’t want to gain muscle like that.” Notice I said natural testosterone. Those women with insane amounts of muscle mass are not natural. Period.

To Get HOOGE You Have to Eat

“But I don’t want to get muscular, I just want to get tone.” Just slap me please. When someone says they want to tone up what they are really saying is that they want to gain muscle and lose fat. Also, gaining the amount of muscle mass some women are afraid of gaining does not happen overnight or even within a few months. It not only takes a lot of time and hard work to gain a significant amount of muscle but also a surplus in calories. If you aren’t eating more calories than you are expending you will not gain muscle. So for women who resistance train a few days a week and eat healthy but not in excess, you have nothing to worry about in terms of too much muscle mass. It happens all the time, someone will ask me details about my training, they comment on how much time and work I put into the gym, food, etc. to gain the amount of muscle I have, then turn around and are afraid they will gain too much muscle in a week lifting for thirty minutes. I don’t let it upset me too much because one of my favorite lines is “They don’t know what they don’t know.”

More Serious Matter

Although, I have discussed the importance of weight training for helping women achieve their ideal physique, there is a far more beneficial reason women should resistance train especially for the long term. Resistance training strengthens bone. It strengthens the bone density which in turn can fight off osteoporosis which is a medical condition in which the bones become brittle and fragile from loss of tissue. Although both men and women are vulnerable to osteoporosis women are more prone to suffer from it especially postmenopausal. Age-related sarcopenia or muscle loss is also a concern for women. A significant loss of muscle mass as a woman ages can make everyday activities more difficult and can eventually lead to falls, which brings us back to the dangers of osteoporosis and broken bones.
As always, thanks for reading and be sure to support the site by subscribing with your email.

References:
http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10671315.1974.10615291
http://jandonline.org/article/s0002-8223(98)00094-7/abstract
http://bjsm.bmj.com/content/33/3/190.short
http://www.acsm.org/public-information/articles/2016/10/07/strength-training-for-women
https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-s/strenght-training-builds-more-than-muscles
https://www/nwacc.edu/c/document_library/get_file?uuid+1269b4e5-c398-4e1e-a07e-6700bbceb9a9&groupd=216833&filename=4%20Advantages%200f%20weight%20training%20for%20women%20by%20julie%20%20gabbard-1.pdf

7 Reasons Your Not Seeing Results In The Gym

One might think that after two degrees and a few certifications my education might be over. Think again, because the real education begins after college graduation. As a professional in the strength and conditioning and personal training worlds I am continuously trying to improve myself. At first thought, it would be easy to assume that with increased knowledge and experience comes a better understanding of what to do and while that is a correct thought I have learned that although I do learn about what to do and what works I actually learn more of what not to do and what doesn’t work. I have a saying that I tell some of my clients that might question when I tell them not to do something. I say, “I may not know everything that works but I do know what doesn’t.” In my opinion, knowing what not to do because it doesn’t work is just as if not more important than knowing what does work. In my experience, you can always find a new strategy or tool that helps you get over a hurdle or plateau, but the things that don’t work never change. These seven things listed below have never helped anyone achieve anything in the past or present, nor will they in the future.

Note: You may notice I don’t talk about the importance of nutrition and sleep/recovery in any of the points listed below. If you don’t realize that those two things are just as important as the act of working out itself then please don’t even bother reading on

1. Lack of Patience

It blows my mind the lack of patience people have in the gym. It’s not just one demographic either. I have worked with high school and collegiate athletes, stay at home moms, business professionals, you name it and almost everyone suffers with a lack of patience at some point. The reason this drives me crazy sometimes is because the lack of common sense some people display the minute they step in the gym. If someone wants to learn how to play the guitar they’d most likely realize that it’s going to take an enormous amount of practice to even learn to play one song correctly and they accept this challenge because well how can you expect to learn a song in the first week if you’ve never played the guitar? But then that same person that hasn’t worked out in three years becomes frustrated that they haven’t gotten their body back that they had three years ago within the first two months of training. I also see people visibly upset that their weight in a certain lift only went up five pounds in one month. Let’s do the math, five pounds per month x twelve months= sixty pounds in a year. Go ahead and ask any experienced lifter if they would turn down an improvement of sixty pounds in a year. The answer is no way in hell. Bottom line: be patient, work hard, and quit crying.

