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Category Archive Bodybuilding

Turkish Get Up

When I explain a Turkish get-up to someone who has never seen it before they look at me sideways. I feel the need to clarify that I didn’t make this exercise up, and it indeed has been around forever. The question I often get is, “well, what the heck is this doing for me?” My answer is always “A lot.” I briefly mentioned the Turkish get-up in another article (here) because of its shoulder benefits, but it does so much more than that. The Turkish get-up is a staple of my program for athletes of any sport. Many coaches utilize it specifically for overhead athletes to strengthen the stabilizers of the shoulder but there isn’t an athlete on planet Earth that wouldn’t benefit from executing the get-up. My everyday clients learn the get-up because of its many health benefits. (Yes, simply learning how to get up off the ground is a great health benefit.) Although the get-up is not an exercise you normally see in a typical gym setting, I have come across quite a few people who have been taught it somewhere else, usually in CrossFit or some fitness class. Those clients, or better yet the trainers who taught them it, are the motivation behind writing this article. I have seen some interesting (a polite way to put it) Turkish get-up techniques that aren’t correct. Also, I believe the purpose of the exercise is commonly misidentified. I just don’t see the benefits of doing a set of high reps with light weight. So, let’s dive into how to execute a correct Turkish get-up.

Benefits (In no particular order)
  • Strengthens shoulder stabilizers
  • Creates tension throughout entire body
  • Uses the core in a functional manner
  • Kinetic chain improvement (Body moves as a system)
  • Hip mobility
  • Unilateral exercise (Fights to correct imbalances between right and left sides)
  • Learn how to get up off the ground safely
How to Do It
  1. Lay flat on your back with the same side leg bent with foot flat on ground near glutes.
  2. Press kettlebell into the air safely using both hands.
  3. Take opposite arm away from kettlebell leaving the arm you’re using straight up in the air.
  4. Opposite arm and leg should be flat on ground and at an angle away from body.
  5. Push off bent leg and lean up at an angle onto opposite elbow. Elbow should be directly under shoulder. (Be sure not to execute a sit-up or crunch but lean at an angle)
  6. Go from leaning on opposite elbow to leaning on opposite hand locking out your elbow. Be sure that hand is directly under shoulder.
  7. Pushing off your bent leg and opposite hand lift your hips up as high as possible and at a slight angle.
  8. Swipe opposite leg underneath you so that your knee is resting on ground directly underneath your hip.
  9. Lift opposite arm off the ground so that you are now in a tall kneeling position.
  10. Stand up by pushing off bent leg.
  11. Begin the dissension by kneeling once again with opposite knee.
  12. Return opposite hand to the ground. Directly underneath your shoulder. (Do not lean back on heel, common mistake)
  13. Keeping hips high swipe opposite leg back through and straight so that it is again resting on ground.
  14. Drop hips to floor.
  15. Go from leaning on opposite hand to opposite elbow.
  16. Go from leaning on opposite elbow to flat on back.
  17. Safely bring kettlebell down to chest with both hands.
Tips
  • When you are comfortable with the technique be sure to keep your eyes on the bell at all times. Your arm will want to follow your eyes so be sure not to let your eyes wander.
  • Treat the bent leg like a kickstand on a bike. It’s helping hold you up. Be sure to push off that foot when going thru the steps.
  • Be sure to have plenty of empty space around you when executing a get-up with weight. If you lose control of your arm and the bell simply let the bell fall to the ground and start over. Don’t try to regain control of your arm. You will never win that battle.

Can’t play video? Click here: Turkish Get Ups
Recommendations
  • Practice this at first by using only bodyweight. (Make a fist in the hand that would normally hold the kettlebell)
  • I stay to low reps, usually only 1 rep per side. The reasoning behind this is that if you can perform multiple reps then you are using too light of a weight. Using a light weight will not allow you to reap the full benefits that a more challenging weight will.
  • Add this exercise into your routine if you are trying to strengthen weak, unstable shoulders, if you are an athlete, or if you are just looking for a fun and challenging exercise.

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

Pistol Squat Progression

There are few things that I do that make me feel as athletic as executing pistol squats. A pistol squat is a one legged squat. When I give that description to people I tend to laugh at their initial facial expression. Yes, I know it sounds crazy difficult and it can be. However, there are ways to make it easier and steps you can take to progress it. I’ve had a lot of success at helping people progress their pistol squats using this progression.

Use a Box

Standing on a box allows you clearance for your opposite leg. In an ordinary pistol squat from the ground a major challenge is keeping your opposite leg straight and high enough so that it doesn’t touch the ground. In fact, the first few times you try a pistol squat from the ground you may get a charlie horse in your opposite leg from holding it up. However, standing on a box is usually unassisted meaning you won’t have anything to hold onto while attempting the actual squat. This is the very reason I prefer the next progression over standing on a box. However, try it and see how you like it.

Assisted

Assisted pistol squats are the most effective way I’ve found to progressing this exercise. Like I said above, I prefer this method over the standing on a box method but try both and see which one works for you. I have my athletes and clients execute assisted pistol squats by holding onto something that will allow them to progressively alter the degree onto which they are being assisted. This means that I have them hold onto something that will allow them to move their hands while lowering themselves into the squat. The posts of a power rack work beautifully for this but if you don’t have access to that then just find something that allows you to grip and walk your hands down while lowering yourself.

Start by holding on as tight as needed to feel secure. As you begin the squat be sure to walk your hands down the object you’re holding onto. This will ensure that you are using your hands and arms to assist you at the very minimum amount needed. Be sure that the actual squat is slow and controlled. It will be natural to want to drop down fast and uncontrolled because that will allow gravity to do all the work instead of your actual leg. As you become more confident and comfortable in your abilities you can lighten your grip on the object little by little until you no longer need to hold onto something.