2. Ego

One of my earliest articles was on ego (A Bodybuilders Worst Nightmare). In my opinion, this is the most amusing on the list. I’ve been working out since I was 14 years old and most of the time I don’t have a gym buddy so every once in a while I have to find ways to amuse myself. There is nothing more amusing than finding that person with the inflated ego at the gym. Just watching them walk across the gym amuses me. How they interact with other strangers at the gym, giving unwanted advice to some teenagers, or talking about their 1 rep max no one has ever witnessed brings amusement to my workout. It’s amusing to me because I will see that person six months to a year down the road and they have made zero improvement. The ironic thing is that the people with an inflated ego are the ones that should read this but they don’t realize that I am talking about them. Bottom line, leave your ego at the door. Bottom line: learn from others that are where you want to be, learn what not to do from those that are screwing up, learn from everyone.

3. No Clear Path/Goals

This point is pretty straight forward but no less important. If you don’t know where you are going how do you know when you have arrived? Or better yet how do you even plan the trip? Yes, doing anything is better than doing nothing. But doing something with a purpose is better yet. The goals you set don’t need to be permanent but they can’t change every week either. Having goals, or a why, uh huh see what I did there, will be your motivation and compass. It is harder to skip the gym if in the back of your mind you know you are screwing up a bigger plan rather than just skipping a single day. Bottom line: set a goal, make a plan, and attack it.

4.Fear of Failure

A fear of failure is something I see fairly often in the gym and it breaks my heart. It hits me hard because I know it is a difficult mental hurdle to get past. A common reason people are afraid to fail in the gym is because of the ego that we discussed earlier. They see failure as a hit to their ego, to their perceived awesomeness. I believe that failure is mandatory for success to happen in life and the gym is no different. I try to explain to my athletes and clients to expect failure. Failure is coming whether you like it or not so expect it. If you expect failure to come one day then it doesn’t hit you quite as hard when it does. Sure, it sucks when it happens but if it was part of the plan from the beginning then no big deal, regroup and push forward. Training in the gym for fat loss, strength gains, etc., is not a linear journey. You cannot continue to improve forever without any bumps in the road. It’s physically impossible. Bottom line: expect failure, learn from it, say screw it, and push forward.

5. Inconsistency

This is a no brainer. If you don’t show up regularly you will not see results or the results will be minimal. Period. End of story. And yes, you do have time for twenty minutes a day for an at home interval workout that will burn more fat than the hamsters running on the treadmill or elliptical for an hour every day at the gym.Bottom line: if it’s important to you, you will find time.

6. You Get Bored

I have to be careful not to go on a rant about this topic. Does training need to be boring to be effective? Absolutely not. Will it get boring sometimes? Most likely, yes. If you need your workouts to be entertaining every day the entire time you are working out then you might want to rethink yourwhy.Is your goal to see results or to be entertained? I can honestly say 1000% if someone told me watching paint dry for five hours a day would make me see the results I wanted I absolutely would do it. Of course, there are always ways to make training fun and there are too many for me to begin to list them. That’s not the point I’m trying to make anyways. Bottom line: if you can make training entertaining then absolutely do it but don’t lose sight of why you are training in the first place.

7. Majoring in the Minors

This last point is one that most people don’t even realize they are doing. Majoring in the minors refers to giving major focus to minor details. In my professional opinion, based off of my experiences, your success, no matter what your goal is, is going to come down to you doing anywhere from three to five things correctly and consistently. Yet, for whatever reason I have witnessed people giving a crazy amount of attention to one minor aspect of their training that will have little to no effect on them achieving their goal. I know at the beginning I mentioned I was not going to discuss the importance of nutrition and sleep but a perfect example of majoring in the minors would be stressing about what brand of supplements to purchase when you are sleeping four hours a night and eating processed crap. Guess what? You can spend whatever you want on the “perfect” supplement and if you are sleeping and eating like crap you can say bye-bye to those goals. And that’s not up for debate. An easy way to determine if it’s a minor aspect of training or a major aspect is if you have to think about it, it’s minor. I hope you get the point I’m trying to make because this topic was actually more difficult to discuss than I initially thought. Bottom line is: majoring in the minors, you just know it when you see it. Avoid doing it.

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Different Versions of the Triceps Pushdown

Bodybuilding style training is fun. Not only for the results that it produces but because of the variety it allows. Whereas other forms of training require some sort of strict progression in order to progress, bodybuilding not only allows for variation, it is a requirement for success. In order to accomplish their dream physique, bodybuilders not only have to worry about the size of their muscles but equally important is the shape and symmetry of their muscle groups. They accomplish this by attacking the same muscle group from different angles throughout their routine. This is where the variety kicks in. This is a big reason why I enjoy bodybuilding style training, you can do the same exercise over and over again with a slightly different twist each time. Changing the angle of the exercise ensures that you are creating a new stimulation of the muscle fibers which in turns creates well-rounded size and shape. Changing angles can be done a few different ways such as changing your grip, the handle being used, and also your body position. Although different angles can and should be used for every exercise and muscle group I have chosen to discuss the triceps muscle in this article and specifically different ways to execute the triceps pushdown, an exercise that most people are familiar with. P.S. I chose to just number the variations because well, who really has names for each of these?

Variation #1

Can’t play video? Click here: Variation 1 video 1

Can’t play video? Click here: Variation 1 video 2

This variation using two different handles is probably the most common of the ones I will discuss. This is also the more conventional push-down. Meaning elbows tucked to the side, pivoting just at the elbow, squeezing at the bottom, controlled movement on the way up. Neither handle is better than the other. Remember, we want to use as many different handles as possible and if you’re lucky enough to be at a gym that has different kinds of handles try them all at this conventional angle.

Variation #2


Can’t play video? Click here: Variation 2

This variation is unilateral which allows you to focus on one arm at a time. As seen in the above video, no handle is needed as you simply grab the cable. In this variation you are going across your body and then down. I use my opposite hand to stabilize my working arm by placing it in my arm-pit allowing my working arm to rest on it.

Variation #3


Can’t play video? Click here: Variation 3

This variation is unique because the position of your palm will change. Instead of your palm facing the floor like in most pushdown variations in this one your palm will be facing up. You can think of it as simply a reverse grip. Other than the grip, this variation is very closely related to the “conventional” pushdown shown in the first variation. You can pin your elbow to your side and press straight down towards the floor. By changing your grip you will stimulate the triceps in a different way. As with most of these variations you can also change the angle by changing your own body position by standing a different way. Depending how you stand your elbow may not be pinned to your side but as long as you can control the movement you are fine. There have been many professional bodybuilders that have said they have found great success by standing and executing an exercise in the same way they pose on stage. Bottom line, don’t be afraid to try almost anything to create a different stimulus, and if it feels good then you have found success.

Variation #4


Can’t play video? Click here: Variation 4

This variation can be tough to master at first. It is different than the previous ones because you are going to stand a short distance from the cable machine and you are also not in the upright position. Watching the above video will be most helpful for you to understand how to stand but it may help you to think of the position you are in if you have ever done kneeling cable crunches. The position of your torso is very similar except you are standing. You will need to use a rope handle for the exercise. This is a great exercise to target the hard to reach long head of your triceps, the part that runs up towards your armpit. By developing this part of your triceps you will start to create that separation of your delt and triceps that everyone loves. At the top of the movement you should feel an awesome stretch in your triceps, and if you don’t then try and reposition yourself until you do.

 

These are four variations of the triceps pushdown that I like to use quite frequently in my routines. With these four variations you are hitting the triceps in almost every way possible in a pushdown exercise. The great thing about bodybuilding style training is that there are no rules so be sure to constantly look for and experiment new ways to do old things. If it feels good then you are not wrong.

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SERIOUS SHOULDER ROUTINE YouTube Video

Check out our latest YouTube video “SERIOUS SHOULDER ROUTINE”.