Tip
  • Be sure that your foot remains flat and you don’t rise up on your toes. Common mistake.


Can’t play video? Click here: Assisted Pistol Squats

Unassisted

You’ve built up enough leg strength and confidence and are now ready for the unassisted pistol squat. The squat itself is self-explanatory but let me give you a few tips to help you out. When first beginning the unassisted version have your arms straight out in front of you. This will help with counterbalance. Also, be sure to continue executing the squat slowly and controlled instead of just dropping into the bottom position. Once you become comfortable with the unassisted version you can make it more difficult by bringing your arms in taking away some of your counterbalance.


Can’t play video? Click here: Unassisted Pistol Squats

Weighted

Once you become comfortable with the unassisted version and are ready for a new challenge you can begin holding weight while executing reps. holding onto anything will work and try different things to challenge yourself. Examples are kettlebells, dumbbells, plates, sandbags, medicine balls, etc.

Tip
  • Holding light weight might actually be easier than unassisted because the light weight helps counterbalance your body weight.


Can’t play video? Click here: Weighted Pistol Squats

Squatting to a Bench/Box

I put this variation in last because I don’t use it and I personally haven’t seen anyone get better at pistol squats by using it. However, I know its common and a lot of trainers use this variation so I wanted to discuss it at least at minimum. The reason I don’t like this variation is because it takes away the hardest part of the movement, the lower portion of the squat. I believe most trainers use this as a way to progress pistol squats. In that way I don’t agree with its use at all. On the other hand, if someone is using this variation with an older client or someone with achy knees I might see its usefulness but then again I would probably just scratch the whole idea of pistol squats if that was the case. Bottom line, I don’t like it and haven’t found it useful.


Can’t play video? Click here: Box Pistol Squats

Importance of Ankle Mobility

Hands down the biggest reason most people cannot execute an unassisted pistol squat is because of a lack of ankle mobility. Yes, or course you need adequate leg strength but most people have that. What most people don’t have is adequate ankle mobility. The number one reason people lack ankle mobility is the shoes they wear. I’m not even talking strictly about women and their high heels hoes, that should be a given, I’m talking about women and men with their boots and dress shoes, athletes with their basketball shoes, the list goes on and on. When you wear shoes that have a heel rise or an absurd amount of cushion you reduce the amount of work your ankles and feet need to do. This tightens your achilles, calves, and other muscles of your lower leg and tight muscles lead into bad mobility. Solution? Try foam rolling the calves before practicing the pistol squats and loosen up your ankles. However, the best solution is to buy new flat shoes. Can’t afford new shoes? Try practicing the pistol squats either barefoot or in socks. I guarantee this makes it easier.

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

3 Exercises for Bicep Peak

What is the first image you get when you think of a muscular arm? For most people, the king of all aesthetic features is the bicep peak. It is the round, ball looking part of the muscle that sticks up from the rest. Like many muscles, the bicep peak is easier to achieve for some than others. A beginner might think that all bicep exercises are created equal, but they would be wrong. Yes, any type of curl will hit the entire bicep, but, again like all the muscle groups, there are exercises that are better than others for hitting a certain part of the muscle. You hit different parts of your arms by changing the angle of the exercise. This can be done either by changing your hand position or elbow position.

SEE Arms! (Part 1 of 2) OR Arms! (Part 2 of 2)

First things first, no matter what exercise you’re executing you want to be curling into your body and have the pinky side of your hand turning outwards. (See this in the videos below) Unfortunately, I’m in the group that has to work extra hard at developing the peak of the bicep and following are three exercises that have helped me see improvement.

Concentration Curls

The concentration curl is a classic. It can be done a couple different ways:

Standing w/ Dumbbell or Cable Machine

**Note: For the sake of keeping the wording simple I used a dumbbell in the instructions
but this exercise can be executed the same way utilizing a cable machine.

  • Grab a dumbbell, holding the handle closer to the pinky side of your hand. (See picture
    below)
  • With a dumbbell in one hand bend over and let the arm holding the dumbbell hang directly in front of your knee. Don’t let your elbow rest against your knee but have it hang directly in front.
  • Have your opposite arm rest on your opposite knee.
  • Shift your weight so that majority of your body weight is on the foot that is on same side as dumbbell.
  • Curl the dumbbell towards the midline of your body and in while turning your pinky out.
  • Weight is not the priority in this exercise. So be sure to use a weight that is challenging but one that allows you do get a full contraction at the top of the movement.
  • Try using both a dumbbell and the cable machine. I switch back and forth between the two.
  • Recommended rep range: 12-20

Dumbbell Grip

Proper dumbbell grip.


Can’t play video? Click here: Seated Concentration Curls

Can’t play video? Click here: Standing Concentration Curls
 
 
Dumbbell Spider Curls

The spider curl can be done a few different ways and is a great exercise for building overall bicep mass as well. However, I’ve found it harder to target peak using anything other than dumbbells. Dumbbells allow you the freedome to turn your wrist outwards getting that extra contraction in your bicep.