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MUSIC:
Beatport: https://www.beatport.com

Building Bigger Biceps YouTube Video

Check out our latest YouTube video “Building Bigger Biceps”.

Thanks for viewing and make sure subscribe to our website for more blogs and information and subscribe to our YouTube Channel for additional videos: Training With a “Why?”

 

 

MUSIC:
Beatport: https://www.beatport.com

3 Exercises for a Better Butt

I am praying that based off this title alone I don’t lose a couple hundred men subscribers. Sorry guys, have to give the women what they want also. Although I know the majority of people that will be interested in reading this article will be women, men too can benefit from these exercises. Yes, the three exercises that we will talk about today are great for building a better gluteus maximus. However, there are some benefits other than just having a better looking butt. First off, women are not necessarily the only ones that should be concerned about building their gluteus maximus. Men, especially if you are competing in bodybuilding or aesthetics, also need to develop a body that is complete. Second, a couple of the exercises covered in this article are great for developing strength in the gluteus maximus and also the hamstrings that will help in the squat and other lifts. Now back to the women, if your butt routine does not include these three exercises or some close variation you have a huge gap in your programming.

 

Barbell Glute Bridges

How:

  • Use a bar and a bar pad to cushion the pressure of the weight on your pelvic area.
  • Either have a partner place the bar on your hips if the weight is light enough or roll the bar up your legs yourself into the starting position across the front of your hips.
  • Your upper back/shoulders should be resting on the edge of a bench. Be as comfortable as possible.
  • The bar should be across the front of your hips.
  • Have your legs bent to about 90 degrees and feet flat on the floor.
  • Hold onto the bar with both hands
  • Start with your hips low. As low as possible. If you feel pressure on your lower back do not go quite as low.
  • Begin the upward thrusting movement by pushing thru your heels. You should never be on your toes.
  • Go until your hips are locked out at the top.
  • Lower your hips again. Still being careful of your lower back.
  • Repeat

Sets/Reps:

  • The sets and reps can very on this exercise depending on why you are doing it.
  • If you are focusing on the contraction and trying to get a “pump” in your glutes then use lighter weight and high volume. (i.e. 4 sets x 12-20 reps)
  • My advice would be to try and go heavier on this exercise because the barbell allows you to add heavier weight than most other butt exercises you are going to try so take advantage of that. (i.e. 4 sets x 8-12 reps)

Note:

  • No matter your goals you want to execute a full range of motion but how long you hold at the top of the movement is goal dependent.
  • If moving as much weight as possible is the goal you are not going to fully squeeze or contract your glutes at the top of the movement.
  • However, if the contraction or “pump” is the goal then you are going to pause and hold for a moment at the top of the movement focusing on squeezing or flexing your glutes.


Can’t play video? Click here: Barbell Glute Bridges

 

Cable Kickbacks

How

  • Using the lowest possible setting on the cable machine attach a cable attachment to one of your ankles.
  • Take a step or two back from the machine to create some tension on the cable.
  • Hold on to the cable pulley with both hands.
  • Depending on how tall you are the amount of lean to your upper body will differ but it always feels better to me when I have more of a lean. But then again I am taller than most people.
  • Have your feet parallel and close to each other.
  • Begin the movement by bending your knee slightly.
  • Kick your leg as straight back as possible keeping your knee slightly bent.
  • Continue to kickback and up until you feel the squeeze go from your glutes into your lower back and stop.
  • Find the height that you feel the greatest squeeze in your glute.
  • Return to the starting position keeping your knee slightly bent throughout.
  • Repeat.

Sets/Reps:

  • Because this exercise is not a strength builder you are going to want to use higher reps and focus on the contraction at the top of the movement.
  • 4 sets x 15-25 reps

Note:

  • You can also perform this exercises by using an exercise band by wrapping it around a post and your ankle.