  • Grab a dumbbell in each hand, holding the handles closer to the pinky side of your hands. (See picture above)
  • Lay face down on an incline bench. The degree of incline can vary. Try different ones and see which angle feels best for you.
  • Let your arms hang and start the movement by holding the dumbbells in a neutral grip. (See video below)
  • Start the curl from a dead hang, don’t swing or use momentum to start the movement.
  • Curl the dumbbells up and towards the mid line of your body while turning your pinkies out.
  • If you do it right the back end of the dumbbells should almost be touching each other while the front ends are as apart as they can be. (See video below)
  • Weight is not the priority in this exercise. So be sure to use a weight that is challenging but one that allows you do get a full contraction at the top of the movement.
  • Recommended rep range: 12-20

Can’t play video? Click here: DB Spider Curls
 
EZ-Bar Drag Curl

This is the only exercise of the three that you aren’t going to use dumbbells thus making it the hardest of the three to execute correctly. By using the EZ-Bar with this exercise you obviously cannot physically turn your wrists outwards but I want you to act like you can.

  • Grab an EZ-Bar with a narrow grip.
  • Start with the bar against your stomach. (This will mean that you are starting with your arms already slightly bent)
  • Flare your elbows.
  • As you begin the movement think about curling it into your body and turning your pinkies outwards. (Again I know you physically can’t do this but act like you can)
  • Be sure the bar come all the way back down so that it leaves your stomach. This is a short range of motion.
  • Weight is not the priority in this exercise. So be sure to use a weight that is challenging but one allows you do a get a full contraction at the top of the movement.
  • Recommended rep range: 12-20

Can’t play video? Click here: EZ-Bar Drag Curls
 

These three exercises have helped me improve my bicep peak and I hope that you also find them useful. Be sure to let me know what you think of them. As always, thanks for reading and be sure to support the site by subscribing with your email. Thanks!

Weak Point Training

Weak point training is something that a moderate to advanced lifter pays attention to, or should pay attention to. A beginner shouldn’t, at least at the very beginning. The reason a newbie shouldn’t be worrying about weak point training is that everything is a weak point. I can’t tell you how many times someone has come up to me in the gym and has asked me how to develop a very specific area of a body part or muscle group, yet they look like this is their first time in the gym. This is when I like to respond with one of my favorite lines, “Build the house first bro, worry about the paint later.”

A person who is new to the gym and wants to get bigger, stronger, or whatever should worry about getting good at the big compound movements like the squat, bench, and deadlift. They should learn and try as many accessory lifts as possible and don’t stress about developing a specific muscle until significant mass and strength is built. Then you can start to be aware of what body parts or muscle groups are falling behind and take action to make your weak points your new strong points. Weak point training is not only for bodybuilding or aesthetics, but for strength. The following are tips on how to train weak points to improve both aesthetics and strength.

Nutrition

Most of us have heard the saying “Eat big to get big.” Please be aware that this is not just a catchy line. This is the most effective way of gaining size. Without eating and eating a lot you will not gain the size most of us are after. Again, this is another question I get asked often “well how much should I eat to get bigger?” I’m good at what I do. But I don’t know if anyone is so good that they can simply look at you and give you the exact calories and ratio of macronutrients you need to gain two inches on your arms. Yet, I get the feeling that is exactly the answer people expect when they ask me how much they should eat. Instead, I ask them a question in return, “Have you gotten bigger and stronger eating what you are currently eating?” When they says no I simply reply “Eat more.” Yes, it’s that simple.

Train it More Often

Yes, yet another obvious solution. When you want to improve a lacking muscle or body part simply train it more often. I know exactly what most of you will say. “But won’t training a muscle too often lead to overtraining?” Enter shocked face emoji here. I always laugh to myself because it seems the people that are overly panicked about overtraining and the dangers that come with it are the same people that are bound to end up on one of those gym fails videos on the internet for attempting some idiotic exercise they saw on YouTube. Is overtraining bad? Yes. Is it dangerous? Yes. Will doing arms two or three times a weak lead to overtraining? No. Also, if you follow the first tip and eat enough plus get enough sleep it is much harder to over-train than people think.

Hit Different Angles/Exercises

By attacking the targeted muscle from different angles you will ensure that every muscle fiber in that specific muscle is being stimulated causing it to grow. This can be done by changing the angles of the exercise being done. For example, change your body angle from standing upright to leaning forward and downwards while doing standing cable fly’s to hit your chest in a different way. Another example would be to do dumbbell chest fly’s lying on an inclined bench to hit the upper chest instead of lying on a flat bench that hits more of the entire chest.

You can also change angles by changing the exercise completely. For example, A dumbbell hammer curl across your body is going to hit your bicep in a different way than a preacher curl will. The combination of different curls will not only help improve your bicep size but it will also help add aesthetically pleasing shape to the bicep. This is true for any and every muscle group. Trying different exercises can also help improve strength on an exercise where strength is lacking.

Lower the Weight

Targeting a specific muscle or muscle group is more challenging than one might think. Everyone has muscle groups that are more dominant than others. Those muscles will grow the fastest, will always be able to get a pump easily, and thus are usually the muscles you love training the most.

These dominant muscle groups want to take over and do all of the work which can lead to problems when you are targeting a different muscle group that is nearby. For example, my shoulders have always been more dominant than my chest. It was always super easy for me to get a pump and feel the contraction in my shoulders and they became my favorite body part to train. It wasn’t until recently, maybe a little over a year ago, I noticed my chest size lagging. This made sense because every time I tried to isolate my chest I had a hard time taking my shoulders out of the equation.

My solution to this was to lighten the weight on my accessory chest exercises such as fly’s, dips, chest press machines, etc. and really concentrate on my chest doing the work instead of my shoulders. When you go as heavy as you can the dominant muscle group will always take over and with heavy weight it’s difficult to slow things down and concentrate on a specific muscle group.

So, my advice to you is that when working on a muscle group or body part that is difficult for you to feel, lighten the weight on the exercises, slow it down, and really concentrate on making that muscle do the work. Remember, lightening the weight to isolate a lagging body part is purely a bodybuilding technique and not a strength technique.

Attack It

When you have a weak point you need to attack it. It needs to be a top priority until it is no longer a weak point. When you have built it into a strength move on to the next thing that is lagging behind. Bringing weak points up into strengths will make your entire physique look better and likewise bringing a lift up that is falling behind in strength compared to other lifts will make everything else stronger as well.

As always, thanks for reading and be sure to subscribe to help support the site.

Supersets, Drop Sets, and Forced Reps Oh My

We are all guilty of it. It being the routine we fall in at the gym. This can be a routine of multiple things including the same exercises, reps, sets, exercise order, etc. Everyone has their favorite way of doing things because it worked, at first. Routines are necessary in training, it’s how programs are built. An effective training regimen should follow some type of routine or plan. Each workout should build off the previous one. Dramatically changing things up every few weeks does not give your body time to experience and adjust to the stress training places on it. However, it is important to understand how muscle strength and growth takes place. Weight training is a stressor on the body, it literally tears the muscle fibers causing those fibers to grow back bigger and stronger. Those fibers grow back bigger and stronger so that the body can handle the stress that is placed upon it, in this case the weights being lifted. Well, if the body feels that the stress placed upon it is not significant enough to stimulate change it simply won’t change, in our case grow bigger and stronger. This is why people make beginner gains, where everything the body is experiencing is new and thus it needs to grow. After a period of time the body is strong and big enough to handle that stress and doesn’t need to change anymore. This is where you have to be aware and again start putting new stress on your body. These following methods are a great way to put different stress on your muscles and can be done with almost every type of exercise and body part.

Supersets

Supersets are probably the most common of the methods I will discuss in this article. Supersets combine two exercises back to back with no rest in between. This is purely a bodybuilding technique and is a great way to keep the blood in the muscle instead of resting for an extended period of time. This is also a great technique to use if you are short on time. They can be done a couple different ways.

  • Antagonist and Agonist Supersets (A true superset)

o   Works opposing muscle groups (i.e. chest and back, biceps and triceps, etc.)

  • Compound sets

o   Works same muscle with both exercises (hammer curls and preacher curls, etc.)

o   When executing compound sets it is usually a good idea to start with the harder exercise.

o   I like to pick two exercises that hit the same muscle but from two different angles.

Drop Sets

Drop sets are used so that you can continue the set even after you reach muscular fatigue. This is a great technique to ensure that every last muscle fiber of the area being worked is stimulated which is what we want and need to induce change. There are two different ways you can perform drop sets.

  • Conventional Drop Set

o   You lighten the weight once you reach muscular fatigue in order to continue the set.

o   This is usually performed on the last set of the exercise. For example, on your last set of dumbbell lateral raises you complete 15 reps, you immediately drop weight in order to complete another 12 reps. If you choose you can even go further and do a second drop set of about 10 reps.

o   You can also do drop sets after each set of the exercise you are doing instead of just the last one but be prepared to be exhausted afterwards.

  • Mechanical Drop Set

o   You change your hand placement from most difficult to less difficult in order to continue the set.

o   An example of this that I love to do is with EZ bar curls. Start with a wider grip because it’s the harder grip. Execute the set until you can’t get another rep. Then immediately change your hand placement to the easier inside grip and continue the set.

Forced Reps

Forced reps are probably the least common and most difficult to do of these three methods. If you train with a workout buddy they are easier to add into your program than if you lift by yourself. The reason being is that you need a spotter to help you. As with drop sets, forced reps allow us to continue the set once we hit muscular fatigue. The difference is that you don’t have to lighten the weight with forced reps since your buddy is physically helping you move the weight. An example of this would be if you put 185 pounds on the bench press and pressed it 6 times by yourself and another 4 times with your spotter helping you press the weight up to finish the set. Note: this is not the same thing as walking into the gym like a hard ass and constantly putting weight on the bar that is 50 pounds too much and having your spotter save your life over and over again. I caution that these are another great way to stimulate every muscle fiber in the area being used but this is also the method that I would use less often than the previous two mentioned. The reason I say that is because of two reasons; one, they are very taxing on the body and two, I worry that people will start using them too often. The goal should still be for you to physically get stronger and use heavier and heavier weights instead of your buddy constantly lifting the weight for you. But like the previous mentioned methods this is a great technique to change things up.

Experiment

All three of these methods work to create a stimulus for change. If you are continuously doing conventional sets and have seen your progress slow or stop I highly suggest adding one of all of these methods in your routine. Try at least one a workout. Keep at it for a few weeks, step back and evaluate the results and then try something else if you need to. What I like about suggesting these methods to people that have never tried something like this before is that it forces them to go hard, maybe harder than there used to and forces them to experience what muscular fatigue actually feels like. Be sure to let me know how these work for you!

As always thanks for reading and be sure to subscribe to the site to stay up to date on all the new articles coming soon.

What is Intensity?

Growing up playing sports, then eventually progressing to weight training, I’ve heard the word intensity a lot in my twenty-five years on earth. Coaches would scream across the field that “you have to do this with intensity.” Strength coaches in high school and college would proudly say “that guy is intense” referring to the guy slapping his chest and yelling before attempting a lift.

For me at least, it was one of those things I just got used to hearing and really didn’t give it much thought growing up. However, as I got older and started taking athletics and weight training more seriously, more and more people would refer to me as intense. At first, it surprised and confused me. I was never the guy screaming and jumping up and down on the field or that guy slapping his chest in the weight room.

I began to question, “what made other people perceive me as intense?” Teammates, and after my playing days were over, other people in the gym would often say I looked mad while in the gym. I started asking myself, “Well what is intensity exactly?” I eventually concluded that what others were labeling as intense I referred to as focused.