Can’t play video? Click here: Cable Kicks

 

Reach Thru’s

How

  • Attach a D-handle to the lowest possible setting on a cable machine.
  • Face away from the cable pulley.
  • Reach down in between your legs to grab the handle with both hands.
  • Holding the handle walk out away from the pulley creating tension on the cable.
  • Pull it up and between your legs so that you are standing tall with the handle at your groin.
  • Begin the movement by hinging (i.e. shifting your weight back onto your heels) letting the handle go back between your legs.
  • When you hinge you should think about your hips going straight back and your knees being slightly bent being sure not to lock them out.
  • As you let the handle go back between your legs you should feel a good stretch in your hamstrings.
  • When you feel you maxed out the stretch in your hamstrings begin returning to the starting position by simply standing up from the hinge position.
  • You are not pulling the cable with your hands. They are simply holding the handle as you hinge and return to the starting position.
  • Be sure to push thru your heels as you are standing up and squeeze your glutes at the top of the movement.
  • Repeat.

Sets/Reps:

  • This exercise can be done with a couple different goals in mind.
  • It is a useful exercise to warm up your glutes and hamstrings for squats and/or deadlifts.
  • If done for this reason execute just enough reps to get those areas warmed up.

(i.e. 3 sets x 15-20 reps)

  • If executing this exercise for the purpose of specifically training your hamstrings and glutes then you are going to want to do higher volume (i.e. 4 sets x 15-25 reps).


Can’t play video? Click here: Reach Thru’s

 

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Stop Counting Reps and Sets

Even at an early age I was an analytical person. I needed to know specifics about why I was doing something and what the expected outcome would be. I guess being this way meant that the opposite was also true, because I hated flying by the seat of my pants. I hated not having a plan and could never understand how people could just go by feel, especially when trying to accomplish a goal. So when I began weight training at the high school in the summer before my freshmen year and the coach gave us our workout sheet to record everything we did I was in nerd heaven. We recorded our sets, reps, and the weight we used. Being the nerd that I am, I made notes in the margins about technique, how the weight felt, etc. I loved seeing my improvement from week to week even if it was in small amounts. Luckily for me loving this process is probably the biggest reason I quickly became one of the strongest athletes on the team, even keeping up with kids a couple years older than me. When trying to become stronger, keeping to a strict number of sets and reps and methodically increasing the weight will work wonders. I guess what I am trying to say is that when wanting to get stronger it is always wise to have a plan.

 

Now, I told that story so I could tell this story. As told above, I began weight training as a means to be a better football player. My number one goal was to become stronger and remained my goal until my playing days were over. However, my love for bodybuilding continued to grow as I got older. In the off-season’s I would play around with certain exercises and bodybuilding techniques to see if I could get a specific body part to grow or look better. This experimenting worked and I grew bigger and more developed aesthetically. What I also did was carry over my analytical brain to my bodybuilding training. I kept notebooks upon notebooks of sets, reps, and weights used. I used the same exercises for weeks and even months, afraid to stray off script and ruin any progression I had created. This worked, to an extent. However, I eventually began hitting walls and plateaus, not seeing the improvement in muscle size or shape I was accustomed to. This frustrated me because I was doing everything I was supposed to be doing, or so I thought. I realized something needed to change so my nerd side took over and I began to research and read all the bodybuilding content I could get my hands on. What I realized was that what needed to change was my way of thinking. I had to pretty much do the exact opposite of what I had done when I was training for strength. Bodybuilding is more about feel and less about staying on script. This was an enormous challenge mentally for me. I hated the thought of just going by how I felt and not having a concrete plan. I needed to make a conscience effort to change my way of thinking and it worked! This is what I did:

Changes I Made
  • I stopped counting my reps, instead went to failure more often.
  • I stopped counting all my sets, if a certain exercise felt really good that day I kept doing more and more sets.
  • I stopped writing down my accessory exercises.
  • If an exercise didn’t feel good on a certain day I scratched it and moved on.
  • I switched up the exercises I did more often. Sometimes every workout.
  • I payed more attention to how my muscle felt during the exercise.

 

Now, I don’t want to confuse you. Weight training is about progressive overload. No matter your goals your body needs a reason to change or it simply won’t. You must consistently challenge your body’s limits in order to induce change. There are times to have a concrete plan and record absolutely everything you do. There are also times where you must go by feel and listen to what your body is telling you. In order to help you differentiate when the right time to do either one is I have made a list for each circumstance.