It dumbfounded me that the way I acted in the gym was so different from the ordinary that it caused other people to take notice. I often thought to myself “How am I supposed to act?” Why does being focused make people around me think something is wrong? After being made aware that I acted in a way that was different than most others in a gym I began to pay more attention to the other people in the gym. I wanted to see what was so different in the way I acted compared to them. It was obvious from the get-go. I was in the gym for a purpose, most others are in the gym to say there were at the gym. That is a huge difference and the reason I am committed to my motto, “Training With a Why.”

I train with intensity because I have a purpose. I am in the gym to get results and better myself in more ways than you can see. Sure, there are people at the gym I consider friends, but if I wanted to hang with friends and BS for two hours I would have done it outside the gym. Now that people know I am a trainer my workouts are constantly being interrupted by people asking me training advice, which is fine, I love helping those people, just don’t be that guy that asks how to get bigger biceps then goes and talks to his friend while doing a set of curls. I know some may roll their eyes, doubting that focus, or intensity as we are calling it in this article, makes that big of a difference, and I have zero doubt you are the same people seeing little to no results in the gym.

This lack of intensity is also why those same people seeing zero results in the gym seem to be there for three hours. PSA, if you are in the gym for three hours “working out” you are not intense, you need a psychiatrist. A lack of intensity or focus in the gym means that you aren’t paying attention to details that create change. In training, there are so many little things that can take you to the next level and you miss out on just about all of them if your mind or mouth is off wondering around. So, to answer the question to the title of this article, I believe that intensity is synonymous with focus. A singular focus on the task at hand will always yield the best results.

I’m sorry if this article upset the people that thought intensity in the weight room meant bathing in chalk, loading three plates on the bench, screaming and bobbing your head, and then having your spotter upright row it off your chest before racking it and high fiving each other.  My hope in writing this article is that some of you will reevaluate why you are at the gym, and refocus your thoughts and actions while in the gym to reach those goals. Find your “Why” and keep it close.

As always, thanks for reading and please comment if you like these kind of topics.

How to Bench Press

Yes, It Is Awesome

Ahh the bench press. The holy grail of exercises. “How much can you bench?” is asked thousands of times a day (an educated guess) in gyms across the world. To most novice lifters, it’s the standard by which their peers judge how strong they are. Side note, experienced and mature lifters know that this is simply just one exercise and the judgment of strength is relative to what strength means to an individual or group of individuals but I digress. No matter how much emphasis you put on the bench press it’s hard to argue the exhilarating feeling of pressing some big numbers. It looks like a simple lift with not much technique, if any at all, and compared to the squat and deadlift it is a much simpler lift; however, there is technique involved that can be easily overlooked.

4 Points of Contact

There are four points of contact when bench pressing. This means that there are four places your body has to be in contact with at all times throughout the lift, not counting your hands gripping the bar, and they are:

  1. Both feet must remain in contact with the ground.
  2. Your butt must stay in contact with the bench.
  3. Your upper back and shoulders must stay in contact with the bench.
  4. Your head must stay in contact with the bench.

Tips:

  • If you are on the shorter side and it’s difficult for your feet to completely reach the ground when lying on the bench you can put plates under your feet so that they can act as the ground.
  • Bend your knees so that your feet are back towards your butt and push your knees out. This will help keep your lower body tight which is commonly overlooked.
  • Your butt and upper back must stay in contact with the bench but it is completely fine to have the arch of the lower back.

Hand Position

We are talking about the conventional bench press here and not a close-grip or some other variation so our hand placement will reflect that.

  1. Take the end of your thumb on each hand and place it right where the knurling (rough part on the bar) begins. See picture below.
  2. Straighten your thumb fully on both hands and the spot where the rest of your hand is gripping the bar is where you are going to grip it. See picture below.

Tips:

  • The end goal for the conventional bench press is for our forearms to be directly over our elbows when benching. This ensure that’s our wrist, forearm, and elbow are all aligned.
  • Start with your grip as we just discussed and then look at your wrist, forearm, and elbow to ensure that all three are aligned and if they aren’t then adjust accordingly by moving your hands either in or out.

Eye Position

Your eye position is something that is extremely underrated when discussing the techniques of bench pressing. During the bench press we want our eyes to be on a constant spot throughout the entire set. Pick a spot on the ceiling and look at the same spot during every rep. Our eyes being on the same spot throughout the set is important because it helps us ensure that the bar is traveling a consistent path from rep to rep. An inconsistent bar path is something that can destroy a person’s set even if they are physically strong enough to get one or two more reps. If you have bench pressed you have certainly had reps where you know you hit either too high or too low on your chest and ruined the momentum of the set. This was most likely caused by your eyes moving around causing the bar to move away from its correct path.

Pinching the Pencil

Pinching the pencil is something almost every weekend warrior or novice lifter doesn’t realize needs to occur. Pinching the pencil refers to the pinching of the shoulder blades as if you were trying to hold a pencil between them. By doing this you will create a base or platform to press from. This base will allow you to stay tighter and have more control of the weight throughout the set. It will also protect your shoulders by restricting the range of motion as the bar will not travel as far with your shoulders pinched compared to having your shoulder blades relaxed. See video below.

Tips:

  • If you do this correctly it will at first feel like you are not completing the rep because the bar isn’t traveling as far.
  • This takes time to perfect so make sure you practice this with light weight and make doing this consistently a priority.

Videos Here: Not Pinching the Pencil (Wrong)    Pinching the Pencil Correctly

Breathing

Breathing correctly can make or break a rep or set. The tighter you are the stronger you are. The better you breathe the tighter you can be and thus the stronger you can be. We stay tight by filling our bellies with air. This can go for any barbell lift. Think of your spine like a telephone pole. If we breathe improperly and don’t fill our bellies with air our telephone pole (our spine) can waver back and forth when under stress. However, if we fill our bellies up with air this air acts as cement poured around our telephone pole (our spine) and it is much sturdier and less likely to waver when stress is placed upon it. How we accomplish this:

  1. Breathe in, focusing on the air going to your stomach instead of your chest, at the beginning (top) of the rep.
  2. Hold this breath until you return to the starting position (top).
  3. Breathe out at the top and then breathe in again.
  4. Repeat this process for the remainder of the set.

Tips:

  • We want to try and hold our breath for the entirety of the rep but if you are nearing the end of the set and are struggling to complete a rep you can breathe out on the way up at your sticking point.
  • By breathing out while trying to force a rep this release of air will act as a kind of “turbo” to help us finish.

Enjoy!

So there they are. All the tips and hidden gems to help you take full advantage of what is most likely your most enjoyable barbell lift. My hope is that you take these tips, no matter how insignificant they may seem, seriously because they will help increase your bench. If one or more of these tips are brand new to you my advice is to practice them with lighter weight and work your way back up as anything new added to your technique will take a little time to perfect.

As always, thanks for reading and please subscribe to this site so that you stay up to date on all the new articles coming soon!

How to Deadlift (Conventional)

First, Respect It

It’s hard to describe, the feeling that runs through my body when I hear someone describe an exercise as dangerous. The weight room is not unlike many situations in life. If you do something carelessly or incorrectly the chances of you becoming injured increase substantially. However, if you use common sense, remain focused, and are aware of certain things, those chances of becoming injured decrease by a large margin. There are no dangerous exercises. Sure, there are exercises that come with more risk if done improperly compared to other exercises, but I don’t believe they should be tagged with the word dangerous. The deadlift is usually the exercise most commonly associated with this “dangerous” stereotype. The squat is a close second but that will come in a later article. Yes, if you deadlift improperly and without care you are probably going to injure yourself, most likely not seriously, but enough to make you think it’s the exercise that is the problem and not you. Well friend, I’m here to tell you it’s not the exercise, it’s you. It’s you and the person trying to teach you the exercise that watched a few deadlift videos on YouTube that is the problem. Lifting heavy weight off the ground is no joke, it’s a grown man, or grown woman, lift. It needs to be respected. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in a local gym and have seen someone attempting to do a set of deadlifts. They are texting on their phone, walk up to the bar, joking around with their buddies, talking to them, sometimes even laughing all the while grabbing the bar to pick it up, they complete a few painful looking reps, set it back down and walk away saying their back hurts. Respect the deadlift enough to learn how to do it properly and the “dangerous” stereotype will soon be a thing of the past. Here is how to perform a correct conventional deadlift.

The Setup

  1. With the bar on the ground, walk up to it leaving an inch or two between your shins and the bar.
  2. Your feet should be in your power stance. (See notes section below)
  3. “Hinge” down o the bar by shifting your weight on to your heels and pushing your butt back until your shins make contact with the bar. (See notes section for comments on knee placement.)
  4. Maintain a flat back and a “big” chest. (Create a “big” chest by puffing your chest out. Picture the guys that want to act tough walking through high school hallways.)
  5. Grab the bar about an inch outside of your shins. You don’t want your thumbs touching your shins.
  6. Your eyes should be about 6-8 feet in front of you on the ground and remain there the entire time. This keeps your chin and thus your head in a neutral position.

Tips:

  • Your power stance is where you feel you can create the most power from. A good way to find this is to take one step and act like you are going to do a vertical jump. After bringing the second foot forward, as in a jumping movement, look down at your feet and this is going to be your power stance.
  • By “hinging” down to the bar your knees should be “soft” or slightly bent. Definitely not in a locked put position and not as bent as in a squat.
  • I highly advise using the double overhand position when first learning how to deadlift. When you become sufficient with the technique go ahead and try the over-under grip which allows you to lift more weight.

The double overhand Grip

The over-under Grip

Breaking the Bar

When you are in the correct position the last thing I advise you to do is to take a deep breath in at the same time you “break” the bar. Breaking the bar reinforces that your back is engaged, especially your lats, and that your grip is as strong as possible. It also takes the remaining slack out of the bar. Taking the slack out of the bar is important because like our own bodies, the more slack that is involved in the lift the more energy we need to move it. So before moving the weight we want our own body and also the bar to be as tight as possible.

  1. When attempting to “break” the bar, think about bending the bar around your shins.
  2. It may also help to think about holding a stick out in front of you and snapping it in half. (Be sure to watch video below)
  3. You should instantly feel your lats engage and your lifting buddy should visibly see your lats and upper back tighten.
  4. Depending on the type of bar you are using, you may be able to hear and definitely feel the slack leave the bar. It will most likely make a clicking sound when the slack leaves.

Video Here: Breaking The Bar

Stand Up and Lockout

  1. When pulling the weight off the ground be careful not pull or jerk the weight up using your arms.
  2. Think of your arms as just ropes holding the bar as you stand upright.
  3. Instead of jerking the weight up with your arms think about standing up by driving with your legs.
  4. You should feel leg drive, which simply means you feel as though you are pressing the floor with your feet.
  5. Be sure to keep the bar tight to your shins and thighs as you stand up.
  6. You should be standing completely upright in the lockout position.
  7. Your glutes should be tight and your hips “driven” forward.
  8. Be sure not to arch your lower back. Your hips are driven forward but everything from the waist up is in a neutral upright position.