When to Record Weights, Reps, Sets, Etc.
  • When strength is the goal.
  • When you are following a specific program in order to achieve a certain goal.
  • When your goal is a tangible aspect such as a maximal weight or reps performed.
When Not to Record Weights, Reps, Sets, Etc.
  • When training for size and or shape.
  • When executing accessory type exercises.
  • When an exercise feels really good. (Just keep going through sets)
  • When an exercise feels “off”. (Scratch it and move on)

Again, this is just what worked for me. You may find that other tactics work for you but I hope that this gives you some idea of how different ways of thinking can lead to differing results.

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3 Exercises to Improve Bench Press Lockout

In all the years that I have been weight training I can count on one hand the amount of people I have come across in the weight room that wasn’t trying to get a bigger bench press. This is not counting the hamsters running on the elliptical for an hour at a time. Everybody, and I mean everybody, wants a bigger bench press and if you are the one person that doesn’t well then just keep quiet because you are weird anyways. I will always say that the best way to get good at something is to simply do it and do it often. If you want a bigger bench press then you must bench and bench often. However, there are ways to be creative and work on specific parts of the lift. Training specific parts of a lift is a form of weak point training and is how powerlifters train for competitions. Side note, you do not need to be a powerlifter training for a competition to use these techniques. Instead of looking at the bench press as one single lift we break it down into one lift that has a beginning, a middle, and an end. There are exercises and techniques to target each of these different parts of the lift and in this article I want to focus on the “end” of the lift which we refer to as the top or lockout portion. This is a common part of the lift to get stuck on, myself included. In the bench press the lockout portion of the lift involves a good bit of triceps so these three exercises I am about to discuss will also improve your triceps strength and size. These three exercises are very similar with some slight differences that make each unique but effective at helping you improve the lockout portion of your bench and thus a bigger bench overall.

Pin Press

The pin press is a great exercise for training to maintain tightness in the upper back, especially at the bottom of the lift, something that most lifters struggle with. It also trains explosiveness out of the “hole” or bottom portion of the lift because you are pressing from a dead-stop. However, as stated in the intro, the greatest advantage that I find with the pin press is the benefits of improving the lockout portion of the bench press. By shortening the range of motion of the lift, the pin press allows you to handle heavier weight and overload your shoulders and triceps. This will improve both your shoulder and triceps size and strength which will in turn strengthen your lockout. What separates the pin press from the floor press is that your entire body is still included in the pin press, legs included, something that the floor press does not include in the lift.


Can’t play video? Click here: Pin Press

In the video you will notice that the pins are placed right above my chest. I like placing the pins directly above my chest, not too high above, so that I can also practice staying tight at the bottom of the lift.

Floor Press

The floor press is unique because it takes away the bench. You set the pins at the very bottom of the rack and lay flat on the floor. Usually it puts you in a tough spot to un-rack the weight yourself so you may need a liftoff. Your legs are also lying flat on the floor, this will completely take your legs out of the equation. By taking your legs out of the lift even more emphasis is placed on your triceps. This is the reason this lift is effective at increasing triceps strength and size.


Can’t play video? Click here: Floor Press

In the video I am pausing at the bottom of every rep. The length of the pause can very but I highly recommend pausing to train explosiveness out of the bottom of the lift.

Board Press

The board press is a great exercise for training every possible sticking point of the bench press. You can use a one board press, a two board, three board, and a four board press for training different sticking points throughout the bench press. For the purpose of training the lockout phase of the bench press a three-board press is usually the go-to exercise. This obliviously shortens the range of motion so that you can handle heavier weight. The tough part of this lift is that you usually need two buddies to help you out. One holding the board on your chest and the other to give you a spot. You want to make sure that you keep a normal bar path when executing a board press. Do not change anything you normally do in your conventional bench press.


Can’t play video? Click here: Board Press

There are two ways you can use the board press. One way is like how I did it in the above video, bring the bar into the boards and think about squeezing the bar down into the boards, like you are trying to crack the board. This is a great way to train to squeeze your back, maintaining tightness throughout the lift. The other way is to barely touch the board before pressing it back up. This is effective at training to maintain control throughout the lift.

 

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