Tips:

  • When returning the bar to the ground simply reverse the process by shifting your weight onto your heels and pushing your butt back.
  • Be sure to maintain the structured back and big chest on the way down.
  • Keep the bar tight to your legs on the way down as well.
  • Your eyes should remain in the same spot on the way down.

Reap the Benefits

There is a definite separation in the gym between those people that deadlift properly and those that do it wrong or not at all. Like I said, it is a grown man or grown woman lift. It isn’t easy by any means but it is worth learning. Once you become stronger in the deadlift you will notice that you feel stronger overall and a good chance even more athletic. Also, you will actually experience less low back pain throughout your daily life because of the improved strength. So, learn it, perfect it, and reap the benefits of the deadlift.

As always, thanks for reading and please let me know if you liked this type of instructional article and be sure to subscribe to the site to stay up to date on future articles.

Check out the video below that puts everything together.

Video Here: Deadlift

Why Your Shoulders Are Lacking

The Boulder Shoulder Look

Few body parts or muscle groups stand out like a pair of broad, well rounded shoulders. Whether talking about football players, wrestlers, or everyday men, broad shoulders have long been linked to masculinity and are also aesthetically pleasing. Shoulder to hip ratio is an important aspect in bodybuilding. Wider shoulders and narrow hips are more eye pleasing for overall physique. Most bodybuilders or even regular gym goers know the importance of broad shoulders and thus spend a lot of time training for this very thing. However, what is not as well known, or gets enough attention in my opinion, is the importance of the rounded look. Rounded shoulders are often referred to as looking like “boulders” and give the shoulder a finished look. Experienced bodybuilders should know the importance of this finished look but this is something I often see overlooked by less experienced or aspiring bodybuilders and everyday gym goers looking to improve their physique. Sure, doing overhead presses and lateral raises will cause the shoulders to grow into an impressive size, but to achieve the rounded, finished look it takes a little bit more attention to detail. I think of it as icing on a cake. The specific muscle that helps achieve this rounded look is the rear delt. The rear delt is such a small muscle that it can be difficult to isolate. It’s often overlooked and at the end of a shoulder workout, if trained at all. My guess is that it is often overlooked because either it’s not as fun to train because you don’t need or shouldn’t use super heavy weight and/or most people just don’t realize how to target such a small muscle. I want to give you my two favorite exercises for training the rear delts as well a couple tips to ensure that you see the improvement you want.

    

Face Pulls

Face pulls is a great exercise for the rear delt, one of my favorites. I see it done a lot at the gym but I think its purpose is misunderstood by most people. I think that most people use face pulls as an upper back exercise. And while yes, it can be an effective way to hit the upper back, its greatest use is to target the rear delt. There are plenty of other exercises that you can choose for the upper back and get more bang for your buck. Your first question may be, “well how can one exercise have two different purposes?” This is a fair question and the answer is an easy one, the weight used. Exercises having multiple purposes is actually fairly common in bodybuilding. One isn’t necessarily better than the other, it just depends on your goals. Our goal for the face pull in this article is to target the rear delt. Because the rear delt is such a small muscle heavy weight is not necessary. Weight is usually the main factor in determining what the purpose of an exercise. When using face pulls for the upper back heavier weight and less controlled movement can be utilized. When a small muscle like the rear delt is the target it is important to use lighter weight that can be controlled throughout the entire range of motion.

  1. Attach a rope to the cable and positon the attachment so that it is slightly above your head.
  2. Grasp the rope in each hand with a soft, loose grip.
  3. When pulling back the rope think about pulling with your elbows. Your elbows should always be higher than your hands. (Elbows should go back, out, and up.)
  4. When at the end position hold for a second or two before returning to the starting position.

Tips:

When holding the rope, make sure your grip is loose. This will ensure that the muscles of your arms aren’t doing the majority of the work. Thinking of pulling with your elbows will help reduce the amount of momentum you use and further take your arms out of the equation. Make sure the weight is light enough that you don’t feel you have to use other muscles to help complete the reps (i.e. biceps, traps, and other muscles of the upper back.)

Video Here: Face Pulls

Rear Delt Fly’s

Rear delt fly’s is an exercise I’ve probably seen done a hundred different ways in the gym. I’ve personally tried many different variations and the one I will discuss in this article has been the most effective. Again, you have to realize the purpose of an exercise in order to get the full benefits from it. This exercise is not for the upper back or even the shoulder as a whole. It is to target a very small muscle that is difficult to isolate. It isn’t difficult to spot someone doing rear delt fly’s with too much weight. They are usually sitting on an end of bench with a dumbbell in each hand flailing their arms in the air trying to raise the weight in any way they can. This is an effective way to achieve nothing.

  1. Set up an incline bench so that you can stand behind it and rest the top of your chest on the top of the bench with a slight lean to your body.
  2. Grab a dumbbell in each hand and start with your arms hanging and palms facing each other (neutral grip).
  3. Raise your arms with elbows slightly bent out to the side with thumbs slightly rotating downwards, as if you were pouring out a pitcher of water.
  4. Stop when you feel the tension leave your rear delt and travel to your traps and upper back.
  5. At the top (end positon) hold for a second or two before returning to the starting position.

Tips:

This is an extremely light weight exercise. Heavier weight will force you to use either momentum, upper back muscles, or both. Make sure your arms are traveling straight up to the side. Going forwards will involve the side and front delts and traveling too far backwards will involve the upper back.

Video Here: Rear Delt Flys

Concluding Points

The reason your shoulders don’t look like you think they should after training them every week, maybe a few times a week, is because you aren’t training the entire shoulder effectively. Training the rear delt effectively will achieve the rounded look and in turn make already big and broad shoulders look even more impressive. As previously mentioned, because the rear delt is such a small muscle it doesn’t need to be trained with heavy weight. It will grow by using lighter weight in a very controlled manner. Also, as with any weak point, I recommend training your rear delts multiple times a week. Even when it’s not shoulder day or upper body day go ahead and put face pulls and/or rear delt fly’s at the end of your workout to see the growth you want. You don’t have to worry about recovery since it is a small muscle using light weight and these aren’t high intensity exercises.

As always, thanks for reading and be sure to subscribe to this site and comment if you like these type of articles.

3 Exercises to Build the Upper Chest

Seeing improvement in the upper chest can be one of the most frustrating tasks facing a bodybuilder. It is usually the area of the chest that develops last and takes extra attention to build. However, when you develop the upper chest it gives your entire chest the “square” look that is aesthetically appealing. If you are a bit shorter and/or have shorter collarbones, this may not be as daunting a task. Yes, I said short collarbones, some of you may have never payed attention to things like that but if you want to be a bodybuilder or at least improve your physique those seemingly minor details are critical. The reason shorter people, or people with narrower shoulders have an easier time filling out their upper chest is simply because they have less area to fill. For taller, broader shouldered people it can take a good bit of time to see improvement in this area. I fall into the second category and made things harder on myself by not realizing these points sooner. Starting out I didn’t focus as much on my upper chest, but it has been a focus of mine in the last year or so. Before I proceed to give you three of my favorite exercises to target the upper chest, I want to emphasize that all exercises that focus on the chest work the entire chest with some just being a little more effective at developing certain areas. These are just a few exercises that have helped me see improvement in my upper chest development.

Guillotine Press

The guillotine press is an incline bench variation. The difference is instead of bringing the bar down to the top of your chest as in a normal incline bench the guillotine press has you bring the bar to your neck. I warn anyone with shoulder problems to be extremely careful when attempting this exercise and you may want to avoid it altogether. The bar path forces your elbows to flare out much wider than a conventional press putting your shoulders in a vulnerable position. The irony is that this shoulder positon is the very thing that makes this an effective exercise to target the upper chest. This is not a strength building exercise so the weight is not the most important thing.

  1. Your grip may have to be wider than your conventional incline bench in order to flare your elbows effectively.
  2. Lower the bar to your neck. I aim for about an inch higher than my collarbone.
  3. Control the bar on the way down, feeling a stretching sensation across the bottom your collarbone, upper chest region.
  4. Press the bar back up in a straight path being careful not to bring it forward over your chest.

Tips:

Again, this is not a strength exercise so the weight will not be the main priority although you do want to have enough weight to induce a “pump.” I stress to start with very low weight and work your way up from there. You will be nowhere near the weight you use for your conventional incline bench.

Video Here: Guillotine Press

Unilateral Incline Press Machine

Every gym should have a variation of an incline press machine. This exercise should work on most if not all variations. The word unilateral refers to the use of only side of the body. In this case we will be pressing one arm a time. The trick is to sit sideways on the machine. Yes, sometimes the best use of a machine is in no way how it was intended to be used. Finding more effective ways to use equipment is actually fairly common in bodybuilding. This exercise has been my favorite exercise for building my upper chest for the last year or so now and just like the guillotine press is strictly a bodybuilding exercise so focus on the pump instead of maxing out the weight.

  1. Position the seat so that the handles are at a height even with the top of your armpit.
  2. Sit sideways on the seat.
  3. Have the shoulder that is against the seat pressed into seat and don’t allow it to come off.
  4. Press up and across your body, without your shoulder leaving the seat.
  5. Return to the starting position without pausing being sure to keep the tension on the chest the entire time.

Tips:

I like to take my opposite hand and place it on my upper chest to help me feel what I should be contracting. It may take a few sets and seat changes for you to position your body so that you feel the full effects of this exercise. Take the time to experiment with different seat heights etc.

Video Here: Incline Press

Incline Fly’s

Out of the three exercises this is the one that most of you have done. I didn’t specify to use dumbbells or cables, because you should try it all. The important thing is to do the fly’s on an incline bench. Whether you use dumbbells or cables there are similarities:

  1. At the starting position the weight is going to be over your forehead.
  2. Lower the weight in the conventional way (Elbows slightly bent)
  3. Control the weight the entire way down. Don’t let it drop quickly.
  4. Bring the weight back up on the same path as on way down.
  5. At the top be sure to get a good contraction for a second or two before lowering the weight back down.

Tips:

While performing the set tuck your chin into the top of your chest. I have found that this helps me feel the contraction in this specific area instead of my chest as a whole.

Also, be sure not to let your wrist “break” meaning keep them strict and in a straight line with the rest of your arm. I see people all the time let their wrist go limp not realizing that it takes some tension off your chest.

Video Here: flys

Slow it Down

These exercises have helped me improve a weak point in my physique. The mistake most people make when trying to bring up a weak point in bodybuilding is that they go too heavy. Going heavy is great but you have to realize why you are doing what you are doing. Going heavy and getting stronger doesn’t necessarily mean you will induce that certain area to gain mass or shape. Going heavy and rushing the reps usually causes more dominant muscle groups to take over. This was the mistake I made early on. I would go too heavy on the bodybuilding type exercises for my chest and my more dominant muscle groups, biceps and shoulders, would take over. Pretty soon my chest was lagging behind those other two muscle groups. So slow it down and maybe drop some weight and focus on feeling the contraction in your upper chest instead of just going through the motions.

As always, thanks for reading and be sure to comment and share any exercises that have helped you develop your chest and be sure to subscribe to the site.